IoT is crossing the chasm as we speak, slowly but in an ubiquitous way. A very good use case in play today is the hundreds of thousands of smart sensors along the San Andreas fault in the Bay Area that monitor 24/7 the movement of the fault or the thousands of sensors on the Golden Gate bridge that measure the effects of traffic and weather.
But Seriously to use IoT to it’s full potential we will need Big Data – to collect, learn and decide all near realtime. IoT + Big Data (and Cloud) seem to be made for each other as we utilize the machine learning algorithms to make calculated decisions in real time.
What is changing?
The advent of the Internet of Things adds trillions of potential sources and consumers of data to the billions of people who make up the “crowd”. The next “crowd” is the stunning number of devices operating on their own that will be connected to the ‘net and generating and/or using data. Some of these will be traditional sensors measuring all sorts of physical phenomena — rainfall, temperature, water levels, etc. Some will be sensors that report on human environments and are attached to automobiles, smart phones, jewelry, refrigerators, cameras, and so on. Many will be used for control, such as household power consumption, smart cities, and automobiles. In not too long, these devices will outnumber people by several orders of magnitude.
Just how much data are we talking about?
There are lots of estimates of how much data is out there and how fast it is growing. Nearly all of them are measured in zettabytes (10^21), and growing at exponential rates. One such set of numbers, from IDC, measures 2014 data at 4.4ZB and estimates 2020 data at 44ZB. Fascinating numbers, but for most of us a few giga- or terabytes is plenty. Cisco cited several business examples that will drive this huge rise in data, such as a Boeing 787 aircraft, which generates 40TB per hour of flight, or a Rio Tinto mining operation that can generate up to 2.4TB of data a minute.
Smart cities of the future
Cities are discovering how they can use these new technologies — and the data they generate — to be more efficient and cost effective in many different ways. And it’s a good thing, too; some estimates suggest that 66 percent of the world’s population will live in urban areas by the year 2050.
These are cutting edge ideas, but here are some of the most fascinating ways Smart Cities are using big data and the Internet of Things to improve quality of life for their residents:
- The city of Long Beach, California is using smart water metersto detect illegal watering in real time and have been used to help some homeowners cut their water usage by as much as 80 percent. That’s vital when the state is going through its worst drought in recorded history and the governor has enacted the first-ever state-wide water restrictions.
- Los Angelesuses data from magnetic road sensors and traffic cameras to control traffic lights and thus the flow (or congestion) of traffic around the city. The computerized system controls 4,500 traffic signals around the city and has reduced traffic congestion by an estimated 16 percent.
- Xcel Energy initiated one of the first ever tests of a “smart grid” in Boulder, Colorado, installing smart meters on customers’ homes that would allow them to log into a website and see their energy usage in real time. The smart grid would also theoretically allow power companies to predict usage in order to plan for future infrastructure needs and prevent brown out scenarios.
- A tech startup called Veniam is testing a new way to create mobile Wi-Fi hotspotsall over the city in Porto, Portugal. More than 600 city buses and taxis have been equipped with Wi-Fi transmitters, creating the largest free Wi-Fi hotspot in the world. Veniam sells the routers and service to the city, which in turn provides the Wi-Fi free to citizens, like a public utility. In exchange, the city gets an enormous amount of data — with the idea being that the data can be used to offset the cost of the Wi-Fi in other areas. For example, in Porto, sensors tell the city’s waste management department when dumpsters are full, so they don’t waste time, man-hours, or fuel emptying containers that are only partly full.
- New York City is creating the world’s first “quantified community” where nearly everything about the environment and residents will be tracked. The community will be able to monitor pedestrian traffic flow, how much of the solid waste collected is recyclable or food waste, and air quality. The project will even collect data on residents’ health and activity levels through an opt-in mobile app.
- Songdo, South Korea has been conceived and built as the ultimate Smart City — a city of the future. Trash collection in the city is completely automated, through pipes connected to every building. The solid waste is sorted then recycled, buried, or burned for fuel. The city is partnering with Cisco to test other technologies, including home appliances and utilities controlled by your smartphone, and even a tracking system for children (using microchips implanted in bracelets).
This is just the beginning of the integration of big data and the Internet of Things into daily life, but it is by no means the end. As our cities get smarter and begin collecting and sending more and more data, new uses will emerge that may revolutionize the way we live in urban areas.