Jürgen Hase, (Chairman M2M-Alliance) Vice President M2M Competence Center,
Many companies already offer solutions to make cities smarter, but they are more of an evolution than a revolution. The technical basis of future developments will be machines that communicate with each other or with a control centre.
For decades, people all over the world have been attracted to urban environments. The United Nations anticipates that by 2050 more than two thirds of the world’s population will live in cities. With a world population of around 9.3 billion people, conurbations with populations of more than ten million – so-called megacities – will be far from uncommon. The Tokyo-Yokohama metropolitan region, the world’s largest, is home to 37 million people already.
Cities of this size pose major challenges to living together. Municipal tasks such as handling traffic, ensuring supplies and waste disposal or maintaining public safety are almost impossible to perform in the way they have been managed in the past. IT and telecommunications solutions will be key factors in continuing to provide citizens with a functioning urban infrastructure, not to mention delivering entirely new services. In other words, as cities grow, the demand for technical solutions increases. That is why the Smart City has for years been one of the hottest growth trends in the ICT market. Analysts at Global Information Inc., for example, reckon that cumulative sales revenue in the worldwide Smart Cities market will grow to $1 trillion by 2017. Impressive though this figure is, there have yet to be any signs of a truly “smart” city anywhere in the world. So is it all just hype? Or do cities simply take a very long time to become smart? The fact is that the Smart City is on its way. In 130 cities around the world, according to market researchers at Pike Research, the evolution into a Smart City has already begun.
M2M – The Smart City’s bedrock
In these cities, individual areas are already becoming “smarter” – from smart grids via intelligently managed traffic to connected healthcare. The technical basis for the Smart City is M2M, or automated information interchange between machines or between machines and a control centre. MNOs like Deutsche Telekom are playing an important role in the M2M ecosystem not only by providing the infrastructure but by linking many small software and hardware providers and customers who would like end-to-end applications from a single source. Thanks to that, M2M is todaymaking processes simpler and slimmer while enabling new business models in more and more areas of life and the economy.
Energy supplies are a case in point. In future, many cities will rely on a smart grid based on connected electricity meters. People must install these so-called smart meters in their homes, where they coordinate feed-in and consumption. Both consumers and power utilities stand to benefit. If, for example, demand exceeds the supply of electricity from renewable sources of energy, utilities can add coal-fired power stations to the grid at short notice. To smooth peak loads or even prevent grid overload, they can offer consumer price incentives to use, say, their washing machines exactly when the wind is turning the rotor blades at wind farms or the sun is shining on photovoltaic modules. That makes the changeover to volatile and locally generated renewable sources of energy possible in the first place and reduces carbon dioxide emissions as well.
The biggest change since the invention of the parking meter
The high level of urban carbon dioxide emissions is due not only to domestic energy consumption, however. City traffic also contributes toward it – and many journeys could be avoided. Take looking for somewhere to park, for example. According to Navigant Research estimates, 30 per cent of city traffic consists of motorists looking for somewhere to park. As they do so, they are not only causing atmospheric pollution but also wasting time and fuel. Parking management by means of M2M solutions can reduce both dramatically.
Isolated systems already in use direct motorists to free parking spaces. For the system to work, every public parking space has to be fitted out with a wireless sensor to record whether it is free or in use. The information is transmitted to a server via the mobile network and then made available to an app that directs motorists to the nearest free parking space. These smart parking systems are already in operation in Washington, Reno, Los Angeles and other US cities. Navigant Research analysts estimate that 950,000 parking spaces around the world will be equipped with this technology by 2020.
In future, cities will also be able to manage and monitor the use of residential parking permits better with the aid of radio frequency identification (RFID). RFID enables data to be transmitted via radio waves contact-free and without visual contact. RFID cards might soon replace printed residential parking permits. Residents will then no longer need to bother with official procedures. Cards can be valid for many years, enabling cities to reduce printing and administrative costs and to identify parking offenders easily with the aid of RFID readers.
Big City, Big Data
These examples testify to the first steps already being taken towards the evolution of Smart Cities. So far they have only been isolated, stand-alone solutions. If cities are really to become “smart” in future, it will be essential to integrate standalone solutions into the Smart City eco-system in the years ahead, and to analyse and utilise the mass of data generated – Big Data being the keyword here – in real time. Analysis of this Big Data and the resulting smart automation of process will, in future, decide how “smart” a city is or how well it is able to handle complex administrative tasks with a social, economic and ecological dimension by means of IT.
About Deutsche Telekom
Deutsche Telekom is one of the world’s leading integrated telecommunications companies with 144 million mobile customers, 32 million fixed-network lines and more than 17 million broadband lines (as of June 30, 2013). The Group provides products and services for the fixed network, mobile communications, the Internet and IPTV for consumers, and ICT solutions for business customers and corporate customers. Deutsche Telekom is present in around 50 countries and has over 231,000 employees worldwide. The Group generated revenues of EUR 58.2 billion in the 2012 financial year – more than half of it outside Germany (as of December 31, 2012).