Many tech analysts say that Smart City is not only about sensors but it is more on big data. What will make a city actually become smart is the integration and analysis of data from otherwise potentially disparate initiatives.
If the goal is integrated public, private and personal transport systems, and saving energy in homes, offices and vehicles, then the Smart City needs three things – structured data, big data, and machine-to-machine data. Structured data is weather forecasts, demographics and public transport performance statistics.
Big data from all sorts of social media can be valuable for sentiment analysis, tailoring services and offers, all sorts of business-to-customer or perhaps city-to-customer relationships.
Then comes M2M – machine-to-machine, also known as the Internet of Things – and this is where it gets tricky.
Take the smart bin with a sensor that alerts someone when it’s full isn’t smart at all. “Trash might get emptied more often, but costs will go through the roof,” says a tech analyst. “Trucks could end up coming back to the same street to empty smart bins close to each other that just happened to send in their ‘I’m full!’ message eight hours apart.”
The smart bins need to talk to each other, and integrate with structured data in the form of maps and route optimisation software, thus emptying bins becomes both a quicker and cheaper process. The council can then get rid of a truck, perhaps, and put more bins where they’re needed.
For a city to be truly smart, there needs to be an infrastructure designed to create hyper-location and automated services. Bluetooth beacons are the hardware behind the ‘physical connected web’. Coming Bluetooth 4.2 compatibility will enable mesh networking and IPv6 connectivity.
“Having a mesh of beacons across a city, all on a private network, to collect and send data back to a centralised hub, could be a lower cost solution than traditional smart city technologies,” says Mike Crooks, Head of Innovation at Mubaloo Innovation Lab, referring to the various types of radio frequency standards currently being proposed for IoT devices.
“The use of Bluetooth as a control mechanism could also mean that it’s possible to remotely control different equipment, further improving efficiencies … ultimately, IoT and the smart city won’t rely on a single technology, but will be a collection of multiple technologies, including cellular, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and other networking technologies.”