November 30, 2018

Beyond IoT: Livable SmartCities

Enrique Gallar

Enrique Gallar
Chief Technology Officer/Blue Swan

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Over the years, IoT is evolving to reach the mainstream with the everyday consumers and entrepreneurs. Now, it's increasing reach is used in many different cases, such as security, water/waste efficiency, increased awareness of traffic /infrastructure issues, transportation, and air pollution. The intention is to improve the quality of life.

In this article, we will discuss the use of IoT to build Smart Cities and how they successfully deal with air pollution, which is now the fourth-leading fatal health risk - according to the American Association for the Advancement of Science, 2016. Cities are becoming increasingly populated, green areas are decreasing, and citizens themselves are exposed to air pollution, which can later lead to lung cancer, chronic bronchitis asthma attacks, heart disease, and other related health problems.

Air quality is a significant challenge for governments. For this purpose, they make contracts with the large IoT Industrial Company, investing in them to further explore and implement the IoT technique for pollution reduction. An excellent example of this is the government of China that works with China Mobile. They are trying to explore how connected sensors could improve their air quality monitoring. In the same way, Telefonica and Orange have contracts with local governments in France, Spain, Portugal, and Brazil in much the same vein.

The first step into solving the problem of pollution in major cities, it's the proper detection using the data harvested from the vast coverage of the LPWA sensors. To know the air quality at any given time and place, you have to have fast data sharing via APIs without commercial models behind and real-time publishing. If you know where the heaviest pollution is at a given moment, the cause of the contamination can easily be found and quickly resolved.

The collected data can pinpoint the exact problem for pollution, that can be the increased traffic for holidays, malfunction filter of factory nearby, heavy construction or even the lack of green areas. Whit this useful information governments can take effective countermeasures and plans. In many large cities, air quality monitoring infrastructure is limited to large, fixed monitoring stations, making it tough for experts to precisely measure the levels of air pollution in their cities. These old stations must be replaced with smaller more economical stations who will be able to create extensive mesh-networks of stations which can be crowdsourced. Something similar to The Things Network.


Exploring IoT-driven air quality solutions


The development of low power wide area (LPWA) networks has led to the availability of compact and portable, always connected sensors. LoRaWAN is a networking protocol designed to connect battery operated sensors to the cloud platform wirelessly. They give some valuable features when it comes to solving air pollution, like bi-directional communication, end-to-end security, mobility and localization services. With their long reach and miniature size, these sensors can be attached to street furniture to measure and report air quality. This way, a much better overall visual picture of air quality can be formed.

The information received from all these sensors is immediately sent to the IoT cloud where they are processed by big data capabilities, such as analytics and machine learning. Taking into account the weather, and the industrial pollutants, the powerful algorithm makes the right decisions to deal with pollution.

London also has a huge problem with air pollution, for this purpose, GSMA and the Royal Borough of Greenwich have joined with the "Smart London" project to improve the understanding of air pollution in that area. Their idea was to use battery-powered electric vehicle including a high-quality laboratory to measure the roadside air quality in the Greenwich area. The mobile laboratory has a sensor that was able to take discrete, real-time measurements of pollutants in the area. All data is later processed using artificial intelligence (AI) to examine the possible adverse effects of population movements, congestion and weather conditions on the results.


Air quality policy planning


Similarly, KT Corp from South Korea has announced that their government financed, nationwide ‘Air Map Korea Project.’ Their goal is to install a large number of LPWA sensors across numerous locations throughout the city. The data collected is sent to the powerful AI algorithm, to get a realistic picture of air pollution in the city. Monitors will be installed at 4.5 million utility poles, 330,000 base transceiver stations, 60,000 public phone booths, and 4,000 central offices in Korea. These LPWA sensors are measuring fine dust, volatile organic compounds, noise, and humidity level in a few seconds.

The improvements of IoT united with the emergence of LPWA networks gives a real potential to major cities to undertake their air quality problems. This advancement in these fields of technology allows precise monitoring of air pollution and thus detection of high-altitudinal pollutants. This useful information can ease the problem of air pollution. However, none of this is achievable without human operators. We have a crucial role to play in implementing robust and secure communications connectivity, without which IoT air quality applications would not work. Once armed with precise and detailed data, from LWPA sensors or mobile vehicles, city management can begin to understand the current challenges that air pollution is causing. With this useful information, they can provide prevention guidance to their citizens and plan sustainably for the future growth of their major cities.




The growth of megacities is an unstoppable journey.  The next chapter in the book of the evolution of the megacities should be harnessing technology to make cities smarter. Understanding and trying to solve the problem with air pollution of major cities should encourage us to improve other areas of smart cities. Ideas are countless; mobility is heading to electrification and autonomous cars, the intelligent operation of traffic lights, which included unique modes of operation during weekends or at the peak of the day, to disperse the crowd of vehicles.

Nevertheless, everything starts and ends with us, people. The problem must be taken seriously, and governments in correlation with private companies must join the drive for progress. Without their financial support, nothing is possible. The road remains challenging, but with a motivated governing body in true collaboration with IoT industries and the availability of these new data streams new business models can emerge thus the door is wide open to the future of the smart city.

Comments? You can contact me directly via my ExecRanks profile.

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