smart cities

What does your Smart City look like? – Commuters & The Internet of Moving Things

As mentioned in the introductory blog, commuters will arguably play the biggest role in the Smart City Ecosystem as they will have the greatest requirements via smart parking, smart traffic lights, accurate digital signage and perhaps the much-debated autonomous vehicles. There are two ways to look at this; what we want in a smart city and how we can contribute to it. We tend to prioritise our needs, so firstly the key want for commuters is smart traffic controls, public transport and displays. As a commuter enters a city or urban area they will want several things depending on one their mode of transport:

 

Drivers:

  • Electronic displays showing the areas to avoid and timely parking information
  • Any accidents/road blockages
  • Ideally, car users want sensors coupled with a constant connection to allow the use of autonomous vehicles

 

Cyclists:

  • Smart charging points for electric bikes
  • Up to date information re parking space for bike users

 

Public Transport User:

  • Accurate bus times
  • Accurate number of seats on the bus, with smart technology promoting the bus company to put another bus in service if a particular route is at capacity
  • Wi-Fi enabled buses & bus stops
  • USB chargers on all public transport

 

 

It’s been projected that by 2025, 68% of the world’s population will live in urban areas, which represents a 13% increase. In theory, this should make the long and arduous commute many of us embark on a day to day basis even worse. In fact, these increased numbers are being facilitated by the developments of smart cities.

So imagine a seamless journey from door to door when you know exactly when the next bus is arriving, similar how Dublin Bus work now with the launch some years back with their Real-Time Passenger Information (RTPI ) software product, along with onboard features which enables passengers to charge their phone, connected to the onboard Wi-Fi, and connect directly into their Bus App if they so desire.

The Internet of Moving Things (IoMT)

 

“Citizens are moving walking sensors”

 

In the smart cities conversation, there is no technology more important to its success than sensors. One of the main talking points regarding smart cities is autonomous vehicles (AV). They simply won’t work without sensors, particularly ones that monitor and track a vehicle’s position on the road.

 

Some of the key uses of these sensors:

  1. Tell Commuters when their next bus is coming
  2. Keep track of the number of shared bikes at any docking station
  3. Manage traffic flow by adjusting the length and frequency of traffic signals
  4. Dim street lights when no one is around

 

Going forward the life of a commuter will be easier and easier. Whether they are travelling by public transport or by car with autonomous vehicles these sensors allow autonomous vehicles to identify humans and other hazards on the road. Some places where these sensors will be located:

  • Roads
  • Traffic Signs
  • Public Lighting
  • Cars
  • Public Transport
  • Rubbish Bins
  • Bus Stops

Did you know that sensors can even pick up acoustic signals and triangulate the location of gunfire?

How do we gather the info?

 

Adequate data gathering has been an issue in the past. Recent developments in software now allows moving vehicles to connect to each other and share data to the internet. This is referred to as ubiquitous information so everything will be connected.

 

A recent example of this in practice comes from Porto where the entire bus fleet, taxis and bin collection trucks serve as mobile hotspots but they gather terabytes of data which are sent from the physical world to the cloud.

 

There has also been an emergence in kiosks, particularly in the US where Sidewalk Lads which is owned by Google’s parent company Alphabet has rolled them out on mass.

 

These kiosks offer information about traffic and public transit services via free internet access, and they come with charging ports for USB devices. Their presence makes data accessible to those without access to mobile phones or the internet at home.

 

Don’t get bitten

 

Undoubtedly these kiosks are a big step forward towards a smart city. They are beneficial to those with access to the internet; but they are not without flaws. Many have criticised the type of information it collects from its users, as they ask each user to submit their email address before they can connect to this free WiFi.

 

Build the right infrastructure to empower smart commuters

 

So if we know what commuters want in their vision of a smart city, how do we develop it? There is no one answer to this. To begin with, we need to put the infrastructure in place to enable the roll out of these necessary smart devices. The types of infrastructure we need include small cells, street furniture, Smart Kiosks which all need 5G and adequate fibre broadband.

 

We must learn from the mistakes of our past. Unlike the current wireless and fibre networks, we need to build neutral host networks. This will open access to all service providers and this will ensure a competitive and comprehensive network. Obviously, the organisation best placed to develop a neutral host network is city councils. [Read more in our blog “Smart Cities: getting the infrastructure right“]. They already own the assets/infrastructure necessary and once built they can lease back the network and start earning an income. That is only one part of it, as once a city is classified as a smart city then it’ll be a lot more attractive place to live, visit and work in.

 

The responsibility does not lie solely with councils, the existing operators need to open up their networks and work together  to achieve these ambitious smart city projects. With the resurgence in the property market we have seen more housing estates and re-developments up and down the country. These developers need to ensure these new properties have ducting in place to accommodate fibre which will future-proof these areas. 

 

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