Spotlight on Connected Core Services in Smart Cities

By Sophie Curtis on August 28, 2015

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As global Smart Cities flourish, Bigbelly is transforming one of the least efficient core services – public waste collection. It’s not the only innovation expanding connected street furniture like payphones, trash cans, park benches, etc. beyond initial design purposes to support the growing momentum toward Smart City and Internet of Things (IoT) initiatives. Many of these initiatives will shape the cities of tomorrow. They are grounded in monitoring, and data collection and analysis, which can be used by multiple agencies and the private sector.

In the case of Bigbelly, its waste and recycling units are self-contained power plants to which one could attach sensors and appliances or develop applications to measure foot traffic, air quality, etc. Its connectivity, currently used to notify waste management teams about fullness, can be expanded to offer free public Wi-Fi. This is just one example where monitoring and data analysis can support urban development, public safety, and broaden communications.

Kevin Menice, VP of Engineering at Bigbelly, recently presented at RE.WORK Internet of Things Summit in Boston, and had an opportunity to share insight into the ways in which connected street furniture can expand beyond initial design purposes. We sat down with Kevin to ask a few questions.

What are the key factors that have enabled advancements in IoT?
IoT is the next stage of the information revolution, and its success is driven by the inter-connectivity of everything. The application of IoT is virtually limitless, restricted today only by network architecture and data storage capacity.

When it comes to urban innovation, enabling technologies will make cities smart. The growth of technologies like wireless networks and applications that promote cloud-based services and IoT, the proliferation of smartphones, and the adoption of sensors and RFIDs networked together are all presenting new ways to communicate and collaborate.

What industries do you think will be disrupted by IoT in the future?
IoT adoption is central to the success of several ‘smart’ categories – including city, enterprise, environment, home, and consumers. The characteristics of the IoT products and solutions in these categories vary significantly but their primary goals are similar – using big data and connectivity to generate a level of knowledge and insight previously unavailable. That knowledge creates new services, approaches, and solutions that positively affect and improve every day happenings. Technology’s role in making today’s cities and towns smarter communities is impressive, and innovations help cities respond quickly to residents, visitors, local workers, and businesses.

What are the practical applications of your work and what sectors are most likely to be affected?
The Bigbelly system is a powerful IoT technology platform engineered and designed for public spaces. We have a global track record of successful customer deployments through our current fifth generation product, which has evolved into a fully functional cloud based system from our original solar-powered waste compacting hardware. The transition to a fully integrated system was the first embodiment of an IoT solution for Bigbelly. Our customers are able to observe real-time waste station status remotely from their desk or phone, track trends and historical data, and use the action-oriented data to optimize their waste collection operations thanks to the internet connectivity between the hardware and the software.

Bigbelly’s unique position as an IoT platform provides for a complete solution capable of delivering other future-generation technologies and applications to public spaces. While Bigbelly occupies valuable real estate, we can add applications such as public space Wi-Fi; environmental sensing for footfall, weather, and pollution; or localized and connected outdoor advertising for clients without additional infrastructure on city streets, parks, or other public spaces. The system hosts next-generation technologies to perpetually add value to municipalities, higher education institutions, or corporate, retail and healthcare facilities and their citizens.

What developments can we expect to see in IoT in the next 5 years?
Existing and emerging technologies – wireless networks, applications, sensors – can reshape cities and towns and make Smart Cities a reality. Central to Smart Cities is the use of information technologies that make efficient use of physical infrastructures and physical assets along with data analytics and artificial intelligence to support healthy economic, social, and cultural development. Insight gained from a world where cities communicate live updates could dramatically improve the economic and environmental health of constituents. It could also increase productivity and working conditions for those involved in city management and maintenance.

Which areas do you feel could benefit from cross-industry collaboration?
Citizens, city government and planners can learn, adapt, and innovate with Smart City technologies in ways that provide prompt response to changing situations. Intelligence will combine in ways that when supported by digital telecommunication networks, embedded intelligence, sensors and tags, and software it will be easy for private sector companies to create new products, services, and processes that benefit the entire city continuum. For example, we are working closely with a sensor company to leverage our and their solution together to develop pollution maps that provide invaluable insight to both companies, the customer, and their community. The growth of the IoT will extend beyond city limits to include service and technology providers.

What advancements excite you most in the field?
Municipalities around the globe are testing ways to equip existing street furniture – parking meters, lamp posts, trash bins, and more – with applications, devices, and sensors for more intelligent ways to manage and maintain city services and infrastructures. While many in-house development teams and commercial software companies are building applications around Smart City and IoT projects, development with a long-term view has the greatest return. Even greater success will come when companies that address core city services can adapt their solutions to provide new platforms, approaches, and solutions that address the broad spectrum of city needs and add value to constituents. Examples today include the addition of Wi-Fi to trash and recycling bins, or sensors to existing structures to monitor air quality and noise pollution. Data provides a unique view into the city nervous system. Knowing vehicle and alternative transit traffic, visitor and resident footfall and movement, and community and business impact, companies and organizations can devise ways to address urban development with an eye toward walkability and traffic flow, and create new products that are environmental sound and sustainable serving a community need.

Learn more about the impact of IoT, connected devices and sensors on our future cities at the upcoming 
RE.WORK Connect Summit in San Francisco on 12-13 November. Early Bird tickets end October 9, book now to save!

For further discussions on Internet of Things, Wearables, Connected Devices & more, join our group here.

Energy Future Cities Smart Cities Renewable Energy Photovoltaic Systems Sustainability Environmental Monitoring IoT Connected Devices Sensors Waste Management Urban Infrastructure Connect Summit


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