Five ways to enable the smart city thanks to the cloud

Cloud is the building block that allows smart cities to access all the resources to realise their potential, according to Amazon Web Services

Tags: Amazon Web Services (aws.amazon.com/)Cloud computingSmart citiesTraffic
  • E-Mail
Five ways to enable the smart city thanks to the cloud Parking applications that utilise high levels of interconnectivity through the cloud are improving congestion in 60 Spanish cities.
By  ITP.net Staff Writer Published  March 16, 2019

While smart cities have held a great deal of promise for many years, they are only beginning to come to fruition now. This is due to the fact that we now have the network connectivity and the backend storage and compute infrastructure to unleash their full potential. This bodes well for municipalities and governments and is equally good news for citizens, whose working and day to day lives alike are made easier by connected cities.

Amazon Web Services shows five ways to enable the smart city by leveraging cloud, for a future with more efficient and successful collaborative cities.

The cloud unleashes the full potential

Essential to enabling both smart cities and collaborative cities is a robust cloud backend. Put plainly, utilising the cloud makes implementing a smart city possible. This is particularly important as cities would likely generate petabytes of data in a month.

All this information needs to be securely stored and the scalability of a cloud solution mitigates having to constantly upgrade storage capacity to cater for the continuous influx of data. Just as important is cloud analytics, which can analyze a myriad of datasets, in near real-time, on a city's environment in order to enhance living conditions for its citizens.

"A prime example of this can be found in the City of Chicago, which is one of the first to implement sensors throughout the city that permanently measure air quality, light intensity, sound volume, heat, precipitation, wind and traffic" commented Giulio Soro, Smart City Solutions Architect, Amazon Web Services. "The data from these sensors stream into the cloud where it is analyzed to find ways to improve the life of its citizens. Collected datasets from Chicago's ‘Array of Things' are then made publically available on the cloud for researchers, developers and entrepreneurs to find innovative ways to analyse the data."

For those municipalities aiming to explore smart city implementation, a typical Internet of Things (IoT) enabled smart city scenario entails deploying numerous connected sensors and probes throughout the area to gather information. The problem with this approach is that it can require substantial investment in dedicated sensors. Instead, governments should be encouraged to consider using other alternatives, which can be leveraged to bring any city to life.

Leverage existing resources

One such alternative would be to leverage existing sensors cities may already have at their disposal. An example of how this could work is smart parking, in which people can use a mobile app to view available parking spots nearby when navigating a city.

EYSA, the Spanish company specializing in integrated mobility solutions, developed ParkXplorer, a smart city mobility platform for the management of "surface parking at municipal level" offering innovative and efficient solutions in the field of urban mobility. The application leverages the cloud to connect parking-meters, smartphones, parking sensors, parking controllers' PDAs, among other devices from the parking ecosystem in order to deliver an enhanced and simplified parking service to citizens across 60 cities in Spain with an average population of 4 million inhabitants, managing over 150,000 parking spaces.

ParkXplorer uses Big Data technologies to collect, integrate and process information generated by all these elements within the ecosystem and delivers real time actionable feedback to maximize the resource management and optimize the backoffice work. It has been developed from scratch on AWS cloud which allows the platform to be completely flexbile and scalable in order to automatically respond to variations in the activity. Thanks to the cloud, ParkXplorer is able to make a daily task like parking easier, faster and more efficient.

Information from everywhere

Another way to leverage existing infrastructure is by attaching a low cost, low power sensor to a bus or streetlight, for example, effectively turning it into an information gathering device in its own right. For example, in a large city like London, sensor equipped buses could gather data as they traverse the city on information such as traffic movement, CO2 levels, temperature and sound. With cloud analytics, this information can then be extrapolated and analysed to determine where traffic jams or accidents may be present or where pollution levels are rising to unsafe levels and citizens can be kept informed via a mobile app. People often talk about cities being living, breathing entities and this would effectively like giving a city a real-time MRI scan.

"Spain's ground public transportation which transports millions of commuters a day, could be used in a similar fashion" added Soro "gathering information about traffic flows, and other data, during particular times during the day and specific days during a week."

Innovation outsourced

Attaching sensors is not the only way to use the cloud to foster a smarter, collaborative city, it can also be achieved by publishing open datasets. Returning to our example of Chicago, the city publishes an Excel spreadsheet with the date, description and GPS coordinates of streets that are scheduled to be cleaned. In Chicago, cars parked on the street in question would be towed and their owners fined. With this in mind, independent developers use the dataset to create an app that allowed users to view when a specific street will be cleaned and receive an email alert should they live or work in the area.

One of the major advantages of sharing datasets is that it empowers individual developers or small businesses to design their own apps, which can either be sold for a small fee, or earn their creators revenue by supporting it with advertising. This then fuels an app ecosystem, which fosters continuous innovation. Already we are seeing examples of this outsourcing of innovation taking root.

As a case in point, Peterborough City Council in the UK. The city council has installed weather stations in schools across the city. The sensors are simultaneously used to monitor meteorological and climate activity. The data sourced from these installations can be used at all levels of education and across subjects, from science to technology to social behaviour studies augmenting the curriculum in local schools and making learning near real-time.

The council also found that by open sourcing the data from these weather stations, and enabling developers to leverage it, helped address their shortage of dedicated developers they had in-house. Sharing datasets in this manner also holds interesting potential. For example, by sharing datasets for weather stations and hospital admittances, a city could determine whether a temperature drop below a certain point correlated with increased hospital admissions during a particular time of year, and take precautionary measures.

Citizens become app developers thanks to open data

A true smart city is a collaborative one which not only has sensors that are accumulating data, but also features engaged citizens who are aiding in the collection of data in order to add to a system that benefits others.

Clearly, smart cities and cloud technology are a natural fit; while the former is ever changing, and adapting to its citizen's needs, the cloud is able to quickly adapt to the evolving needs of its users.

Governments and municipalities should not only think of smart cities in terms of deploying probes and sensors in order to capture information. Rather, they should pay attention to how existing infrastructure can be retooled to aid in gathering data.

Cities should also consider citizens not just as collectors of information but creators of applications themselves using open datasets. Then the information provided can be analysed using secure cloud technologies such as Amazon Web Services. This not only benefits a city, it also fulfils the promise that smart cities bring, enabling citizens to enjoy higher standards of living.

Add a Comment

Your display name This field is mandatory

Your e-mail address This field is mandatory (Your e-mail address won't be published)

Security code