The ability to communicate with elements within an environment and take prescriptive action is one of the defining characteristics common in smart cities and processes that integrate Internet of Things (IoT) with those of machine learning and/or artificial intelligent technologies.
But even during its earliest evolutions, IoT devices and sensors have been used to track and monitor everything from equipment to products, to humans. [your smartphone is an IoT device remember?]
One of the earliest applications of Internet of Things (IoT) is in manufacturing – process and discrete – where IoT connected devices and sensors are used to monitor or track activities within the supply chain – in real-time and near real-time.
In an article on Geospatial World, Matthew Zenus, Global Vice President, Database and Data Management Solution Go-To-Market, SAP described the data produced by these IoT devices as one-dimensional. He opined that it is the combination of IoT data with geospatial analytics, business data, and operational data, that “reveals hidden patterns and relationships that go to delivering better business outcomes.”
He was, of course, alluding to one of the early applications of IoT – positioning sensors that allow for the exact tracking of objects by providing absolute (geographical positioning system or GPS data) or relative displacement information.
With that in mind, FutureIoT spoke with Geospock CEO Richard Baker for his take on this geospatial data and the technologies that bring IoT data to the next level.
How far advanced are governments in the use of geospatial data and or technology towards the planning and design or the actual management of smart cities?
Richard Baker: I would say that many cities around the world have got traditional GIS tools that they are using for terrain and geography planning. However, the actual use of sensor data and spatial analytics from sensor data is just emerging.
What are the reasons for this?
Richard Baker: Firstly, we probably had the last ten years, if you like, of IoT technologies emerging and actually getting deployed, probably we’re really only seeing the acceleration of IoT in smart cities from connected SIMs on mobile operators only in the last 5-7 years.
The world is dealing with the physical connection side predominantly over those years. It’s only in the last couple of years that connectivity is producing such huge amounts of new metadata that the analytics of that data has become more relevant.
There are over 20,000 smart city projects around the world today – mostly driven by local or central governments. Most share a common problem – a lack of talent, skill and understanding of how to manipulate and manage spatial data.
Many governments will have a GIS team to deal with maps and terrain, but actually queuing data science on location and spatial data is a new field.
In some cases, it’s also a lack of a data strategy, a lack of data scientists in local authorities. So, these emerging fields are my impression of the cities that we interact with.
Can you share some use cases in Asia?
Richard Baker: What we tend to see fundamentally is that many cities are taking an infrastructure first approach to digitising. This includes smart street lighting, smart dustbins, and climate weather sensors.
The next step would be dealing with mobility and the congestion that is building up particularly in dense cities. The ability to track and monitor vehicular traffic will allow urban planners to spatially plan the city better.
As a business what remains the biggest challenge for IoT vendors like GeoSpock?
Richard Baker: I think our largest challenge is fundamentally to move away from the technology discussion, and really very much work with businesses and governments around the world on the use cases and the problem statements.
Part of that transition is very much being focused on the outcomes that we’re all trying to achieve in the transformation of the logistics market, or the transformations of smart cities, or in the rise of moving from connected vehicles to fully autonomous vehicles. I think the language is already changing.
Most government and business leaders are already beginning to focus on what are the benefits to citizens, what are the benefits to businesses themselves, and ultimately what are those use cases that really this connected physical internet market really brings to us all.
That leads us into a conversation around how many of those governments and how many of those enterprises really do have data first strategies that account for location analytics, location insights, as part of their design blueprint.
I think location has become one of the most important metadata tags for both public sector and private sector companies, and ultimately designing that in to be part of the everyday model is perhaps the interim challenge to make sure that the data officer has that as part of the roadmap.
How will smart cities evolve in the coming decade?
Richard Baker: We think that is going to ultimately bring about in the next 5-7 years a new era of private and public sector collaboration.
I think if we can think about a city running an operating system and ultimately service application providers having universal access to the infrastructure, I think that becomes a very significant innovation playground. There’s a lot of services that can be optimised and new innovation developed that can help society in a significant way.
For the first in many times, I think certainly when it comes to the environmental monitoring and the journey towards getting on top of climate change, problems in big metropolitan cities, quite frankly if you’re not measuring it you can’t do anything about it.
And I think IoT connectivity, particularly climate weather sensors, we’re entering a new era of “weather of things”. When you’re thinking about the weather of things, every device is ultimately an input signal to the type of environment that you’re able to monitor. And if you’re able to really start to extract the value of those things then you can start to instruct change to reduce emissions and start to address climate change, if you like, at a root cause. We’re very motivated by that.