A smart city is the one in which citizens live a smart and well-organized urban life with the help of information and communication technology (ICT) while maintaining sustainability and causing the least possible harm to the environment. It means living in a city which has been planned infrastructure-wise, where urban services are efficient and where citizens can easily interact with the local bodies thus, playing a larger role in the city’s management.
A smart city’s systems like water management, waste management, healthcare, policing & governance, smart buildings, education, and energy are managed in an optimal fashion that benefits the citizens, government and also nature. Reductions in cost and resource consumption are integral to the ideal smart city plan. All this would be impossible without this offshoot of ICT: IoT technology. It can offer governing bodies with real-time solutions for the above-mentioned urban challenges.
What is IoT
Internet of Things or IoT is basically a network of interconnected devices like sensors and smart devices that pass on information to each other and a supreme console via the internet. All these devices generate so much data that a high-tech cloud application is needed to store, process and mine it. This process is conducted by big data analytics. Any smart city project will use big data to capture, store, process and analyze the data generated from several sources and to transform the data into useful knowledge that enables better decision-making.
How big data and IoT are being used in traffic management
Traffic management is one of the biggest infrastructure hurdles faced by developing countries today. Developed countries and smart cities are already using IoT and big data to minimize issues related to traffic. In most cities, people prefer driving their own vehicles no matter how good or bad the public transportation is or how much time and money is it going to take for them to reach a particular destination.
Thus, increase in use of cars has caused an immense amount of traffic congestion. Several countries are overcoming this traffic bottleneck by fetching information from CCTV feeds and transmitting vehicle-related data to city traffic management centers to help smoothen the traffic run. A better-organized traffic system means the better flow of vehicles on the road and means no idling vehicles in traffic jams. All this eventually translates to lower run times, proper utilization of natural resources (gas) and less pollution. Emittance of gases is highest during stop-start driving which happens in traffic-light regulated spots. Hence, smart traffic helps in pollution reduction throughout an entire city.
Visit Innovation Enterprise's DataX Shangai Summit on September 5-6, 2018
However, smart traffic management also involves other factors like smart parking sensors, smart streetlights, smart highways and smart accident assistance amongst other things.
Traffic lights that use a real-time data feed are being used to mitigate the traffic load. Sensors mounted at strategic places can use IoT technology to gather data about high traffic junctions and areas by diverting vehicles from these places. Big data can analyze this information further and figure out alternative routes as well as better traffic signaling to ease congestion. Meanwhile, road-side lights can also work according to weather sensors mounted on them. Dimming of light happens not only at the day-night transition but also when weather conditions turn murky. Roadside light sensors can pick up these signals and turn on and off accordingly.
Parking has become an Achilles' heel in urban planning scenarios. Lack of parking spaces, as well as parallel parking, has heightened traffic snarls at important junctions in cities. IoT-based sensors in parking lots can give out real-time information of empty spots to cars approaching from a long distance looking for a parking space. Such sensors have already been installed in European cities like Paris, France as well as Kansas, US. They have all seen remarkable results with a double-digit percentage reduction in parking issues observed in a span of a year.
Road accidents have been one of the top causes of deaths across the world. However, what adds to this gloomy fact is the prevalence of untimely help and assistance to victims of such accidents. CCTV and sensors on roads can help in locating accident spots and communicating these to the nearest emergency rooms. If this communication is established in time, all else can be better handled.
While IoT and big data present a path-breaking opportunity in smart traffic management and solutions, they also have some limitations. Firstly, current cities already suffer from infrastructure issues like road planning, zoning and other construction-related issues which could become more of a problem when implementing IoT technology.
Secondly, all these fancy high-tech solutions need high-speed data transfer techniques and thus, can only work in cities with great internet connectivity. If for any reason this connectivity is hampered the entire smart city could fall apart.
Thirdly, more devices accessing a central network means more opportunities for hackers to conduct their malicious tasks. An added layer of security one top of the first will be needed to make an impenetrable, hack-proof smart traffic solution. Data privacy will also have to be maintained, looping in lawmakers and engineers.
Traffic is a crucial aspect that determines a city’s livability factor and efficiency status. A population surge will stop mattering if data and sensors are used capably to manage traffic. As smart cities evolve and increase in number in coming years, IoT and big data will play a key role in the development and integration of their services and infrastructure. With time, other issues besides traffic like waste management and energy conservation will benefit greatly from the concept of IoT and big data.