n a world where two-thirds of the population live in cities, making these urban areas as smart – and therefore as efficient – as possible is vital for a better quality of life.
As the physical and digital worlds become increasingly intertwined, so the concept of the smart city finally starts to become truly feasible. Using Internet of things (IOT) solutions to support cities and municipalities offers a wide range of benefits, including keeping urban spaces safe and inviting, improving service delivery, providing better quality of life for citizens and enabling businesses to be more productive in an increasingly competitive world.
The implementation of digital technologies should enable cities to not only realise future opportunities, but to do so while overcoming any challenges the future may present, Pathizwe Malinga, MD at Sqwidnet, told the recent virtual MTN Business IoT Developer Day.
“More than 65% of the global population is living in cities, chiefly because these urban areas offer a better quality of life, as they enable creative collaboration with like-minded people, provide better social interaction and offer citizens the ability to grow personally and professionally,” he explains.
“The question is: why do cities need to be smart? The answer, of course, is that municipalities are tasked with taking care of shared infrastructure and ensuring that residents’ living spaces are kept clean and safe. In addition, their job is to provide access to electricity, water, sanitation and more. The smarter the city, the easier it becomes for municipalities to cope with these tasks and provide a higher quality of service to citizens.”
Malinga indicates that with the large numbers of people constantly moving into cities, municipalities need something to lean on to ensure they can provide services to a constantly increasing number of citizens.
“What is needed is something to keep local government ahead of the curve, and this is where technology, particularly the IOT, comes in. Remember that according to Moore’s Law, technology essentially enables us to double the capacity of what can be done every two years. This ability to provide double the capacity at the same cost is what will enable municipalities to maintain or improve the services delivered, even as the number of citizens continues to increase.”
The beauty of the IOT, he adds, is that it can help improve quality across the board, from something as small as a missing manhole cover – which, when digitised with an IOT sensor, can instantly make city management aware if it is broken or stolen – to an effort as vast as an entire smart, connected police force.
“The principle of the smart city begins at home. We are already starting to see smart water and electricity meters coming online and quickly eliminating the challenges residents often face with incorrect billing. Once your home becomes smart in this manner, it can communicate with other municipal IOT solutions and provide the kind of data that enables better decision-making across the entire municipality,” says Masinga.
Kiran Vedula, director of product for digital and points business unit at Radisys, agrees that smart home solutions are a great place to build the foundation for a broader smart city.
“Smart home solutions can take many other forms, beyond that of smart metering. Smart security encompasses open detection for doors and windows, as well as smart cameras, doorbells, panic buttons and door locks. Smart home energy management focuses on heating and air-conditioning control, smart power outlets and energy usage optimisation,” he states.
“Furthermore, it can make living more comfortable through smart technologies like voice control, not to mention safer, as IOT sensors can monitor air quality and identify water or gas leaks rapidly. Finally, it can help reduce costs and energy consumption, through the implementation of smart lightbulbs, switches and temperature sensors.”
At the same event, Jarred Cowley, digital director at Think Digital, told delegates that his company has a fully operational connected community solution implemented at Waterfall Estate in Midrand, giving them a clear example of how the IOT is already making a city smarter.
“At Waterfall, we have integrated and centralised the technologies that exist in the community ecosystem, creating what we call a single super app. This encourages collaboration between the people in the estate and the technology being used,” he explains.
“Waterfall management had identified several challenges in its day-to-day operations that needed solving. Prior to our implementation, some of the challenges faced were related to poor communications, disparities between technology platforms, data loss, application fatigue and a generally chaotic digital environment.”
Cowley explains that Think Digital created a single channel of engagement which enables them to govern their data correctly from a compliance point of view, as well as simplifying the management of properties. It also allows them to deliver structured communications, improve fault reporting and efficiencies, create new revenue opportunities and create a more inclusive and connected city community.
“The benefits of our super app for residents and employees are numerous. Just some of these include notifications, touchless access control, account and levies payments, fault logging, prepaid utilities, directory access, emergency contacts, a digital wallet and information about points of interest.”
“A clear indication of the demand for smart technologies in Waterfall and the obvious benefits these offer can be found in the statistic that we already have a rate of adoption by residents of over 75%. This demonstrates how smart solutions make living easier and more convenient – we now have highly connected users who have full visibility of what is happening in their city. Best of all, the existing technologies currently in use will also serve as the perfect foundation for further digital innovation as we move forward,” he concludes.