How the Internet of Things is Building Smart Cities
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How the Internet of Things is Building Smarter Cities

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How the Internet of Things is Building Smart Cities

How the Internet of Things is Building Smart Cities

Urban populations are rising around the world, but cities are struggling to keep up.

As the silent force that has revolutionized our world, technology is now being leveraged to manage rapid urbanization and to create smarter cities.

Today’s infographic from Raconteur explores how the Internet of Things (IoT) has become a vital component in the creation of more efficient, sustainable, and resilient cities, and illustrates the growing impact this will have on both people and the planet.

The Growth of Smart Cities

Since 1950, the amount of people living in cities has risen almost six-fold, from 751 million to over 4 billion in 2018—more than half of the planet’s population. Over the next three decades, cities are projected to add yet another 2.5 billion more people.

This continuing migration to urban areas puts greater pressure on public services as well as urban planning. As a result, cities are implementing solutions driven by technology and data to reduce the added strain created by this growth.

Smart City Innovations

With spending on smart city development to reach $158 billion by 2022, significant growth is expected from emerging innovations such as:

  • Officer wearables:
    Devices that equip police officers with real-time information to improve awareness and make better decisions
    Global CAGR (2017-2022): 62%
  • Vehicle to everything (V2X) connectivity:
    Allows cars to communicate with other cars, transport infrastructure, and pedestrians
    Global CAGR (2017-2022): 49%
  • Open data:
    Data that anyone can access that contributes to the transparency of government and smart city initiatives
    Global CAGR (2017-2022): 25%
  • Smart trash collection:
    Solar powered, sensor-equipped smart bins allow waste collectors to track waste levels and optimize their fuel usage
    Global CAGR (2017-2022): 23%
  • Smart city platforms:
    Systems that collect data from different areas such as pollution levels and traffic density to better manage smart cities
    Global CAGR (2017-2022): 23%

These technologies could lead to a wide-range of transformative effects for cities that are willing to embrace them.

Measuring the Impact

Smart city technologies have the power to improve the health and well-being of citizens, while also providing new avenues for economic development.

Safety

To enhance public safety, cities are adopting real-time crime mapping, gunshot detection, and predictive policing tools to help identify potential hotspots and prevent crimes from happening.

According to McKinsey, tapping into these technologies could reduce crime rates and fatalities by 8-10%, potentially saving up to 300 lives each year in cities with a population size and crime rate similar to Rio de Janeiro.

Transport

As more vehicles join the IoT ecosystem, the bigger the IoT logistics and transportation industry grows, with spending estimated to reach over $43 billion by the end of this year.

New innovations like smart roads that support automated vehicles are beginning to get more investment from cities. These roads will be able to communicate with automated vehicles to ensure the safety of drivers, and better optimize traffic—potentially decreasing the average commute time by 30 minutes.

Health

Technology is providing new strategies for the prevention and treatment of chronic diseases.

In China, drones with facial recognition technology are being used to track those affected with coronavirus to ensure they do not break quarantine and risk spreading the virus.

The most effective use of technology however, is data-based health interventions for maternal and child health, which rely on the use of analytics to identity new mothers and to direct prenatal and postnatal educational campaigns to them. Using interventions to prevent diseases before they occur has proven to be particularly effective in cities with a high disease burden and low access to care, such as Lagos in Nigeria.

These new technologies are reducing cities’ burden of chronic disease. This is measured across the WHO’s central metric disability-adjusted life years (DALY), which is equal to one year of “healthy” life lost due to contracting a disease. For example, using data-based interventions for maternal care could reduce DALYs by more than 5%.

Environment

While a significant portion of greenhouse gas emissions come from cities, these can be cut by up to 15% with smart city solutions by reducing electricity and heat production.

Smart cities will also play a pivotal role in reducing water consumption. Applications such as smart irrigation systems, water leakage, and quality and consumption monitoring could save a city between 25-80 liters of water per person, per day.

Citizen-Led Smart Cities

The growing uptake of 5G can help fuel these economic and social benefits. With its high-speed connectivity and ability to support more devices, 5G could empower smart cities to scale—making it a defining feature in the next generation of innovative smart city projects. However, this is not the only model that can be leveraged.

