Asset Tracking in The Smartest Cities: Improvements On Many Levels

February 11, 2020

As more and more people flock to urban areas, the future of cities is becoming the future of humanity, driving even more interest in ensuring these cities operate as efficiently and responsibly as possible.

The rapid urbanization of the planet presents challenges and opportunities and is forcing those responsible for planning and managing our most densely populated communities to consider every

Currently, 55% of the world’s population lives in urban areas. It is expected that in 2045 there will be 6 billion people living in cities, which will increase the current figure 1.5 times. The World Bank in 2018 forecast that by 2050 the number of urbanites will reach 68% of the total world population.

Without advanced thinking and action, this could translate into tremendous traffic congestion, air and noise pollution, security risks and much more.

The IoT and especially IoT solutions which are managed securely and reliably at the edge of the network is incredibly relevant as a source of cities’ efficiency management.

Big cities today have massive budgets and a huge array of physical and digital assets to manage, from sanitation trucks and snowplows to police vehicles and surveillance cameras, from public transportation hubs and subway cars to traffic management systems and public safety and emergency response vehicles and systems.

Big cities, like NYC, are always on the move. Mayor Bill de Blasio and the City Council agreed on a $92.8 billion city budget for the 2020 fiscal year for example, with a significant percentage of that budget dedicated to technology and Smart City systems, through the NYC Mayor’s Office of Technology and Innovation (MOTI.

Measures include programs to conserve resources such as energy and water, while reducing the environmental impact of NYC and improving the quality of living for its population, with systems addressing issues including street lighting efficiency, water quality and conservation, waste management and air quality.

In the field of Smart Waste Management, the NYC sanitation department (which is the largest in the world) collects more than 10,500 tons of trash per day. Picking up garbage from the thousands of trash cans and recycling bins can be quite a logistical challenge: garbage bins can overflow if they are left unattended but picking up garbage too frequently is a waste of fuel and labor. They have deployed what is referred to as “The BigBelly”, a smart trash can that is being deployed throughout the city and equipped with a wireless sensor that monitors trash level, allowing pick-up trips to be scheduled more efficiently.

The system includes a trash compactor that runs with solar power, allowing the garbage bin to hold five times more waste than a conventional one. This system improves trash collection efficiency by 50% to 80% and contributes to emissions control by reducing the time spent by garbage trucks on the road.

NYC has also rolled out a snow removal system that tracks every street in the city, and reports in real-time, via a mobile app, which streets have been cleared and which streets are scheduled for clearing. This “productivity app” connects the Sanitation Department, responsible for clearing snow, and the taxpayers who pay for services and expect streets to be cleared. This innovation has dramatically improved the efficiency of the process as thousands of snowplows are tracked using GPS, making streets safer, and passable for emergency vehicles which can save lives.

The potential for innovation is limitless.

How the elements combine and interact in a city is complex, including in the area of city mobility.

Factors include all forms of transportation (public vehicles, private vehicles public transportation and vehicle for hire), policies and regulations including traffic congestion laws, and facilitation mechanisms, which include the instrumentation of city streets making it possible to track and trace mobile assets including sanitation trucks, police cruisers, sanitation trucks, maintenance vehicles, and more.

Managing mobile assets in smart cities has an obviously direct correlation to the environment, as buses and other city-owned assets can either produce a huge amount of carbon or much less, depending on the vehicle’s fuel source (petroleum-based, natural gas or electric).

The former mayor of Denver, Wellington Webb, once said, “The 19th century was a century of empires. The 20th century was a century of nation-states. The 21st century will be a century of cities.” His prediction is turning out to be correct, and when we all come together to equip cities with the technologies they need to operate at the highest levels of efficiency, we can improve the lives of millions while contributing to a cleaner and more sustainable planet.

Any city can be thought of as a system composed of various components. The components that make up a city’s infrastructure include:

  • City services (fire, police, public health, education, etc.)
  • Energy through public and private partnerships
  • Water/wastewater management
  • Communications
  • Public Transportation
  • Public Buildings

The smartest smart cities will continually add intelligent technologies to the city infrastructure, transforming it into an intelligent, connected infrastructure that is then capable of supporting the goals of serving citizens, supporting sustainability and contributing to economic development. Asset management is a huge part of this, and we’ve only just begun to benefit.

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