12.12.2023 838

Benefits of Remote Data Collection in Smart Cities: Application Areas, Trends and Innovations

Many modern devices can collect data, exchange it, and perform their functions without human intervention. In this article, we will talk about how smart technologies change life in cities and what new approaches and technologies are used in this area.

Internet of Things (IoT) and smart city: What are these?

The Internet of Things (IoT) is a technology that allows you to remotely receive data from devices, control devices from a distance, and automate their work. Different devices are combined into a single network, and when connected to it, it is possible to receive comprehensive information and control the system’s work. Such devices are called smart devices.

The Internet of Things allows:

Saving time and controlling the operation of devices. Devices can be controlled remotely and don’t require personal presence.

Saving resources. Devices work only when their operation is needed.

Getting the necessary data. The IoT provides an opportunity to recognize the location of the device, its battery state, and other options.

Automation of processes. Many routine tasks can be delegated to machines and technologies.

The benefits of remote data collection for improving urban infrastructure were described in detail by McKinsey Global Institute (MGI) experts in the report “Smart cities: Digital solutions for a more livable future.” Their research proves that the implementation of smart technologies in urban infrastructure can significantly improve people’s lives, and make them safer and more eco-friendly. Particularly, by applying smart technologies it is possible to:

  • reduce mortality by 8—10%
  • reduce response time to emergencies by 20—35% 
  • reduce morbidity by 8—15%
  • reduce the average time spent by citizens to get to work by 15—20%
  • reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 10—15%
  • reduce water consumption by 20—30%

Thus, the value of remote data acquisition lies in the fact that this technology makes life more convenient and safer and allows one to perform a significant number of tasks without the direct involvement of people. 

Below we will talk more about what areas of city life can be improved with smart technologies, as well as the challenges and opportunities in remote data collection for smart cities.

Application areas of the Internet of Things

IoT-driven innovations for smart city data collection are being implemented in various areas. For example, in industry, urban transport management, medicine, and agriculture.

Ecology. Smart sensors allow specialized structures to monitor various data in real-time. Specifically, they can be used to monitor the state of the air, specifically, tracking the pollution levels.

For cities located near water bodies, the issue of water quality is very important. Smart devices transmit data on the state of water in lakes, rivers, seas, and oceans. This helps to keep water quality under control, as well as timeously detect chemical releases, crashes, or fish diseases — and promptly respond to such events, thereby eliminating problems in their early stages.

Transport and traffic. Statistical data analysis and application of smart technologies in the sphere of urban transport can reduce costs, optimize routes, and make citizen’s lives citizens more comfortable. Particularly, with the help of smart devices, it is possible to set up a flexible operation of traffic lights, providing drivers with a “green street,” pedestrians with safety, and emergency services with the ability to get to call points without running red lights.

Here are a few cases that Seoul authorities have realized using smart devices.

Night buses launch   Optimization of cab services
Many citizens who stayed late at work had to call for cabs. Having analyzed the data on calls from mobile phones at that time, the city authorities found out at which points people called cabs most often and created a route through 1252 of the most popular locations. As a result, Seoul launched 9 nighttime routes without spending a lot of money. This increased passenger traffic by 10%. People felt more comfortable and started to spend more time in the city in the evening.   About 19% of all complaints from Seoul residents were related to cab services: during rush hours and in bad weather, people had to wait a long time for a car. Smart technologies helped the city authorities solve this problem without increasing the cab fleet: by studying mobile operator data on cab calls, the municipal authorities identified areas where requests for cab services were most frequent. A map with this data was given to cab services, enabling drivers to understand where they were most likely to get an order. As a result, customers now have shorter wait times for a car, and drivers use less gasoline and take less time getting to the customer.

 

Waste management. Utilities make positive outcomes of data collection by optimizing waste removal. For this purpose, waste bins and garbage trucks are equipped with sensors. Smart devices transmit data on the container’s fullness and the location of the nearest vehicle. Also, the route for garbage truck drivers is organized in such a way that they visit only those places where the bins are full. Work is performed with maximum efficiency, and utility companies reduce gasoline costs. This system also enables companies to plan their budgets, for example, to reduce the number of vehicles or to purchase the right number of bins for areas where, according to statistics, it is necessary to remove more garbage.

