The smart city has already begun

Andrew Orrock Andrew Orrock

Half of all humanity now lives within an urban environment. According to predictions by the United Nations, the number of city dwellers will grow to 60% by 2050 and pressure is building on city authorities to develop more efficient and sustainable strategies in order to cope with the anticipated growth.

Andrew Orrock, CEO of Arkessa, explains that although the challenges are complex, the ecosystem required to overcome them is already in existence. Humanity has crossed a threshold, much of the data is already being generated and shared in open municipality databases to enable insight, and this access to data continues to grow exponentially.

There are a number of areas in which Arkessa is already enabling customers to help city authorities, utility companies and other enterprises to make a fast and powerful impact, including:

  • De-materialisation and smart logistics
  • City mobilisation and traffic flow
  • Energy supplies
  • Energy efficiency

De-materialisation and smart logistics
We’ve witnessed how online billing, music downloads and TV streaming are replacing their physical predecessors and how this impacts manufacturing and distribution costs. Similarly digitising the Smart City environment would create incredible efficiencies.

Smart metering is already bringing IoT connectivity into homes and businesses by tracking utility usage and feeding the data back to the relevant management company.

Home delivery of groceries is being optimised by a simple smart change; grocery stores are offering lower delivery charges to customers who select ‘green delivery slots’ which allow local distributions to be combined into the same time slot. This smart change could be applied within the wider distribution sector; by merging delivery routes/drop-offs, distribution resources would be optimised, fuel costs lowered, and traffic congestion reduced.

In a similar manner, “mobile warehousing” will have the benefit of keeping stock in the field, closer to the customer. We’re supporting Fujitsu in creating a secure network of vans, acting as mobile stock points and connected by a combination of mobile broadband and low-power radio technology. This secure wireless solution is readily applicable to manufacturing, where decentralised optimisation decisions can be made by monitoring the data from physical processes.

City mobilisation and traffic flow
Local authorities continually look to improve traffic flow and reduce pollution, and smart changes can make a big difference.

Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) specialists are already helping local authorities to enforce speed limits, bus lane use, and congestion charges as well as aiding police and other emergency services to source roadside vehicle ownership information. Meanwhile, UK-based Clearview Traffic Group assists drivers in planning their journey, avoiding slow traffic or an accident site, and finding a parking space.

Other companies, such as TracknStop, are looking to improve the use of tracking and data transfer to prevent vehicle crime. Their solution helps drive down global vehicle thefts and lets consumers work with the appropriate authorities if their car is stolen. The device can be retrofitted into any vehicle and can remotely track, safely disable, and retrieve the stolen auto.

Within the next 10-15 years, autonomous cars and street-side infrastructure will be increasingly commonplace. In these early years, worldwide auto manufacturers are forming strategic positions on autonomous vehicles. At the same time, trials and demonstrators are showing the potential and stimulating user demand. Earlier this year at the Freescale Technology Forum in the US, Arkessa’s communications helped Freescale demonstrate their Connected/Autonomous Car solutions both within the exhibition halls and on the streets of Austin, TX.

Air pollution is still a major issue in many cities, with the European Environment Agency stating that ‘nine in every ten European city dwellers breathe bad air’. Managing traffic flow by optimising travel times in peak hours and implementing optimised driving can cut carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by as much as 60%.

Energy supply
Centralised energy distribution networks currently tend to be huge, inefficient grids. They lose power in transmission and are ill-equipped to cope with unexpected surges in use. During the England v Uruguay match of the 2014 football World Cup, the UK’s National Grid anticipated a surge of around 1,300MW at half time. That’s equivalent to the capacity of a large gas-fired power station. Surges are a manageable challenge when planned for, but cannot always be anticipated.

Energy distribution will be further complicated by electric cars, home generation, feed-in and storage. CGI’s smart grid experts are working with utility companies across the Americas, Europe and Australia to help them understand and leverage this complex and fast-changing segment of the energy supply chain.

Imagine a future where energy bills go down and not up! Energy generated at home can be stored and used when needed, with any surplus sold into the grid. Electric cars in turn can become part of the supply solution – not part of the demand and distribution problem.

Energy efficiency
Around 40% of the world’s energy is consumed by buildings, and this could be reduced by an estimated 15-25% by using building analytics to optimise building performance in areas such as lighting, ventilation, temperature, and air-quality.

In the streets, local authorities can meet their energy saving targets by upgrading their existing lampposts with LEDs. If the ‘Humble Lamppost’ – an Integrated Infrastructures and Processes Action Cluster (IPAC) initiative from the EU’s Smart City project – is adopted, then municipalities can also benefit from a range of built-in components including CCTV, Wi-Fi, security, air quality measurement and transport monitoring.

Residential properties can be aided by Climote, the connected home specialist, whose devices have multiple consumer benefits, including fast installation and user-friendly controls for simple energy management, enabling Smart Cities to achieve demonstrable energy savings of up to 20%.

Future HVAC (Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning) policies in large enterprises, offices, call-centres and educational buildings could benefit from a fusion of weather forecast, outdoor air temperature and quality, and internal environment data. M2M data can be combined to make more efficient control decisions and optimise energy use.

Applied intelligence – both machine and human
Smart deployment of M2M/IoT and data analytics systems are essential components in driving efficiencies across these sectors in a sustainable way. We should be conscious however of the ‘rebound effect’, where energy consumed by ICT advances could cancel out potential efficiency savings. It’s already reckoned, for example, that the whole internet currently consumes as much power as Japan. While embedded processors, wireless connectivity and data centre technologies are continually optimised for compute and power efficiency, the Smart City community must strive towards unified approaches to deployments and service creation.

Fortunately, the community combines high intelligence with well-informed sensitivity to the human issues involved at its heart. It is, however, restricted by budgets, the rate of innovation and political strategies.

Ultimately, the Smarter Cities will be ones where there is a collaborative eco-system. Companies such as Fujitsu, UrbanDNA, and CGI are already working hard with us to spark new businesses, processes, and urban policies for future cities but there’s still a long journey ahead.

As much as the community around Smart Cities can set plans and are embracing technology to improve the way the cities function, we can be certain that the next generation will interact with technology and their urban surroundings in ways that we can’t yet fathom. Just as with IoT deployments, Smart Cities have learned the lessons of the recent past should future-proof their technology selections and target near term benefits at the same time. It is of course a big challenge but, by focusing on efficiencies in health, transport, and energy, the ecosystem can enhance lifestyles, enable Smart City 2.0 and truly change the World.


Andrew Orrock, CEO

Andrew is CEO and co-founder of Arkessa, a leading M2M and IoT managed services provider. He is committed to creating an efficient Internet of Things ecosystem, and is passionate about the positive impact it can have on the planet.

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