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Connected Cities Part 3: Advancing Sustainability With the IoT

The impact of population growth will have a big impact on the environment – one of the biggest opportunities for developers in the IoT.

· IoT Zone

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In our previous post, we talked about how population growth is leading to huge opportunities for IoT development in the smart transport space today. But population growth has another serious consequence—namely, its impact on the environment. And this presents another opportunity for you as developers.  

The United Nations predicts that worldwide city populations will swell to 6.3 billion by 2050 and that growth is already placing huge demands on the systems that cities use to deliver energy to citizens. As more cities start to overflow with people, they’re struggling to reduce power consumption and emissions, and they are finding it tougher to optimize energy management and maintenance.

To avoid catastrophe, cities know they need to become smarter in every way, including how they manage and distribute energy. And as more cities roll out smart initiatives, it’s becoming apparent that the IoT will play a major role in those projects. In fact, a report from Frost & Sullivan calls the IoT a potential “game-changer” for organizations looking to optimize energy consumption and reduce overall environmental impact.

So how is the IoT enabling cities to become more sustainable?


Smart Buildings: Energy Efficiency Through Connected Systems

We discussed smart buildings in our recent post about the Industrial IoT, where we shared some examples of how commercial buildings are using smart building management sensor technology to capture energy consumption data. It’s definitely a trend on the rise, and the opportunities for developers are impressive. One research firm predicts the global market for the IoT in buildings will jump from $22.93 billion in 2014 to over $85 billion in 2020.

Here are some examples of how the IoT is being used in smart buildings to maximize energy efficiency:

  • Alarm management and fault detection. Sensors and cloud applications can be used to prioritize the notifications created by building systems so alerts take place for critical events. Another smart building tool gaining in popularity is fault detection and diagnostics software. By pulling data from different HVAC and building management apps and systems, the software can compare current operating conditions with a list of rules for normal operating conditions, so discrepancies can be identified as faults. Each fault shows where electricity is being wasted in equipment because of failures or human error.
  • Intelligent lighting. Through the use of intelligent lighting controls such as ambient light and temperature sensors, data can be collected that enables light to be automatically adapted to changing situations in real time. According to market analysis organization Navigant Research, intelligent lighting is the most efficient way to cut energy consumption, which averages 25 percent of a building’s electricity usage.
  • Smart building controls. Using automation and control systems, commercial buildings can centralize and correlate data from buildings systems and even external sources like utilities and weather data feeds, all to optimize building energy use. Managers can also use applications to centrally monitor and control their buildings through dashboards on different digital devices.
  • Energy-efficient LED lighting and solar panels. Some commercial buildings are utilizing LED and solar power technology to power themselves. A Walgreens pharmacy near Chicago, for example, is combining LED lights, green building materials, and renewable solar, wind, and geothermal energy technology for ultra-high energy efficiency.
  • Sustainable offices. The modern office, too, is becoming more energy-efficient through the IoT. From lights and thermostats that operate efficiently during work hours and automatically shut off at the end of the day to smart doorbells, locks, and surveillance systems, there is a wealth of opportunity for developers.

Smart Grids: A Better Way To Manage Peak Energy Loads

IoT solutions are also enabling energy efficiency through smart grids, which are electrical grids that rely on digitally connected systems and technologies. Smart grids allow energy distribution to be managed in real time through the integration of everything from energy, water, transportation, and safety services. By modernizing power systems through automation, self-healing designs, remote monitoring and control, and microgrids, cities are able to inform citizens about their energy usage and costs and achieve a more sustainable overall energy infrastructure.

  • Demand response. A key component of a smart grid is demand response, in which a city’s electricity users can reduce their power use during times when the grid is overtaxed. Increasingly, smart cities are utilizing smart meters with smart grids to realize huge energy savings. These cities are also integrating sensors, monitoring equipment, and other demand-response solutions to manage peak loads and better anticipate customer demand in order to prevent outages and optimize distribution networks.

Smaller Carbon Footprint, Higher Sustainability

Cities are also using IoT-driven energy systems for everything from pollution prevention to sustainable resource management. For example, cities can use air-quality sensors to collect emissions data from sources including automobiles, transport systems, and buildings to gain better insight into their carbon footprint. With better data at their fingertips, cities and utilities can gain greater visibility into the operating details of city infrastructure to reduce emissions and better manage energy use. Here are two cities using innovative energy systems to shrink their carbon footprints:

  • San Jose. This Northern California city, known worldwide for tech innovation, is embarking on a major IoT push. The city recently launched an initiative that focuses on the use of sensor data to find correlations between air pollution and traffic. The city also plans to use air-quality monitoring to inform urban growth.
  • Copenhagen. The Danish capital is on its way to becoming the world’s first carbon-neutral city through its urban development project in the reclaimed Nordhavn neighborhood. Combining energy-efficient smart commercial buildings, smart transport, and alternative energy sources like wind turbines and even biofuels extracted from sea lettuce, Copenhagen is putting an ambitious sustainability plan in place.

No Second Chances

It’s clear that you’ll have some amazing opportunities in the coming years, as more cities connect critical systems and use IoT applications to be more sustainable. But you must not overlook the importance of getting it right the first time, especially given how intensive many of these projects will be. Your software needs to be foolproof, because there won’t be any second chances once a city-scale application gets launched. You’ll need to include security in the development process from day one, for instance, by using encryption testing, and you’ll want to be confident that your data sends correctly.

Ensuring security and connectivity is easier with a solution like the Golgi IoT cloud service, which integrates security, connectivity, and data transport as a part of the development process.

I hope you check back for our next blog post, which will be the final part of this four-part Connected Cities series. We’ll be diving deeper into how some global cities are going all in with the IoT.

The IoT Zone is brought to you in partnership with GE Digital.  Discover how IoT developers are using Predix to disrupt traditional industrial development models.

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Published at DZone with permission of Sheena Chandok, DZone MVB. See the original article here.

Opinions expressed by DZone contributors are their own.

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