Machine-to-machine communication (M2M) has reached city life. As the mainstay of the Internet of Things and the basic technology behind Smart City solutions M2M is connecting more and more areas of municipal infrastructure, from parking spaces via streetlights to garbage cans.
But how do citizens, authorities, and private enterprises benefit and what opportunities arise for the M2M industry as a result of smarter cities? Let’s take a look at the opportunities and challenges for the connected city.
Looking for somewhere to park in the historic city center of Pisa, Italy? In future you will no longer have to cruise for ages around the narrow streets. Motorists will merely open the Tap & Park app and input a destination area. The app will then pilot them on the shortest route to a free parking space. This service is based on a sensor-assisted parking guidance system that Pisa is introducing jointly with Deutsche Telekom. In the pilot project, the partners are equipping 75 parking spaces on the Piazza Carrara by the banks of the Arno with sensors. Three mobile network gateways collect the sensor data and transmit it to the municipal IT infrastructure, the indicator boards and the drivers’ app. The city receives accurate statistics about the utilization of parking lots and motorists are spared the tiresome and at times very time-consuming search for a parking space.
The parking lot management solution that is used in Pisa is one example among many. Cities all over the world are trying out M2M solutions. Analysts forecast brilliant market prospects for M2M providers. Machina Research, for example, forecasts over 747 million M2M connections and revenues totaling USD29.2 billion by 2022 for the Smart City & Public Transportation segment. Traffic management, including the parking guidance system that is being trialed in Pisa, will account for 49 percent of this total.
Societal, economic and technological factors account for the rising demand for Smart City solutions. The world’s cities are growing. According to the UN, around 3.6 billion people lived in cities in 2011. By 2050, this number is expected to increase to 6.25 billion, or 67.2 percent of the world’s population. At the same time cities are smothered in smog. They account for up to 70 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions yet for only two percent of its surface area. In March 2014, Paris imposed traffic bans for the first time in 17 years. Nearly every area of municipal infrastructure is confronted by statutory requirements intended to ensure more sustainable urban areas in the long term.
Further drivers are advances in sensor technology, falling prices of M2M modules, and new business models. Until recently a Smart City solution required heavy investment in hardware and IT infrastructure. Today OPEX-based offerings are coming onto the market. Cities book Smart City solutions as an all-inclusive service for a monthly fee that includes hardware, administrative software, connection costs and support. Instead of high procurement costs, they have only the running costs to pay, which makes cost calculation much easier. Cities are now able to weigh up and carefully compare the costs and benefits of Smart City solutions.
Orderly city traffic
Parking lot management is an example of the benefits to be gained from a smartly located network of sensors. Sensors attached to the parking spaces first sense, by ultrasound, whether a space is in use or vacant. On its own this information is of little use, but as soon as sensor data for several parking spaces is merged, evaluated and passed on, an overview of the city’s parking situation is gained. The city’s ecological balance sheet certainly benefits. Experts estimate that around 30 per cent of inner-city traffic consists of motorists are looking for somewhere to park. In New York this figure is said to be 45 per cent – a figure that could soon be reduced by sensor-assisted parking guidance systems.
Along with parking guidance systems, Smart City solutions that focus on mobility management are also on the market. The RFID Mobility Passes from Deutsche Telekom’s partner Kiunsys have been in use in Pisa for five years. Instead of paper parking permits residents, taxi drivers and suppliers receive an RFID chip. For Pisa, the administrative outlay is lower and for motorists too the new system is more comfortable. They still have permits even when they re-register at a new address or apply for a permit renewal.
Evaluation of mobility data is another focal point of collaboration between Pisa and Deutsche Telekom. In the past, the city collected data but did not evaluate it to any great extent. A Deutsche Telekom Big Data service is now about to change that. Over an initial six months, the service will analyse all of the historical data and all of the new, incoming traffic data. The resulting findings are to be incorporated in the city’s municipal and traffic planning, to help improve traffic flow and reduce carbon dioxide emissions as envisioned by Pisa’s Sustainable Energy Action Plan (SEAP).
From connected street lighting to the multifunctional network
A further approach to reducing municipal energy consumption involves street lighting. Lighting for streets and parks at night accounts for over 40 per cent of municipal energy costs. Directives have already been enacted to require street lighting to use less energy. The EU regulation EC 245/2009 requires around 100 million street lamps to be replaced within the European Union by 2015. This is an opportunity for cities and local authorities to both use more efficient lighting and implement control systems.
Once street lamps are connected, the city can access them remotely. Most solutions are based on the gateway model, which is similar to the solution for parking lot management. A networked device fitted to all street lamps checks their status and receives control instructions such as to switch the lamp on or off or to dim it. The devices in the lamps communicate in turn with gateways which are connected by the mobile network to the municipal server infrastructure.
In this way, Deutsche Telekom’s Street Lighting Management solution generates an IPv6 mesh network that can host other Smart City applications, be they parking lot management, smart metering or a charger station for battery-powered vehicles. Even data-hungry applications such as traffic monitoring or hotspots can be operated via the multifunctional network.
To manage street lighting and other applications a Cloud-based Web portal is used. This enables the authorities to check the status of all lamps remotely and to program their lighting behaviour. Cycles can be set up, for example, during which lamps are switched on or off. In addition to timing, they can be based on other information such as data supplied by brightness sensors. In twilight, for example, the lamps are brightened gradually in accordance with what is left of the natural light.
The Smart Stadium
Machine-to-machine communication makes not only municipal infrastructure but also event venues smarter. IBM and Deutsche Telekom offer a connected overall concept for stadiums. It simplifies all of the event management’s tasks – from standard instructions for incidents to the management of concessions. At the same time, the system reduces the stadium’s energy consumption and offers fans a more intensive match experience. Here too the approach is based on integrating and evaluating data from different sources, which can include sensor data from people counters, video analyses, and weather and traffic data.
On the basis of this data, the system makes decisions by itself and optimises the ongoing operation. Guidance systems manage the flow of visitors, thereby ensuring shorter waiting times at ticket counters, soft drink stands and sausage stalls. The Smart Stadium also opens up new services for the fans. Information boards and fan apps ply them with additional information about the match and others taking place at the same time.
Just as the Smart Stadium is already bringing together information from totally different areas, from the ticket counter to the refrigerator for VIPs, cities are increasingly networking their entire infrastructure. One of the greatest challenges is to connect the individual pieces of the puzzle. Silos must be avoided. Just as Smart City solutions bring different areas together, different players must be able to take part: citizens, authorities and private enterprises.