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When you hear the phrases Smart Cities and the Internet of Things (IoT) do they bring up visions of a futuristic movie theme rather than the fact that Smart Cities already exist on some level today? Or do you think it’s really not possible for cities to intelligently apply technology? Then you’ll want to continue reading as we think you’ll be surprised to learn what’s happening around the world.


The Internet of Things is being hailed as the 4th industrial revolution. While there are a range of estimates in circulation, all numbers are staggering. IDC forecasts that the worldwide market for IoT solutions will grow from $1.9 trillion in 2013 to $7.1 trillion in 2020. Cisco’s John Chambers has predicted that $19 trillion in economic value will be created by the Internet of Things.

Altimeter Group defines the Internet of Things as: the interconnection and interaction of the digital and physical worlds, wherein uniquely identifiable embedded technology connects and integrates physical ‘things’ to information networks via existing and emerging Internet infrastructure. IoT is a platform for connecting people, objects, and environments to inform and enable visibility, engagement, and innovation.

A subset of the market for IoT solutions is that of Smart Cities. Pike Research estimates that Smart City technology investments will increase to $108 billion by 2020. Navigant Research forecasts that global smart city technology revenue will grow from $8.8 billion annually in 2014 to $27.5 billion in 2023.

With such stunning predictions of revenue opportunities, is your city or company prepared to participate in these developments? In this post, we’ll take a closer look at the opportunities, existing tools and infrastructure, and examples of embracing the possibilities of the Internet of Things and Smart Cities.

What does the Internet of Things and Smart Cities Mean for Business?

The IoT goes far beyond “device-to-device” connections by connecting humans, devices and “things” that range from roads to plants to buildings to animals to machines. These connections are being linked to one another and the Internet, enabling higher computing power, automation and advanced smart applications. Once these objects are connected and data is collected, relevant information can be relayed to kiosks, digital signage, tablets, wearables, connected transportation mechanisms such as cars, 3D printers, and of course, smartphones.

As cities around the world embrace the Internet of Things and become “Smart Cities”, the demand for new products and services that use context-aware networks and sensing infrastructure will increase exponentially. Data-driven technologies are shaping cities for tomorrow.

The city of Barcelona has been participating as a Smart City for several years. Manel Sanroma, chief information officer for the city of Barcelona reported at the CES 2014 Conference that the city has reduced costs by about $3.1 billion a year by installing sensors in public water pipes and parking meters so they are used more efficiently, among other applications. A second example is Barcelona's wirelessly-connected garbage bins that are fitted with sensors to monitor trash levels. The collected data is used to plan the optimal routes for garbage collection and update garbage truck drivers in real time regarding which routes to take, optimizing productivity and reducing waste management service costs.

Sensors will be a key factor in establishing the connections to enable intelligent systems for monitoring and collecting huge amounts of data that can assess current conditions as well as predict future usage and developing situations. In the case of developing situations such as severe weather or natural disasters, alerts can be activated for preparation in the case of severe weather and mitigation of damage from major water leaks. More day-to-day practical applications include smart parking systems, wireless waste management, infrastructure monitoring and building energy management.

This trend is certainly driving remarkable results and there are several reasons why:

  1. Infrastructure continues to improve and stabilize – a number of companies and organizations are partnering up to collaborate on establishing systems. For example, Ericsson Research in cooperation with the Swedish Institute of Computer Science and Uppsala University developed a system called the IoT Framework. The IoT Framework is a computational engine for quantitative information accumulated by sensors connected via any IP network such as the Internet.
  2. Open source sensor platforms now exist – companies are making their technology available as open source platform frameworks. The Sensor Platforms, Inc. framework is designed for sensor data acquisition, communication, and interpretation that is compatible with any CPU architecture or real-time operating system.
  3. Standards are being put in place – again, numerous organizations and companies are working together to establish standards on multiple fronts. Regarding sensors, the Sensor Web Enablement Initiative (SWE) by the OGC (Open Geospatial Consortium) has recently gained importance through its maturity and its broad support from research and industry. The SWE seeks to provide open standards and protocols that make sensors discoverable, query-able, and controllable over the Internet.

By now you might be wondering how your company can tap into this trend and the associated revenue opportunities. Let’s look at just one example of how one company applied the use of sensors to improve efficiency, attract customers, and increase revenues.

From Isolated Parking Lot to Easily Being Found – Saving Drivers Time and Money

A parking lot operator identified an opportunity. First, there were too many cars for the number of available parking spots. Second, there was no simple way for a driver to know whether there were parking spaces available at the parking lot they had found.

In a study by BBVA research, operator's country was #4 on a list that predicts increases in the number of cars being operated in cities from 2010 - 2020. Other research reported that drivers in the city center were spending 30% of their time searching for an available parking space.

This company had heard about using sensors and live information boards; but they needed a technology partner who could build the system for their multiple parking lots.

Contact was made with First Line Software who worked alongside them from the beginning to create and develop a solution that would not only make for happier drivers; but also increase the parking management company’s revenues. This project required:

  • 828 sensors to be installed into the asphalt
  • 137 repeaters are mounted on information boards
  • 25 parking payment terminals were added to the parking lot

Parking lot monitoring system delivered these results:

  • Reduced parking lot search time by 50% - from 15.6 minutes to 7.6 minutes – saving time and fuel for drivers
  • Improved rotation of cars by 8% and increased revenues by 11%
  • Reduced number of cars that were illegally parked or exceeded pre-paid time

This was just the first parking lot of several to be converted into smart parking facilities. Our client has a number of additional lots that will also benefit from this monitoring solution.

It was determined that possible future use of this solution could be applied to streets and roads to:

  • broadcast information in real time
  • obtain exact data on speed, number of cars (in breakdown on lanes)
  • optimize operation of traffic lights

In this project, First Line Software not only provided the technology solution; we also collaborated with our client to bring the idea to reality and build out the plan for the solution.

How will your company respond and prepare for these opportunities?

While the opportunities are numerous and potential for significant revenues are real. . .companies need to be prepared by partnering with technology providers and developers that possess the skills and experience to walk with them from ideation to planning, from planning to development, from development to implementation. First Line Software stands ready to partner with you for success as you embrace opportunities associated with Smart Cities and the Internet of Things. Contact us today.

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