The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) is, at times, hard to pin down. The stronger the technology has gotten, the broader the applications have become, affecting everything from energy, to smart cities to manufacturing, and in the process, blurring the line between traditional consumer and industrial markets. Interestingly, in the United States, much of the Industrial IoT advancements have come from the private sector – oil and gas, utilities, precision agriculture, etc. International IIoT, however, has seen real advancements coming from cities – smart cities, that is.
Smartest Cities in the World
A 2015 article from Forbes provided a list of the top five smartest cities in the world based on a number of factors, including environmental monitoring, smart traffic management, data usage and creative tech applications. Barcelona topped the list, with New York City, London, Nice (France), and Singapore rounding out the top five. In each instance, the use of smart technology improved quality of life, efficiency, and better overall functionality. Of course, there are myriad factors to consider when evaluating a city’s “smartness,” but considering how many moving parts – literally and figuratively – that it takes to create a smart infrastructure, the breadth of application is impressive.
Barcelona’s comprehensive wired network drives an infrastructure that is constantly aggregating, transmitting and analyzing data for all kinds of things:
The boxes are no regular electricity meters. They are fine-tuned computer systems, capable of measuring noise, traffic, pollution, crowds, even the number of selfies posted from the street. They are the future of Barcelona, and in some sense they are the future for all of us too. The hard drives are just one piece of what is “unusual” on this street, in fact. Cast your eyes down, and you might spot the digital chips plugged into garbage containers, or the soda-can-size sensors rammed into the asphalt under the parking spaces.
The paragraph above not only highlights the often hidden aspects of smart cities – sensors, hard drives, boxes – but also the sheer magnitude of the data being collected from wherever possible. The technology that powers that data collection lies in the actual communication networks, which are powered by an array of RF, cellular and WiFi connections. Today, many of the devices that are responsible for collecting the data from the source – the access layer – are capable of hosting third-party, proprietary applications that can filter and transmit data in specific packages, turning Big Data into Smart Data.
Lately, London has focused on green energy and environmental progress. The city launched an initiative to become a zero-emission city by 2050 with a combination of electric vehicles and public transportation. Sounds familiar, right? The actual mechanisms driving that initiative are not necessarily ground breaking: reduce combustion engines on the road, encourage people to use public transport. However, the technology has finally started to catch up. With smart traffic monitoring capabilities, public transportation can run more efficiently, keeping to strict schedules. Additionally, driverless vehicles can perhaps help lead a transportation infrastructure devoid of human-caused accidents, opening the road systems and, again, leading to greater efficiency.
Smart Cities, Smart World
Of course, the two examples above come at a high level. There are significant technologies driving the actual implementation of smart city devices, but the key factor is that the leaders of the respective cities understand the need for a stronger, smarter infrastructure. Many other cities are catching up – India often pops up with smart city initiatives, which is a fascinating case study based on the economic disparity of the country. Still, the drivers of the international IIoT goals often point to the development of smart cities as an ideal outcome based on the continued growth of connected technology.