Location-based services: enabling the smart connected cities of the future

Wed, 2014-09-03 06:00 -- SCC Staff

By Brendan O’Brien, Cisco

Smart Cities. The Industrial Internet. The Internet of Everything. These terms have been thrown around quite a bit in the past year, but there haven’t been a great number of real-world examples demonstrating how these concepts are coming to life. We are just starting to see how, through increased connectivity and visibility, cities are improving quality of life for citizens.

First, it is important to recognize the size of this opportunity. The Internet of Everything represents massive opportunities and has widely predicted to exceed $14 trillion. The smart cities component alone is expected to be worth $1.26 billion by 2019.  

Next, it is important to understand how to take advantage of this opportunity. The innovation present in cities today can largely be attributed to advances in mobile technology. Wi-Fi and other mobile technologies have become integral in the delivery of city services. Connectivity will have a major impact on not only the technology market, but also how people work, live and learn.

While the Internet of Everything is about a connected grid of people, processes, data and things, what touches most of us is the ‘connecting people’ part of this equation.

How is ‘connecting people’ enabled?

In a time when wireless connectivity is a baseline expectation and the act of connecting is a simple, painless experience, the demands on Wi-Fi networks are increasing. Operators are creating more robust networks to handle the level of traffic, and now almost all Wi-Fi networks are free or part of a wider payment method. Ultimately, users have access to pervasive connectivity which creates a platform for innovative capabilities. 

How are innovative cities exploiting this?

To be considered “smart,” a city must create a “knowledge infrastructure.” To do so, a city needs robust network communications including Wi-Fi, the Internet and sensors to gather this information and automate routine processes and provide rapid and intelligent decision-making for creating dramatic efficiencies and cost savings. Wi-Fi provides key advantages for cities, as municipal leaders, politicians, civic planners and other key stakeholders in these cities are now looking to deploy location based services to enable this exciting vision in new and innovative ways.

Barcelona is an excellent example of forward thinking and leadership in the connected world. The Barcelona City Council knew that technology could help achieve its goals of being a smart city leader and provide improved services for its citizens. Some of the interesting things that the city is enabling include:

    • Constant connectivity – streets, buses, parks, everywhere.
    • City services are delivered more efficiently. Personnel can make smart decisions by gathering information from wireless sensors.
    • City planners have a better understanding of where people go and how they long they stay. City planners use the location information to plan both development and transportation initiatives.
    • People who come to the city enjoy new experiences, which is what keeps them coming back. They can look up today’s events on touchscreen kiosks at bus stops.
    • Parking has become more seamless and decreased traffic congestion.
    • Creation of a new city department called Urban Habitat. It combines urban planning, environment, IT, transport and infrastructure.

Results are already emerging that help validate their visionary thinking. The revitalization of the city due to its uses of Wi-Fi has helped attract new businesses and events. It has improved access to information about the city for residents and city employees, and reduced costs by increasing efficiency of parking, waste collection, street lighting and other processes.

The city of Nice has also embarked upon this concept in a project called “Connected Boulevard, in which the city utilizes Wi-Fi-dependent, location-based services to create innovative connected experiences by playing host to “guest” devices. These devices are opening the door for the city to deliver highly relevant information, insights and services to its residents and its visitors.

Digital graffiti

A city with the vision, willingness and capability to embrace these new concepts and ideas can enhance the experiences of citizens and visitors alike, opening the way for more exciting opportunities. For example, a startup in Barcelona recently demonstrated a smartphone application that creates new retail experiences. “Digital graffiti” appears on your device as you pass businesses, offering coupons or specials. To encourage retailers and advertisers to participate, the city plans to share revenues.

Ubiquitous connectivity and access to a wide range of city services is essential. City Wi-Fi allows anytime, anywhere access for citizens and visitors, promotes active participation and stimulates local commerce through the delivery of highly relevant location-based services. This provides greater citizen and visitor services and experiences on their mobile devices, as well as forming the foundational network for IoE innovations in the area of city services and management.

The pace of change is increasing for cities and urban environments adopting technology; it is clear that with the vision and the will to act, Wi-Fi location-based services can help drive this evolution and enhance the value of the mobile retail revolution to cities, citizens and visitors alike. The IoE market is not one to be taken lightly; it is changing not only what we consume, but also how we consume it.

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Dr. Brendan O’Brien is the Director of Global Product Marketing for Cisco’s Connected Mobile Experiences. Hailing from the ThinkSmart acquisition, his specialty is driving innovation in location intelligence and analytics software. O’Brien works with partners and customers to turn Wi-Fi, location based analytics and mobile apps into a business model to create a better consumer experience on the mobile device. When he’s not disrupting business models, he’s exploring the beautiful wonders of Ireland.  Cisco is a Council Lead Partner.

Comments

Submitted by Charles Drinnan on
Your comment that free wi-fi is a necessary requirement means that very few US cities even qualify. We have to control our wi-fi expenses before the IoE is even worth talking about