There are some people saying that the real value in the Internet of Things (IoT) is garbage.
One was reported here in Electronic Products, in an article titled Smart trash cans save city thousands of dollars. It described how the City of Raleigh, North Carolina, had 40 new trash cans manufactured at a cost of $7,000 each. You might consider that to be pretty pricey for a trash can — over a quarter of a million dollars for the 40 of them — but consider this: “In the Glenwood South part alone, trash collection costs have been reduced from an annual rate of $12,056 to just $115.”
The article goes on to explain, “So what makes these cans so financially efficient? They’re large. They’re solar-powered. And they compact trash and recyclables on the spot — reaching a maximum capacity of 150 gallons, at which point they send an email to city workers letting them know that they need to be emptied. This feature alone saves the city a ton of money because it saves the city from sending workers on constant rounds around town.”
According to the Smart Cities Council, the city of Seoul, South Korea, likewise reported a decrease in trash collection costs by 83% in the first year after installing street trash receptacles that simply had sensors indicating when they needed to be emptied. The bigger benefit for Seoul was the elimination of previously uncontrollable street trash. Similarly, the capital city of Finland, Porvoo, reported a net savings rate of 47%.
Managing recyclables is another area in which IoT technologies are creating huge savings. A recent report from manufacturer Waste 360 explains that, “A recent Cleveland trash analysis showed that about 42% of the 220,000 tons of trash collected by the city every year are recyclable. Cleveland can sell recyclable materials for $27 per ton, but they pay $33 per ton to dispose of trash at the landfill. For every new ton of recycling that we generate, the city will save $33 in landfill fees and earn $27 in recyclable sales. That’s $60 per ton. If they divert 42%, or 92,000 tons, of the city’s 220,000-ton trash stream to recycling, they generate $5.5 million for the city in saved costs and recycling sales.”
You’re not so big
Most of what you read about the IoT seems huge, even mammoth — billions of devices, sensors, and controls deployed around the globe. Yet many “smart cities” are applying these and related supporting technologies that help them save big by solving smaller problems — like garbage.
EETimes reports on how low-power wide-area (LPWA) technology is helping to protect the fishing industry. The article explains that, “Certain zones in danger of being over-fished can be effectively policed by officials using LPWA networks to see and warn boats in danger of illegally entering these areas. Illegal fishing operations can also be curbed through a more reliable nationally tracked fishing fleet, as every vessel in national waters can be seen at any time securely and safely.”
Electric buses are the natural outgrowth of the electric cars that are now entering the market. Switzerland is already getting ahead of the curve to address the challenge of re-charging those buses. In a Smart Mobility blog, they tell us, “ABB will deliver and deploy 13 flash-charging stations that take less than 1 second to connect the bus to the charging point. The onboard batteries can then be charged in 15 seconds with a 600-kilowatt boost of power at the bus stop. A further 4- to 5-minute charge at the terminus at the end of the line enables a full recharge of the batteries.”
A report from EDN explains how cities have “used insights from the data analytics provided by IBM’s Smarter Cities Challenge grants to improve affordable housing, economic development, infrastructure and urban planning, public safety, social equity, social services, transportation, and water, energy, and the environment. For example:
- Memphis, USA, and IBM worked to improve health emergency response times and provide preventative healthcare to citizens, particularly to low-income residents that disproportionately use hospital emergency rooms as their primary medical provider.
- Dublin, Ireland, worked with IBM to assess the feasibility of adopting eco-friendly and lower-cost solar power and ultimately installed solar panels on the roofs of nearly all city government buildings.
- Pyeongchang County, South Korea, host of the 2018 Olympics, is now developing and promoting new tourism opportunities beyond the Winter Games. This is expected to help close an existing regional socioeconomic gap.
- Syracuse, USA, now uses data analytics that identifies neighborhoods at greater risk of home vacancies and foreclosures and mobilizes resources to help stabilize those areas and grow the property tax base.”
In a pilot program, the City of New York has installed collision avoidance technology into 4,500 for-hire vehicles that focus on accident prevention. According to a report in EDN, “the system will provide vehicle owners and drivers peace of mind knowing that the most advanced technologies are in place to provide an extra layer of safety and protection to drivers and their passengers. New York’s Department of Transportation has previously implemented a test program, Drive Smart, which will have 400 drivers install an OBD-II tracking device that rewards them for careful driving.”
Drivers are not the only beneficiaries of Smart Cities technology in New York City. The Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) recently completed construction of the new Second Avenue Subway. With the goal of “bringing state-of-the-art urban technology to the Metropolitan Transit Authority’s (MTA) newest line,” WayPoints will be installed in each of the four new stations, providing real-time transit information and wayfinding solutions via interactive touchscreen displays to daily subway riders.
What cannot yet be quantified are the “soft savings” realized by many of these projects. Sensors deployed in parks monitoring moisture, temperature, and humidity to automate and regulate irrigation will definitely provide savings, plus the value of keeping those parks lush and healthy for citizens to enjoy. Sensors installed under parking lots will detect available parking spaces, saving drivers time and reducing congestion. IoT devices on street lights and buildings monitor and report environmental conditions such as temperature and pollution, which enables city managers to respond more quickly to changing conditions. Only over time will the financial impact of these small improvements be felt.
Smart City planning
Backed by programs like the IBM Smarter Cities Challenge and the Smart Cities Council Readiness Challenge Grants, and motivated by accomplishments such as those reported here, many cities are now considering how to approach planning and deployment of their own Smart City strategies.
Those cities planning to leverage Smart Cities technology are encouraged to develop “bi-focal vision.” Certainly aim high to conquer large problems, but also focus your innovative ideation on what can be accomplished by tackling small problems. As we’ve seen, resolving small problems can create tremendous savings over time.