Internet of Things in action: 3 real-world examples from Europe

Wed, 2014-06-11 06:00 -- Liz Enbysk

It's hard to escape the conversation about how Internet of Things connectivity is dramatically changing our cities. But what does it really mean from a practical standpoint if you're a city leader trying to fit all the pieces together? Here are some examples.

We posted a video recently about Council Global Partner Microsoft's work to help modernize the systems that monitor, manage and automate the London Underground's "things" – from elevators to HVAC controls.  

Here's another interesting twist from the Internet of Things playbook, this time in Finland. According to Microsoft, the Helsinki Bus Transportation Co. uses approximately three million gallons of gasoline annually and that does add up because gas in Finland can cost three times as much as it does in the U.S. By improving how it tracks and manages traffic data, driver performance and gas usage, the bus company has seen as much as 5% savings in fuel costs.

"There are fleet tracking systems already in the marketplace, but they are only solving for the issue of tracking per vehicle," said Michael Andersson, Technical Director for the bus company. "Our data warehouse solution can combine the data across all buses and lines, which gives us snapshots of data that are easy to understand and helpful in solving business problems."

In London, toilets are smart

A BBC report on the new smart toilets recently opened in a Heathrow Airport terminal suggests the Internet of Things technology is doing double-duty – improving both decision-making and customer service.

The toilets are equipped with sensors that anonymously count how many people have used them and send alerts to cleaners after a certain number is reached. The data also goes to the cloud for analysis, providing information on which ones are used most often, for example. That's information that can be used to locate more loos where they are most needed or inform a system that directs people in real time to ones not currently in use.

Now let's look at what drove one city to get on the connectivity fast lane.

How Barcelona turned the corner on profitability

Chris White, an Internet of Things sales GM with Council Global Partner Cisco, shared insights on Barcelona's smart city path in an interview with Motley Fool.

Barcelona was one of the world's most unprofitable cities, White said, until it started looking at areas where it was losing a lot of money. The thinking went if they could figure out how to improve efficiency maybe some of those areas could be turned into revenue-generating opportunities.

As White explains, Barcelona is today one of the world's most profitable cities. It has smart parking, smart bus stations and even smart garbage cans. Tourism is very important to Barcelona's economy and smelly, overflowing garbage cans aren't a tourist magnet. So the cans are equipped with sensors that track the amount of garbage and smell, alerting officials where pick-ups are needed most.

So not only are smart garbage cans helping the tourist economy but as White points out they also enable Barcelona to run a more efficient garbage service, which translates into fuel savings.


Get Smart Cities Now, our weekly newsletter highlighting smart city trends, technologies and techniques. It's just one of the benefits you receive by joining the Smart Cities Council (and your membership is free).