Safety. Smart devices such as camera systems and a variety of smart sensors provide city services with extensive information about human behavior, emergencies, and accidents. This data is received in real-time, so that responsible services can react quickly to the situation and eliminate security threats at the early stages.

In the Netherlands, smart sensors help prevent waterlogging in homes. Due to the specific landscape in this country, especially in Amsterdam, there are many canals. The water level there periodically rises, and this threatens the city buildings. To avoid waterlogging, the city services have equipped the canals with smart sensors. The devices report the water level in the canals in real-time. Thus, the benefits of remote sensing for the citizens are shown when smart devices help them immediately detect rising water levels and open water sluices to release excess water.   In Wellington, New Zealand, municipal services use sensors that detect specific sounds, smells, and movements. They are installed in malls to distinguish normal shoppers from potential thieves by their movements. Among other things, such sensors react to the sound of broken glass and cries for help, signaling to security guards that an emergency has occurred. On the streets, odor sensors detect the smell of paint. These sensors allow city services to timeously recognize when someone is graffitiing on walls and prevent acts of vandalism.

 

Healthcare. Smart devices and sensors can transmit information about the state of patients. For example, in Turkey, diabetes patients were given glucometers that remotely transmit information about the patient’s blood sugar levels. Doctors had access to real-time data on the patient’s condition, which allowed them to see any abnormalities immediately. Doctors recorded the times when the levels changed and then surveyed the patients. This system enabled them to find out exactly what might have triggered the change in sugar levels.

Using sustainable solutions for data collection in smart cities can significantly improve healthcare services and the lives of patients with chronic diseases.

Economical use of resources. Remote device control and smart systems can save a significant amount of resources: with them, devices can be programmed to operate only when they are really needed. For example, smart street lights can be programmed to turn on at full power only when people or vehicles are approaching and operate in a low-energy mode the rest of the time. This helps to save energy and create a more comfortable environment for residents, for whom the bright light of street lights will not shine in their windows all night.

Smart meters help to quickly identify problem objects and detect electricity overconsumption. For example, a utility company, by studying the data from such meters, can identify equipment or lights that consume an unreasonably large amount of energy. Perhaps such devices need repair, while in streetlights it is enough to replace lamps with energy-saving ones — and this will reduce electricity consumption.

Trends in data gathering

One of the emerging trends in remote data collection for urban planning is the use of edge computing. Until now, centralized cloud computing processing and storage have been used to connect smart devices. However this method has two serious drawbacks: delays and bandwidth limitations. Edge computing can significantly reduce delay because the computing power is placed closer to the data source.

Data pre-processing and compression reduce the load on the network, which increases network bandwidth. Local storage also increases data security. Peripheral solutions are generally more reliable, provide higher data transfer rates, and are easier to scale. All these advantages make this type of solution very promising.

The latest developments in data acquisition utilize the capabilities of artificial intelligence. This allows the automation of  more processes and the control of devices in real-time.

AI’s computational capabilities also help predict the failure of industrial equipment and detect various anomalies and deviations from the average statistical indicators. By analyzing such information, accidents, emergencies, and other events that require a quick response can be promptly monitored.

Challenges in applying new approaches to IoT

Infrastructure investments. Each city solves its unique problems using smart devices. To realize such a solution, it is necessary to collect the proper information, research the problem, develop a project, purchase the necessary devices, and set up the system. All this requires time and considerable investments.

Device compatibility. All devices should use the same standards for the stable operation of the solution. This requires the involvement of programmers.

Ensuring security. An extensive database, including personal data, should be used for the integrated work of the Internet of Things. For solutions that additionally involve AI, data protection becomes one of the most important issues.

Providing citizens with access to digital technologies. Suppose a project requires the personal involvement of people (for example, a case with smart glucose meters). In that case, each participant must be provided with the necessary devices and possibly trained to use specific programs.

Internet of Things technologies can significantly improve city life: remotely control devices in real-time, and automate and optimize many processes. The advantages of remote data gathering for smart cities are an opportunity to make life in them safer, more eco-friendly, and more economical.

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