Some newer iterations of smart cities are grounded in the principles of equity and social inclusion. For instance, Vienna regularly tops the Smart Cities Index for its inclusive and collaborative way of approaching smart city initiatives. The city advocates for socially-balanced solutions that consider citizens from all socio-economic backgrounds and age groups.

Vienna is just one of many European hubs that are leading the way in the sheer volume of smart city project investments. In fact, the continent is expected to have as many as 53 million active IoT connections by 2025.

While every city has a different strategy, citizens will prove to be their most important asset. With a flurry of exciting new smart city applications becoming the new normal over the next decade, it is clear that humans will be at the heart of actualizing their true potential.

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The 20 Internet Giants That Rule the Web

A lot has changed since Yahoo and AOL were the homepages of choice. This visualization looks at the largest internet giants in the U.S. since 1998.

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The 20 Internet Giants That Rule the Web (1998-Today)

With each passing year, an increasingly large segment of the population no longer remembers images loading a single pixel row at a time, the earsplitting sound of a 56k modem, or the early domination of web portals.

Many of the top websites in 1998 were news aggregators or search portals, which are easy concepts to understand. Today, brand touch-points are often spread out between devices (e.g. mobile apps vs. desktop) and a myriad of services and sub-brands (e.g. Facebook’s constellation of apps). As a result, the world’s biggest websites are complex, interconnected web properties.

The visualization above, which primarily uses data from ComScore’s U.S. Multi-Platform Properties ranking, looks at which of the internet giants have evolved to stay on top, and which have faded into internet lore.

America Moves Online

For millions of curious people the late ’90s, the iconic AOL compact disc was the key that opened the door to the World Wide Web. At its peak, an estimated 35 million people accessed the internet using AOL, and the company rode the Dotcom bubble to dizzying heights, reaching a valuation of $222 billion dollars in 1999.

AOL’s brand may not carry the caché it once did, but the brand never completely faded into obscurity. The company continually evolved, finally merging with Yahoo after Verizon acquired both of the legendary online brands. Verizon had high hopes for the company—called Oath—to evolve into a “third option” for advertisers and users who were fed up with Google and Facebook.

Sadly, those ambitions did not materialize as planned. In 2019, Oath was renamed Verizon Media, and was eventually sold once again in 2021.

A City of Gifs and Web Logs

As internet usage began to reach critical mass, web hosts such as AngelFire and GeoCities made it easy for people to create a new home on the Web.

GeoCities, in particular, made a huge impact on the early internet, hosting millions of websites and giving people a way to actually participate in creating online content. If it were a physical community of “home” pages, it would’ve been the third largest city in America, after Los Angeles.

This early online community was at risk of being erased permanently when GeoCities was finally shuttered by Yahoo in 2009, but luckily, the nonprofit Internet Archive took special efforts to create a thorough record of GeoCities-hosted pages.

From A to Z

In December of 1998, long before Amazon became the well-oiled retail machine we know today, the company was in the midst of a massive holiday season crunch.

In the real world, employees were pulling long hours and even sleeping in cars to keep the goods flowing, while online, Amazon.com had become one of the biggest sites on the internet as people began to get comfortable with the idea of purchasing goods online. Demand surged as the company began to expand their offering beyond books.

Amazon.com has grown to be the most successful merchant on the Internet.

– New York Times (1998)

Digital Magazine Rack

Meredith will be an unfamiliar brand to many people looking at today’s top 20 list. While Meredith may not be a household name, the company controlled many of the country’s most popular magazine brands (People, AllRecipes, Martha Stewart, Health, etc.) including their sizable digital footprints. The company also owned a slew of local television networks around the United States.

After its acquisition of Time Inc. in 2017, Meredith became the largest magazine publisher in the world. Since then, however, Meredith has divested many of its most valuable assets (Time, Sports Illustrated, Fortune). In December 2021, Meredith merged with IAC’s Dotdash.

“Hey, Google”

When people have burning questions, they increasingly turn to the internet for answers, but the diversity of sources for those answers is shrinking.

Even as recently as 2013, we can see that About.com, Ask.com, and Answers.com were still among the biggest websites in America. Today though, Google appears to have cemented its status as a universal wellspring of answers.

As smart speakers and voice assistants continue penetrate the market and influence search behavior, Google is unlikely to face any near-term competition from any company not already in the top 20 list.

