Technology innovation & IoT deliver a double-hit sustainability option
In NYC, Bigbelly smart garbage bins are equipped with sensors and solar power to notify city collectors when a bin is at capacity, plus the same smart technology is supplying information and WiFi with speeds up to 75mbps. Now that’s a technology innovation!
The Internet of Things (IoT) is a far bigger deal than many people realise. For example, 8 years ago a bridge collapsed in the U.S., resulting the death of many, all because of steel plates that were inadequate to handle the bridge’s load. When bridges are rebuilt, we can now use smart cement: cement equipped with sensors to monitor stresses, cracks, and warping. This cement alerts us to fix problems before they cause a catastrophe. And these technologies aren’t limited to the bridge’s structure.
If there’s ice on the bridge, the same sensors in the concrete will detect it and communicate the information via the wireless internet to your car. Once your car knows there’s a hazard ahead, it will instruct the driver to slow down, and if the driver doesn’t, then the car will slow down for him. This is just one of the ways that sensor-to-machine and machine-to-machine communication can take place. Sensors on the bridge connect to machines in the car: we turn information into action.
The implications here are numerous. What can you achieve when a smart car and a smart city grid start talking to each other? We’re going to have traffic flow optimisation, because instead of just having stoplights on fixed timers, we’ll have smart stoplights that can respond to changes in traffic flow. Traffic and street conditions will be communicated to drivers, rerouting them around areas that are congested, or tied up in construction or damage.
So now we have sensors monitoring and tracking all sorts of data; there are cloud-based apps translating that data into useful intelligence and transmitting it to machines on the ground, enabling mobile, real-time responses. And thus bridges become smart bridges, and cars smart cars. And soon, we have smart cities, and….
Okay. What are the advantages here? What are the savings? What industries can this be applied to?
We really need to think big here. This isn’t just about saving money and it’s not about bridges, and it’s not about cities. This is a huge and fundamental shift. When we start making things intelligent, it’s going to be a major engine for creating new products and new services. And it requires a new way of thinking about things, new attitudes and new social structures.
Of all the technology innovation and trends that are taking place right now, perhaps the biggest one is the Internet of Things; it’s the one that’s going to give us the most disruption as well as the most opportunity over the next few years.