How sensible metropolis tech may assist us return to ‘normal’ | IT PRO

This article initially appeared in Issue 14 of IT Pro 20/20, available here. To obtain every new concern in your inbox, click here.

While many industries floor to a halt on account of the coronavirus pandemic, with its ensuing lockdown restrictions and social distancing necessities, digital innovation has accelerated considerably. The growth of sensible cities, specifically, has gained momentum through the previous 12 months, with current research displaying the scale of the trade is ready to double from $410.eight billion in 2020 to $820.7 billion by 2025 consequently.

COVID-19 has undoubtedly emphasised the significance of applied sciences equivalent to big data, 5G, location-based companies, geo-tagging companies, beacon expertise, and VR/AR. While many have championed using these applied sciences for a few years as a result of worth sensible cities can ship to each native governments and their residents, others at the moment are recognising the applied sciences’ potential to steer us out of the coronavirus disaster and provoke a return to one thing resembling regular.

This potential has already been demonstrated. In Singapore, for instance, the federal government used sensible facility administration, the Internet of Things (IoT), and surveillance to create superior, secure, and habitable city environments through the pandemic. In South Korea, in the meantime, the nation’s sensible metropolis knowledge hub system allowed well being officers to conduct superior contact tracing utilizing knowledge from cameras and different sensors.

While a return to ‘normal’ working life received’t be coming for a while but – office-based employees have been suggested by the federal government to earn a living from home the place they’ll till not less than late June – many are possible already feeling uneasy in regards to the prospect of a busy commute at rush hour or sharing a office with a number of different folks. 

It’s clear that upon a return to work, modifications must be made with the intention to not solely forestall the unfold of sicknesses but additionally to make folks really feel comfy with leaving their now all too acquainted dwelling workplace. 

Many consider that sensible metropolis applied sciences will probably be important to this transition, and as different nations have demonstrated, the ‘new normal’ will demand a lot higher emphasis on initiatives like data-driven group well being surveillance and sensible and sustainable infrastructure, not simply to facilitate a return to regular, however to make sure we’re resilient to related crises. 

Alicia Asin, IoT knowledgeable and Smart Cities World Advisory Board member, tells IT Pro: “The past year has changed the perspectives of governments and municipalities, which now realise that there is a need to make the cities they manage much more sustainable and liveable for their citizens and that they can achieve these changes using smart technology.” 

Sensing change

With nearly all of workers persevering with to earn a living from home, the COVID-19 pandemic has undoubtedly modified our conventional view of the office and it’s possible that these workplaces will look very totally different when – and if – we return. 

Not solely will companies possible undertake a hybrid method – with a choose few workers working from the workplace, whereas the remainder stay distant – however many additionally look set to undertake new applied sciences with the intention to guarantee workplaces stay secure, even after the present pandemic has handed. 

Paul Kostek, senior IEEE member and advisory methods engineer at Base2 options, expects this expertise to take the type of IoT sensors that may monitor workers’ temperature earlier than they enter the constructing in addition to guarantee there’s satisfactory air flow.

“In response to the pandemic, sensors may be installed at entryways to determine whether employees are running a temperature – with others installed in dining areas, break rooms and restrooms to monitor people throughout the day,” Kostek tells IT Pro

“Employees can expect to see sensors installed by air vents in buildings to measure airflow and provide feedback on the need to increase or decrease flow. Closed-loop systems that recycle air will need sensors to monitor the air quality and ensure pollutants or airborne viruses are not spread. For buildings with opening windows, sensors can also be used to measure airflow.”

It’s unlikely to be simply workplaces that undertake these sorts of applied sciences on account of the pandemic, as native authorities are additionally prone to deploy IoT networks with the intention to higher perceive how their cities are impacted and with the intention to enhance their pandemic responses. 

Ben Pocock, IoT product specialist at IoT and sensible metropolis operator Connexin says: “During the pandemic, we’ve seen an increase in organisations looking to deploy IoT networks to accelerate smart city deployment, with Newcastle being the most recent example.”

He continues: “Authorities have a duty to create places where people thrive, businesses are attracted, and educational attainment is high.” Data-driven societies, he says, are the important thing to enabling residents to have interaction and make knowledgeable selections, including that “smart networks are the natural choice for this and will be prevalent more than ever post-pandemic”.

“Understanding datasets within a city will allow local authorities to better plan and adapt to changing behaviour and demand, such as increased footfall, demands on waste, traffic routes, and so on,” Pocock says.

Going underground

The pandemic has additionally made it abundantly clear that standard mobility must be re-imagined. It’s possible that workers will probably be lower than smitten by travelling to their office on cramped trains and buses with little to no air flow, and with most having labored remotely for the previous 12 months (or extra, by the point lockdown totally lifts), questions will little question be raised about what journey is de facto important. 

The use of contactless applied sciences on transit networks, which was already slowly being inspired in some places, is prone to achieve a lot higher traction following the pandemic, bolstered by applied sciences equivalent to cell and account-based ticketing and fare funds as a service fashions.

For passengers, this goes past easy contactless cell ticketing and means utilizing sensible playing cards or cell passes that may be built-in into third-party apps like Transit, Uber or Citymapper to easily faucet and trip, whereas account-based ticketing ensures they’re charged the absolute best worth for his or her journey.

Others, nevertheless, assume we’ll be seeing a extra futuristic method to transportation going ahead. Kevin Curran, IEEE senior member and professor of Cyber Security at Ulster University, tells IT Pro: “In the future, we will need to allow ‘smart cars’ to become more integrated with national intelligent transport infrastructures and systems, to ensure vehicles will be able to operate more safely and efficiently. Satellite navigation and traffic signal control systems will ensure vehicles know when to stop, slow down and speed up as well as identify hazards in good time. 

“This basic communication will ensure better traffic management and drastically reduce the number of accidents. Ultimately, the roads beneath us will communicate with smart cars, most likely through indestructible sensors embedded within the road.”

Surveillance state

While “surveillance” is a phrase most frequently related to authorities snooping and Orwell’s 1984, in lots of locations all over the world it’s proved important in responding to the pandemic. China, for instance, has built-in surveillance networks and stored transmissions at a comparatively low stage, whereas Western democracies have led a extra policy-driven and human engagement method which, by comparability, has been much less profitable.

Tony Porter, chief product officer at Corsight AI and former authorities surveillance digital camera commissioner, believes that adopting surveillance applied sciences may have a myriad of advantages for cities internationally. 

“Facial recognition can undoubtedly provide transport solutions in smart cities; reducing the need perhaps for cash transfer, recognising authorised travellers, alerting (with the aid of heat sensors) possible health threats. With the help of IoT, big data and AI, cities can perform continuous monitoring, as well as enhance decision making and inform key decision-makers on pertinent facts. 

“Using the best and most powerful technology as a force for good and enhancing public wellbeing is required. For example, face recognition technology to support compliance where masks need to be worn, alongside interconnected systems communicating, keeping traffic moving and making the commute a more safe experience for all. 

“We must have confidence that our law-makers can create a set of rules and regulations that enable our world-class technology industries to provide software that supports communities but doesn’t spy on them.”

Surveillance is also used within the office to make sure workers are following mandated well being and security steerage. For instance, mask-wearing will possible be enforced in some workplaces as soon as a return to the workplace is on the playing cards, and cameras may be sure that employees are sticking to the principles.

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