New Kids on the Block

Social media has long since outgrown its fad stage and is now a common digital thread connecting people across the world. While Facebook rapidly jumped into the top 20 by 2007, other social media infused brands took longer to grow into internet giants.

By 2018, Twitter, Snapchat, and Facebook’s umbrella of platforms were all in the top 20, and you can see a more detailed and up-to-date breakdown of the social media universe here.

A Tangled Web

Today’s internet giants have evolved far beyond their ancestors from two decades ago. Many of the companies in the top 20 run numerous platforms and content streams, and more often than not, they are not household names.

A few, such as Mediavine and CafeMedia, are services that manage ads. Others manage content distribution, such as music, or manage a constellation of smaller media properties, as is the case with Hearst.

Lastly, there are still the tech giants. Remarkably, three of the top five web properties were in the top 20 list in 1998. In the fast-paced digital ecosystem, that’s some remarkable staying power.

This article was inspired by an earlier work by Philip Bump, published in the Washington Post.

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Visualizing the Power of the World’s Supercomputers

Supercomputers are some of the most advanced machines humans have ever created. See how they stack up in this infographic.

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Visualizing the Power of the World’s Supercomputers

A supercomputer is a machine that is built to handle billions, if not trillions of calculations at once. Each supercomputer is actually made up of many individual computers (known as nodes) that work together in parallel.

A common metric for measuring the performance of these machines is flops, or floating point operations per second.

In this visualization, we’ve used November 2021 data from TOP500 to visualize the computing power of the world’s top five supercomputers. For added context, a number of modern consumer devices were included in the comparison.

Ranking by Teraflops

Because supercomputers can achieve over one quadrillion flops, and consumer devices are much less powerful, we’ve used teraflops as our comparison metric.

1 teraflop = 1,000,000,000,000 (1 trillion) flops.

RankNameTypeTeraflops
#1🇯🇵 Supercomputer FugakuSupercomputer537,212
#2🇺🇸 SummitSupercomputer200,795
#3🇺🇸 SierraSupercomputer125,712
#4🇨🇳 Sunway TaihulightSupercomputer125,436
#5🇺🇸 PerlmutterSupercomputer93,750
n/aNvidia Titan RTXConsumer device130
n/aNvidia GeForce RTX 3090Consumer device36
n/aXbox Series XConsumer device12
n/aTesla Model S (2021) Consumer device10

Supercomputer Fugaku was completed in March 2021, and is officially the world’s most powerful supercomputer. It’s used for various applications, including weather simulations and innovative drug discovery.

Sunway Taihulight is officially China’s top supercomputer and fourth most powerful in the world. That said, some experts believe that the country is already operating two much more powerful systems, based on data from anonymous sources.

As you can see, the most advanced consumer devices do not come close to supercomputing power. For example, it would take the combined power of 4,000 Nvidia Titan RTX graphics cards (the most powerful consumer card available) to measure up to the Fugaku.

Upcoming Supercomputers

One of China’s unrevealed supercomputers is supposedly named Oceanlite, and is a successor to Sunway Taihulight. It’s believed to have reached 1.3 exaflops, or 1.3 quintillion flops. The following table makes it easier to follow all of these big numbers.

NameNotationExponentPrefix
Quintillion1,000,000,000,000,000,00010^18Exa 
Quadrillion1,000,000,000,000,00010^15Peta
Trillion 1,000,000,000,00010^12Tera
Billion1,000,000,00010^9Giga
Million1,000,00010^6Mega

In the U.S., rival chipmakers AMD and Intel have both won contracts from the U.S. Department of Energy to build exascale supercomputers. On the AMD side, there’s Frontier and El Capitan, while on the Intel side, there’s Aurora.

Also involved in the EL Capitan project is Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE), which claims the supercomputer will be able to reach 2 exaflops upon its completion in 2023. All of this power will be used to support several exciting endeavors:

  • Enable advanced simulation and modeling to support the U.S. nuclear stockpile and ensure its reliability and security.
  • Accelerate cancer drug discovery from six years to one year through a partnership with pharmaceutical company, GlaxoSmithKline
  • Understand the dynamic and mutations of RAS proteins that are linked to 30% of human cancers

Altogether, exascale computing represents the ability to conduct complex analysis in a matter of seconds, rather than hours. This could unlock an even faster pace of innovation.

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