How Smart City Technology is Making Cities Around the World More Livable

March 30, 2022

The concept of the Internet of Things (IoT) has been around since 1985, when Peter Lewis spoke about it in a speech to the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s 15th Annual Legislative Weekend in Washington, D.C. However, the idea of connected devices was around as early as 1982 when a modified Coke vending machine at Carnegie Mellon University became the first connected appliance. It was able to report its inventory and whether drinks that had just been loaded were cold yet.

The Internet of Things and smart cities

Today, the Internet of Things has advanced much further than the possibilities suggested by those earliest ideas. The world is now seeing the IoT on a massive scale in the form of smart cities. Estimates for the size and growth rate of the industry vary widely by reporting organization.

For example, Grand View Research expects the global smart cities market to reach almost $7 trillion by 2030, amounting to a compound annual growth rate of about 24%. Approaching the subject from a slightly different angle, Markets & Markets expects the size of the market for global IoT in smart cities to grow from $130.6 billion in 2021 to $312.2 billion by 2026, for a compound annual growth rate of 19%.

Whether you look at the size of the market from the macro scale of the city itself or from the micro scale of the IoT within the smart city, it’s clear that the opportunities stemming from smart city growth are tremendous. Rapid urbanization and favorable government initiatives are driving adoption of the smart city concept.

Potential and current beneficiaries of the smart city trend

There is a wide variety of companies to invest in for those who want to invest in the space, but not all of these companies are currently in the smart city space. Some may be indirect beneficiaries, while others may be more direct beneficiaries.

For example, 5G leaders like chipmaker Qualcomm (QCOM) and infrastructure builder Nokia (NOK) could play a role in smart cities. Data centers are also important, which could mean that names like Amazon Web Services (AMZN) or Equinix (EQIX) might enjoy some benefit at some point. Amazon and Equinix are making a play for the space with information on their websites.

Telecom giant Orange (ORAN) is already making an impact with its smart city technology through various partnerships, as is tech giant Dell (DELL). To learn more about the opportunities for investing in smart city technology, I sat down with James Honan, CEO of Affluence Corporation, the parent company of smart city software firm OneMind Technologies. We discussed the IoT and how smart city technology is making cities around the globe more livable.

Q: How has IoT technology evolved over the years, and where do you see it going next?

A: The evolution of IoT is represented by three major phases: connecting the unconnected, creating smart and connected things, and building a software-defined autonomous world.  The future of IoT has the potential to be limitless. Advances to the industrial internet will be accelerated through increased network agility, integrated artificial intelligence (AI) and the capacity to deploy, automate, orchestrate and secure diverse use cases at hyperscale.

Q: How does IoT technology combine to create smart cities?

A: Smart cities use IoT technology to manage their resources. IoT devices include connected lights, meters and sensors, which smart cities use to collect data. Cities then analyze all that collected data and use it to improve their infrastructure, public utilities and services.

The devices used in smart cities combine to make everyday tasks more efficient and address issues pertaining to traffic, public safety and the environment. Some of the most commonly used smart city devices include smart utility meters, connected vehicles, smart grids, smart waste management solutions and smart air quality monitors.

Q: What can smart city technology do?

A: So-called “smart” devices typically aim to collect data while managing resources. For example, smart utility meters work with a smart grid to allow utility companies to manage the flow of energy more efficiently. Smart meters enable users to track their energy consumption, and Insider Intelligence expects utility companies to save $157 billion by 2035 due to their adoption. Smart grids could one day make home energy storage units and solar panels ubiquitous.

Generally, smart city technology architecture is divided into four layers: the sensing layer, which generates and captures data through sensors, the network later, which consists of network infrastructure, the data layer, which receives and stores vast amounts of data, and the service layer, which interprets all the information in an intelligent way for the customer.

Q: What potential applications exist?

A: A host of potential applications exist, depending on the type of user. For example, infrastructure operators can use the interface to get a holistic view of all the key information and real-time indicators so they can make informed decisions later. They can see what’s happening in real time, manage congestion and accidents or other incidents, improve operational efficiency, and reduce emergency response times.

Directors of operations can compare data over time, study trends, run data-driven investigations, measure the performance of their services, and analyze behavior and identify anomalies. Decision-makers can integrate all the data collected by the system into a single dashboard, define and measure historical and current performance indicators, conduct performance analysis, and make plans based on data.

Q: What are the benefits of smart city technology?

A: It generates awareness in real time as it collects and analyzes data. The intelligence provided by smart city tech enables enhanced services capable of anticipating users’ needs, reduces public spending while increasing transparency, supports decision-making, and reduces the environmental footprint while increasing sustainability.

Smart city technology provides a sustainable, secure environment where smart services can be implemented quickly and confidently. It also protects against both terrorist attacks and cyberattacks and improves recoverability in the event that an attack does occur or is attempted. The technology improves automation in the many departments that provide city services.

Q: Can you give us a real-life example of this technology in action?

A: Bogota, Colombia runs on smart city technology. The city has 7.8 million residents and 1.2 million vehicles, and it’s been dealing with significant traffic congestion since the 1990s. City authorities set up an alternate-day vehicle traffic system, but that didn’t solve their growing congestion problem.

