What is the Internet of Things (IoT) and does it Add Value to Local Government?
What is the Internet of Things (IoT) and does it Add Value to Local Government?
You have probably heard the term Internet of Things (IoT) mentioned as a buzz word but understanding exactly what this is and how it can add value to local government is not a one sentence answer.
The key to understanding what the Internet of Things is to firstly know it is not a single product you can buy off the shelf, it is a combination of ‘products’ that create a solution.
IoT exists as part of an emerging technology ecosystem combining sensor and communications technology to provide information to cloud platforms and big data analytics. Sophisticated data analysis techniques will enable applications to aggregate and act on large amounts of data generated by devices. This aggregated data can drive management decisions and innovation as well as optimise the services that are connected to it significantly reducing operating costs. To put it in simpler terms IoT can be divided into 3 key core components. The first component is devices that measure data in the field. The second component is how this data is communicated to its intended end location and the third component is where the data is collected, analysed, displayed and acted on in an intelligent manner. The true advantage with IoT is being able to collect all this data in a single location and use it in a manner where the sum is greater than its individual parts.
Sensors and Actuators
Image Source: Postscapes.com & HarborResearch.com
Communications to Devices
The collection of data through a communications network is not new and APC Integration has been using Machine to Machine (M2M) for decades to collect and monitor industrial control systems such as pumping stations using fixed radio networks and traditional cellular data links. These traditional communication channels are prohibitively expensive for small low-cost sensor networks and it is only now as technology has advanced that networks specially designed for IoT are available, bringing the cost of monitoring each device to an acceptable level. There are a number of wireless networks in deployment around the world each with advantages and disadvantages. Selecting the correct network is often based on the number of devices, what you need to monitor and if you need low latency, high data rates or bi-directional communication. At the time of writing the author is only aware of two functional IoT network solutions with significant coverage in Australia and this is Telstra IoT based on LTE and Thinxtra based on Sigfox.
Analysing the Data
The true value of IoT over the traditional M2M solutions is the ability to provide device connectivity, data storage, device management, action management, analytics, visualisation and integration with external interfaces. Using a combination of this data can result in significant savings to local government. To provide some insights on this can work in real world examples may assist the reader towards a better understanding. Imagine you have a remote public facility that has lights to ensure clear visibility indoors especially during the evenings. A smart light or IoT sensor detects a light has failed needs replacement. The IoT system can look at the location of all maintenance staff via GPS connected vehicles or personal safety trackers, check their calendar for availability and automatically assign the job to whoever is nearest to the site for rapid investigation and repair. Further, the system can automatically order the replacement parts. There is no waiting for the public to call the office and complain, weekly inspections or operations coordinating maintenance staff. This results in saving considerable time and money. This is just one example of what an IoT platform can provide. In many cases, the data you have on hand already exists but combining this data is what can make considerable savings. Some other more specific examples are below:
A combination of weather sensors, soil moisture monitoring and weather prediction can be used to dynamically adjust irrigation schedules to provide the level of irrigation actually required, resulting in significant savings on water usage.
Using smart sensors in combination with parking meters, car park users can pre-book a car park, pay via a smartphone app and walk away with no need to return to their vehicle to display a ticket. Users can also search for parking availability in real-time. From trials in the UK, the system allows drivers to use limited parking spaces more effectively and provides the council with information to understand how those spaces are being used and set pricing based on demand. It also gives the council the ability to monitor and adjust parking times and provide enforcement should they need to. Further with the combination of license plate recognition, it provides the ability to do automatic enforcement of fines.
Energy & Maintenance Savings on Street Lighting
Smart Street lighting using LED lighting combined with smart sensors and IoT can provide savings of up to 70% on energy and maintenance costs. This can be achieved through a number of methods:
Dimming: The lamps can be dimmed at low traffic times and returned to full brightness if pedestrians or vehicles are detected.
Ambient light level and environmental conditions: Street lights turn on when the ambient light levels reach programmed levels. On a clear night it may not be necessary to run on full power but during storm events, the lighting output can be increased to provide better visibility.
Long lifetimes: LED lamps last 3 to 4 times longer than legacy lamps, so require replacement less often significantly reducing maintenance costs.
Proactive-maintenance: End of life warning and instant outage notification, dramatically reducing the number of calls (and related costs). It also eliminates the need for manual street light inspection for detecting outages.
Live data on actual consumption, power quality, and tariff tables. This allows for monitoring where power, water & gas is being used. There was one instance where an unused warehouse was being heated during cooler weather. It wasn’t until the data was reviewed that this was realised saving thousands of dollars on unnecessary energy usage. Geo locations of Assets and Personal Monitoring Keep track of assets in the field such as vehicles, equipment, bins and anything of value to ensure assets can be located. It also prevents theft or aids in the rapid recovery of stolen items. Personal monitors can also be worn by employees ensuring their whereabouts and safety when working alone. If no movement is detected an alarm can be raised. Geo alarms can be setup to ensure assets do not travel outside the council boundaries.
Remote Security Monitoring
Placing an IoT sensor to detect unauthorised access to remote council facilities can greatly reduce vandalism and theft without the cost of an actively monitored alarm system. The sensor just becomes another monitoring device.
Environmental and Waste Monitoring
Smart sensors can be deployed at minimal cost to monitor the air, noise, and water quality throughout urban areas feeding back to a central monitoring solution and using a GIS display highlight abnormalities before they become serious issues. They can also monitor bin locations and levels only requiring emptying when full resulting in costs savings on unnecessary labour.
This article is only a small summary of what can and is being achieved using the Internet of Things. The potential is only limited by the imagination. There are far more applications that are not even realised yet. The ability to connect anything and use the information intelligently is set to transform how we do business. The Australian Communications Alliance suggests that the local market for IoT could have a positive impact of $116 billion on the Australian economy by 2025. The question is not if, but when do you deploy an IoT solution to reduce costs and increase your business intelligence. If you are looking for a partner to assist with identifying and implementing solutions APC Integration is already in partnership with key IoT providers.
To learn more about IoT and how it can benefit your council please contact: