businessman 3210932 1280The cost of Internet of Things (IoT) sensors has decreased remarkably over the past decade, heralding new possibilities of a renewed push for smart cities. With worldwide spending on IoT predicted to surpass the USD$1 trillion mark by 2020, this has increasingly attracted attention within the various sectors.

With that tied in line with the strong push towards smart cities, seen through the recent piloting of Smart Cities Network by 26 ASEAN cities, more cities are looking towards developing more in-depth frameworks to improve the lives of citizens through the use of technology such as IoT solutions. This gives rise to an abundance of opportunities it can bring to governments and businesses – implementing further Smart Cities initiatives, such as smart street lighting, to drive efficiency and better quality of life for citizens.

Cities of tomorrow

Connectivity is a fundamental aspect of a smart city and implementing a smart network nationwide is a challenge. Step forth – the street lamps. As the number of street lights globally is set to grow to 363 million by 2027, it makes sense to consider this as a platform to kick start the smart city network. With street lamps typically dotted at walking distances apart from each other, we can leverage on existing street lighting infrastructure to affix smart sensors instead of constructing a smart network from scratch.

Through the incorporation of IoT sensors within smart street lighting, it can offer benefits for citizens such as:

  • Environmental monitoring: Sensors built into street lights to monitor real time environmental factors such as air quality, UV-ray levels and noise levels. Control allows the monitoring to be done over specific locations or citywide.
  • Traffic monitoring: Traffic sensors in street lighting to provide more precise traffic updates and congestion levels.
  • Smart parking and metering: A variety of sensors can be used to track parking lot availability and records for fee collection, and occupant’s vehicle information.
  • Public Wi-Fi and HD video surveillance: High bandwidth wireless networks to provide citywide Wi-Fi access. Utilizing of high bandwidth wireless networks to match the bandwidth requirements of HD videos and GPS for emergency response.

Through these solutions, governments and citizens can be kept informed of information in real time, enabling them to solve everyday issues in betterment of their daily lives.

Furthermore, governments and businesses can utilize the data to tackle issues such as public safety, traffic congestion and enhance emergency response. For instance, the transmitted data from the HD video surveillance could possibly inform emergency units of a casualty by identification through facial recognition, allowing the casualty to be identified remotely amongst the crowd.

Integration and interoperability

While governments and city planners are aware of the benefits of a smart sensor network, many face challenges in its implementation, particularly in the integration of solutions and interoperability. This is mainly due to the myriad of technologies and solutions involved which will require the complementation to each other.

To ensure optimal outcomes, both private and public parties need to work together to bring the right set of capabilities to ensure the various smart platforms can be successfully implemented. These partnerships can further unlock new innovations and opportunities – something as simple and apparent as the extended use of street lamps for smart networks. This will ensure that the smart cities do not end up turning into a mix of mini ecosystems that will only work in silos.

Aside from public-private partnerships, governments also play a role when it comes to implementing regulations and policies within a smart city. In doing so, it enables the objectives of the smart initiatives to be successfully met, and not faced with misuse. In the case of smart parking solutions, sensors are embedded in or on top of pavements to collect data such as parking lots availability and vehicles’ parking duration for automatic charges. Through that, it aims to automate processes and take away the redundancies of manpower. Regulations can be considered to be imposed in order to prevent issues such as illegal parking and ensure that parking authorities still have control on the parking situation despite reduced physical surveillance.

Privacy and data-hacks

As such, while great strides have been made in smart city developments, data privacy and cyberattacks is still seen as a key concern. The focus of smart cities initiatives tends to solely be on the implementation of the solutions, while overlooking the aspect of cybersecurity. As the complexity of cyberthreats continuously increases, it is even more important to prioritize cybersecurity in smart cities planning – particularly smart street lightings and sensors which are in the public space.

As cities continue their push towards being a smart city, we look forward to more possibilities beyond the horizon. However, greater involvement of stakeholders will prove essential to drive innovation and collaboration to realize the smart city goal.

For all we know, the springboard to smart cities could very well be right under our noses – with something as simple as a street lamp.

By Yao Shih Jih, General Manager, ST Electronics (Info-Comm Systems)
Yao Shih Jih, will speak at the ConnecTechAsia Summit on Conference Day 2, 27 June 2018 on the topic ‘Paving the Way for Smart Cities: The Smart Sensor Platform Network’, ST Electronics will also be exhibiting onsite at booth 1N3-01