By Eran Eshed
Just a few years ago, the concept of a smart city—or one that uses wireless technology to increase communication between various sectors, city planners and consumers—seemed like it was light years away from becoming a reality.
Things have certainly changed.
A recent report from Gartner shows the smart city movement, led by the Internet of Things (IoT) is quickly picking up steam and is on the verge of undergoing exponential growth. According to Gartner, the number of connected devices in operation across global smart cities will reach 1.1 billion in 2015; and by 2020, this figure will balloon to 9.7 billion.
What’s driving the rapid acceleration of connected devices in urban areas? The residential consumer market is playing a big role, as urban citizens are increasingly relying on connected devices to streamline daily tasks, save money, reduce waste and gain a better understanding of their environments. For these reasons, the residential consumer market will be a major driver of IoT growth. While smart homes and businesses currently represent 45 percent of total IoT use, by 2020 they will account for 81 percent of the market.
Some of the leading residential consumer IoT technologies today include:
- – Smart LED lighting: Gartner predicts smart light-emitting dioxide (LED) lightbulbs will be the leading technology in the connected consumer environment by 2020, with total deployments growing from 6 million in 2015 to 570 million by 2020. Smart LED lightbulbs allow consumers to control a variety of options via mobile interface, ranging from color mixing to schedule dimming for added ambience. These devices also make it easy to see energy information for improved energy reductions.
- – Connected healthcare devices: Consumers are turning to connected devices to gain insight into a wide variety of real-time health information. Referred to as “wearable technology,” common connected healthcare devices include heart monitors and hearing aids. Google has even devised a smart contact lens that can help diabetics collect and transmit blood sugar information without having to take a blood sample.
- – Smart locks: Mobile devices are quickly replacing the need for physical locks and keys in residences and automobiles. Now, consumers can control a variety of security settings directly from a smartphone or tablet.
- – Smart sensors: One of the most transformative technologies for homes and businesses, smart sensors can be used for a myriad of things, such as home security via motion detectors to food updates. The kitchen, in fact, is currently one of the most exciting areas for IoT innovation today. From smart refrigerators that alert you when it’s time to replace your milk to toasters that sense when they are not being used, IoT technology is drastically improving one of the most widely-used areas of the house.
Convenience alone is not the sole driver of the connected device market, however, as there is a much bigger need the IoT is helping to address. Right now, city planners are facing a great deal of pressure in trying to balance the increasing trend of urbanization with challenges related to scarce resources, rising energy costs and sustainability issues. According to the United Nations, 66 percent of the world’s population will live in urban environments by 2050. As urban areas continue to become more densely populated, connected devices will play a critical role in helping ensure they remain livable, clean and affordable.
One example of how the IoT technology is helping with this sustainability initiative can be seen in smart city traffic systems. Many smart cities are currently in the process of overhauling their traffic control systems with smart sensors that help reduce street congestion by improving traffic flows and reducing idling times at lights. Smart sensors also make it easier to locate parking spots by correlating with GPS navigation systems.
Of course, you can’t mention the topic of IoT technology and smart city growth without touching on connectivity. After all, in order for mobile endpoints to communicate with one another, they need to be able to transmit large amounts of data at lightning-fast speeds.
Fourth generation (4G) technology, which facilitates data speeds of up to 12 Mbps, is the logical successor to 3G technology for IoT. In fact, LTE for IoT is an emerging trend that will play a big role in ushering in the era of the smart city. By 2018, it’s anticipated that half of all mobile connections in North America will use 4G networks.
It certainly is an exciting time to be a smart city resident, due to the enormous amount of positive changes that IoT technology will facilitate.
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