Now, Bogota has one of the most complete and advanced mobility management solutions in the world. Smart city technology unified the city’s systems into one central control center for traffic management, vehicle counting, agent tracking, traffic cameras and incidents. Integrated systems include an accident-reporting tool, 1,600 agents, towing vehicles, a Twitter feed, traffic lights, bicycle lanes, bus stops and street works with hundreds of sensors.

As a result, emergency response times improved by 40%. Solving Bogota’s traffic congestion problems reduced the time people spend traveling through it and helped decrease air pollution, resulting in significant cost savings for the city.

Q: Tell us about OneMind.

A: OneMind defines itself as a “hypervisor,” which is a type of software for smart cities that provides access to several subsystems simultaneously. We bring operators a holistic picture of how the city is performing in real time, enabling them to solve incidents within the city. We create a connector layer that pulls together information from all the city’s systems and data sources across all its organizations and departments.

OneMind also gathers information from various sensors and cameras throughout the city, pulling all this data into a single location as part of the connector layer. By pulling all the data and information about the city into a single location, we make it easy for city officials to make decisions in the best interests of the city and handle incidents as they occur.

Onemind operates in a variety of industries, including city operations, transport infrastructures, construction, and operations for malls, campuses, stadiums, and arenas. Our technology is deployed around the world, from Los Angeles to Vietnam.

Q: What does it mean that smart city technology like OneMind is a “hypervisor”?

A: A hypervisor is a software layer that lays on top of expert subsystems that operate the city. It is capable of connecting and retrieving information from those subsystems, independently of the technology they use, and showcasing it on a unique layer. Essentially, a hypervisor breaks the silos between the information systems and gives a holistic view on the entire city, granting access to any data provided by operational subsystems.

A hypervisor also constantly monitors the collected data, compares it with analytics indexes and triggers alerts when thresholds are exceeded. It also links these alerts to a response plan previously configured by the user based on the city’s standard operating procedures and launches automatic responses where business rules allow it. It does all this to address the situation quickly and swiftly, mitigate the issue and improve the resilience of the city.

Q: Who are the major players in this market?

A: There are many competitors in the space, including big names like Siemens, Honeywell (HON), Bosch, Huawei and Verizon (VZ), but we believe these are the most direct competitors in terms of our market niche. Quantela was founded in 2015 as a simple dashboard company that worked with other partners to help cities digitize their urban infrastructure. It has evolved into a digital technology solutions company focused on control rooms.

Fluentgrid is a software products company that provides technology-driven, integrated solutions for smart energy, smart city and digital infrastructure. The company is based in India but has recently set up a base in the U.S. to address the complex, deregulated energy markets with its innovative cloud software solutions. Fluentgrid has a massive software portfolio for smart cities called Actilligence, which offers situational intelligence to city managers to help them make informed decisions.

Ubiwhere is a software and R&D company for the smart cities, telecommunications and internet of the future sectors. Its core product, Urban Platform, is an easy-to-use platform that supports city management in the areas of traffic and mobility, safety, infrastructure, and high-level decision-making.

Q: What makes your technology different from the offerings from those other companies?

A: Unlike the solutions offered by other companies, our technology works with the sensors and equipment that cities already have installed so that they don’t have to replace every part of their system. OneMind’s platform is nimble, easily connecting to any external subsystem technology. It also has unique features for operators, managers and city decision-makers.

OneMind’s technology can be deployed in any environment with high availability through cloud, multi-cloud, on-premises and hybrid access. It is also multi-tenant and SaaS-ready. The technology is fully configurable on the front end and uses a low-code engine to perform ETL data processes, configure business processes and automate alarm triggers and action workflows.

OneMind also offers an adaptive, multi-device front end that can connect your smartphone to the video wall. It has a modular, plug-in architecture that allows it to adapt analytics to the user’s needs and is a multilingual and multicultural platform.

Q: Can you share any success stories?

A: The OneMind product is deployed throughout the world. We have implementations in Oslo, Mexico City, Barcelona and San Francisco. We have recently been selected as the command and control software for one of the world’s largest smart city projects. One of our most recent success stories is a Smart Tourism project for Quang Ninh Province in Vietnam, which consists of a complete intelligence operations center that integrates several systems deployed throughout the city. The platform continues to evolve with the needs of the province, integrating any new system the city deploys and becoming a fully integrated system for the leaders’ daily decision-making. The project recently entered its first phase of deployment. As you can see, there are multiple use cases for our technology.

Q: What do you see as the future for smart city technology?

A: Traditionally, the smart city was made up of a series of smart processes hidden to the public, a labyrinth of clever technologies operated by those working behind the scenes to optimize the city’s everyday workings. New ways to access, store and process information using high-tech sensors, data analytics and multi-departmental control centers opened up a whole new world of possibilities for managing operations and improving residents’ quality of life from the “ivory towers” of city hall.

Today, the technology is becoming even more integrated into the daily lives of residents. Smartphones are giving city dwellers instant access to key pieces of information about public security, traffic and community news. They’re also allowing residents to feed their own data and experiences back to the city government. Essentially, cities are engaging with their residents to become smart on all levels.

In the future, smart city technology will anticipate the needs of residents using artificial intelligence. It will also become more interactive and more flexible. All of this will occur as cities tackle urban challenges while capitalizing on innovation.

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