The Internet of Things and Smart Cities

IoT can be a powerful tool to help reduce physical monitoring in areas like traffic management, remote health services, building automation, security provision and asset tracking

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The Internet of Things (IoT) refers to an increase in communication between machines to other machines, to infrastructure and to an environment that is built on networks and is virtual, mobile, and instantaneous in terms of connection. Here, everything is connected to an intelligent system that greatly helps in making work easier by generating and processing enormous volumes of data into forms that can be used as a source of instructions in other processes and sub-processes. It also greatly helps in the reduction of human beings’ impact on the environment. It can be a useful tool in traffic management, remote health services, building automation, security provision and asset tracking. On the other hand, a smart city is composed of six elements. These include smart economy, smart governance, smart mobility, smart environment, smart living and smart people. This kind of city will thrive in all dimensions as great consideration is given to all its aspects – right from planning to the implementation stage. Implementation in terms of priority, and the activities and strategies considered in an element, vary from city to city with the main aim of ensuring that they are optimally combined, says Boyd Cohen, in a December 2012 article. This article will look at how the Internet of Things would be beneficial in smart cities. In a smart economy, the Internet of Things would ensure local and global connections of businesses. These businesses may be related in terms of branches where they are interconnected to each other and to the mother branch, or interconnections between different businesses, which complement each other in their business processes. For example, a business may be connected to an audit firm in a way that an audit of its operations is done in real time; or to its suppliers so that the supplier can monitor the stock of products to order more supplies. This would greatly save on protocols, time and costs. On the smart governance front, the Internet of Things can greatly make government processes transparent and accessible to the public. This will be enabled by putting information in the public domain, which will ensure that all members of the public can access it in real time. Provision and allocation of government tenders can also be automated with parameters set within the systems to enable fair allocation, which is also system based. E-governance can also be an essential contribution where government services are provided electronically rather than via the physical presence of clients searching for services at government offices. In smart mobility, the Internet of Things can help greatly in the control of traffic and direction assistance. Automated traffic control, which is based on how busy a given road is, will ultimately allocate time fairly to vehicles following a particular route. This is unlike a situation in which cops are required to stand physically on the roads and control traffic, which might end up with some routes being favoured. Mobility of human beings within a city may also be challenging, especially where one is not much familiar with his/her destination. IoT can be an essential tool in advising such people by giving directions at designated points. For smart environment, the Internet of Things can help ensure that the environment is well conserved. This is achievable via various methods that include monitoring as well as sensitisation. Individuals can be monitored on a real-time basis within a city to prevent environmental pollution, like by carelessly disposing of garbage. Electronic reminders via sounds or even visual billboards can be an essential tool, too, which can be used to remind people of the need for preserving the environment as they move around. It can also help in the provision of green energy. Smart living can be viewed in terms of good health and public safety. In both, the Internet of Things can play a crucial role. In health, provision of medical services can be automated, or a large number of well-developed machines can be incorporated in the process of medication. This will ease a doctor’s work and help in improving accuracy. On safety, the Internet of Things will help in coming up with a measure of monitoring the occurrence of any criminal activity in real time. This may be via a CCTV surveillance, which notifies the security agents in case an odd incident transpires. With regard to smart people, the Internet of Things will help people embrace creativity and form an inclusive society, where innovation and automation is the order of the day, Everyone interested in innovation will have room to exercise his/her interests, where his/her innovation will count and not go to waste. For an inclusive society, the Internet of Things will allow for complete interaction between people from different locations through machines and the Internet where they can successfully share issues that affect them. The Internet of things is, therefore, one of the most essential factors required in building and maintaining a smart city. By its application, the amount of effort required to perform a task is greatly minimised to an extent where even human intervention is not required. Since the population of people in cities is growing everyday due to rural-urban migration, the increased tasks in maintaining that population can be comfortably handled by powering them with the Internet of Things.