In recent years, the Internet of Things (IoT) has revolutionised the world we live in. Smartphones, connected cars and even home appliances are now all available with online features designed to make our lives simpler and more efficient. In short, everything is becoming connected, and it doesn’t stop at the personal level.
The IoT phenomenon is quickly expanding to a citywide scale. There are already over one billion connected devices currently in use in smart cities around the world and this is expected to grow to ten billion by 2020.
One of the primary drivers of this rapid growth is the increasing use of identity management technology amongst these smart devices, giving them the ability to communicate directly with one another (as well as with people) for the first time.
This type of smart communication between IoT devices has the potential to transform many of the systems governing the major cities around the world, but which areas are most likely to benefit?
Below are five aspects of city life where the growth of identity-driven IoT is predicted to have the most significant impact in the not too distant future:
1. Saving money and the environment with energy management
Smart meters and sensors are becoming increasingly important in-terms of saving both money and the environment. Smart hubs are already becoming commonplace in homes across the country and can automatically regulate temperature and/or be accessed remotely by homeowners via their smartphones.
It’s not just at home that smart hubs can be deployed though. Hubs can reach a citywide scale in much larger public spaces such as museums, office buildings, and shopping centres. Just like at home, these smart sensors can track temperature but they can also be used to make energy savings. Areas such as lighting or escalators, which aren’t required to run consistently, can be adapted to only be activated when citizens are in the vicinity.
2. Identity - saving lives with disaster response
Identity-driven IoT and smart cities can help make lives easier on a day-to-day basis with the management of the smart environments. However, could it be utilised to save lives? It can and in the future, it will, but how? If smoke is detected in a building, an alert can be immediately sent to the nearest fire station.
When the emergency services are responding, their deployment can be coincided with smart transport meters allowing them to receive a real-time update on traffic. This will result in the fire crew avoiding traffic build-ups and arriving to extinguish the fire promptly.
Equally, their unique vehicle identities can be tracked and traffic lights automatically changed as they approach to further ease their journey to the incident site. As you can see, the use of Identity-driven IoT in this instance can streamline the emergency response and ultimately save lives.
3. Keep it clean – smart sanitation
The majority of cities having an ongoing battle to keep their streets clean. By utilising connected devices in the IoT , cities can improve cleanliness and sanitation. At the moment, councils check bins on the off-chance they need changing.
However, if the bins were granted their own digital identity, resulting in a network of ‘smart bins’, councils could be notified when they needed to be collected. This would result in increased efficiency of rubbish collection routes throughout the city, preventing build up and significantly improving hygiene as a result.
Smart sensors could also be used to aid pest control. Motion sensors linked to a smart meter could be used to alert homeowners to any pest/rodent infestations in their homes. Once triggered, specialists could be automatically informed of the issue and these could be dealt with as soon as they arise. This will prevent homeowners chasing around after rodents and having to fork out if any damage is caused by the pests.
4. Smart parking and transportation
Connected smart traffic systems will transform the way in which we travel by road. It will be able to examine and collect real-time traffic information, traffic volume/flow, speeds, and hazards. All of this information can be utilised via unique digital identities to notify road users of delays on their usual routes and suggest better alternatives.
Although this shows how those on the road will benefit, they won’t be the only people who will be able to monitor this data. It can also be used by those in charge of the roads to pinpoint regular traffic trends and black spots. This will help future developments when it comes to improving transport infrastructure in the future.
It’s not just traffic flows that can be monitored. Parking is an area which affects the majority of drivers, but how can this be simplified by smart technology? Smart sensors will be able to observe parking availability, notifying drivers of free space locations as soon as they enter an area of town or car park.
Once parked, smart payment systems can time track the location and duration of the stay from the time of entry until the time you leave. Users will be billed automatically via a pre-registered account, removing the need to pay on the day for parking. This will help drivers avoid queues to pay for parking and having to carry change for parking meters.
5. Ensuring public safety on a day-to-day basis
As documented above, smart connected items, provided with an identity, can bring many benefits to the smart city. Whether it be alerting citizens to an act of God, easing transport congestion or keeping the city clean, it is playing a massive role in people’s day-to-day lives.
However, this is just a small percentage of what identity-powered IoT can do. The same smart monitors used to save energy in homes can also be used to save lives. For example, they could also detect gas leaks, alerting key parties and informing them of the time of day it has occurred, the location of the homeowner, and severity of the leak.
If the leak is not severe and the homeowner is within a five minute radius, emergency services would not need to be alerted as well. This level of automated situational analysis means emergency services would avoid unnecessary call outs and can remain available should another more serious situation develop elsewhere.
When it comes to enhancing public safety, smart systems can also protect against more than just natural disasters. They can be deployed in different ways to help protect citizens, including smart street lighting, which can be used to deter street crime. This can be done allowing an increase in lighting intensity and alerting authorities if significant/unusual movement is detected in the vicinity or suspicious noises are heard.
In making our cities smarter, not only do we make our lives easier and more efficient, but we also make them safer. As the IoT continues to adopt an increasingly identity-driven approach, a wealth of new opportunities is opening up that can do all of the above and so much more. For the citizens who live, work, and socialise in smart cities, there are exciting times ahead.
About the author: Lasse Andresen (pictured above) is co-founder and CTO of ForgeRock. He has 20+ years of experience in the software industry including leadership roles at both Sun Microsystems (he served as CTO for Sun Central and Northern Europe) and Texas Instruments. Lasse was also the co-founder and CTO of Gravityrock.