Smart devices and the Internet of Things (IoT) have played a transformational role in lowering costs, boosting efficiency, and enhancing user experiences in everything from healthcare and transportation to education and governance. Today, we see many of these smart devices being innovatively used to create smart cities – cities that use technology to maximize the efficient use of scarce resources and encourage smarter, more sustainable choices by individuals and organizations alike. 

Here are 9 game-changing ways in which sensor technologies can improve the efficacy of the physical infrastructures of our cities while nudging users toward making better decisions.

1. Smart Meters

Smart meters can record electricity consumption in near real-time and transmit this data to utility companies. These companies can use this information to dynamically set prices based on the season or the time of day to encourage smarter consumption and/or conservation, especially when power generation is maxed out or demand is at its peak. Smart meters can also be embedded with grid health monitoring devices that can help restore services more quickly after outages and communicate with consumers regarding high usage to avert system breakdowns.

2. Distributed Energy Generation

Legacy power systems use large-scale fossil fuel plants or nuclear power to generate electricity. This system of a few plants that have very high capacity is slowly changing to more distributed power generation using renewables such as photovoltaic/solar panels and windmill energy – more nodes, each with comparatively lower capacity. This will lead to the creation of a new class of consumers – those who both consume power from the grid and create power, selling it to the grid. The construction space will likely transform accordingly as solar-specific installation equipment becomes standard in residential and commercial architectural designs.

3. Responsive Devices

Smart, Internet-connected devices, appliances, and equipment (such as HVAC units, water heaters, refrigerators, washers, dryers, and more) can be remotely controlled to reduce power consumption during high-demand times. Such changes can be triggered by the utility company during peak demand hours, or as prices increase during the day. Some cities even use smart LED streetlights that brighten when vehicles approach and dim once they’ve passed, which can reduce municipal power needs.

Consumer-facing applications can also be used to gamify usage by allowing consumers to compare their usage with their friends and neighbors to see who runs their home more efficiently. Prizes and giveaways such as points, rewards, and vacations can also be offered for long-term smarter energy usage and conservation.

4. Predictive Maintenance

Utility systems outfitted with IoT devices can monitor network health, identify faults or leakages, and reroute/redistribute services – whether water, gas, or electricity – using undamaged infrastructure, all with minimal human intervention. Automated switching and redistribution, combined with coordinated maintenance responses and troubleshooting, can all be handled by an operator in a remote control room.

5. Hyper-Localized Monitoring and Enforcement

Monitoring agencies such as the EPA can more accurately track, for example, emissions and compliance down to the business unit level using smart IoT devices. This can improve compliance, reduce the externalities created by socially unfavorable actions, and identify policies and/or strategies that work vs. those that do not. Transportation businesses can also use smart devices to track cargo and containers to reduce the chance of fraud and theft, and hospitals can perform this type of hyper-localized monitoring with patients by providing them with wearables that can improve safety, reduce the chance of accidents, and send a signal for help if, for example, a patient wanders outside the hospital or has a medical emergency.

6. Environmental Sensors

Continuing with the above, smart sensors can be used in everything from pollution, pressure, and quality monitoring to resource availability and usage tracking, helping to reduce the need – and the costs – of on-site surveys and inspections. For example, sensors can monitor water quality at a filtration plant while measuring consumption levels and available supplies to help plan distribution. Better leakage detection across canals, pipelines, and waterways can also help reduce water leakages and theft.

These capabilities are particularly important for decisions regarding water usage for agriculture vs. municipal use. Today, many agribusinesses and municipal landscaping companies irrigate regardless of existing conditions. While this is often done to avoid drought, it can lead to overwatering – not to mention the inefficient use of a scarce resource. By automating distribution based on measured need (based on measurements of soil moisture, atmospheric heat, rainfall, and land slope), businesses can more accurately estimate how much water they need.

7. Just-In-Time Waste Collection and Resource Distribution

Many waste collection and distribution businesses today use fixed routes and pre-planned inventory lists to empty garbage receptacles or deliver other equipment or resources such as water and fuel. As a result, many containers are emptied too early, and others not until days after they’ve become full. Smart containers that can send a signal to an operator to dispatch a truck can optimize the collection route based on full containers and would reduce the number of stops needed to clear a given route, lowering the total cost of collection. The same applies to refueling stations and supply depot restocking, so that fuel and/or supplies may only be sent out when needed.

8. Smart Mobility

Smart cities can use IoT devices to enable on-demand carpooling, share self-driving cars, dynamically price travel costs based on demand, levy consumption-based taxes, charge usage-based insurance, improve traffic management, and simplify parking.

9. Smart Governance

We touched upon many governance-related applications of smart devices above, such as in water distribution between agricultural vs. municipal needs and in levying taxes and dynamically pricing power, insurance, and taxes. However, smart devices and predictive analytics can also be used to, for example, streamline permits, quickly process complaints, perform inspections where they are needed most, and even predict when and where violent crimes are most likely to occur.

Many of the innovations above are still exploratory, and many are in use in different settings and industries all over the world. Forward-thinking organizations can harness the power of data, advanced analytics, and smart devices to improve decision-making, lower costs, reduce times to market, and improve customer experiences. To learn more about how Kajeet’s connectivity solutions can help your bottom line, please reach out to one of our Solutions Specialists at https://www.kajeet.net/contact-us/.