Rapid technological changes, automation and artificial intelligence are offering us opportunities to not only improve our quality of life but also our purpose. These approaches provide a wealth of timely data and insights to help us become more responsive to change and more responsible in the way we look after our planet and people.
The combined effects of climate change and the rising costs of living are intensifying people’s struggles and quality of life. We have more carbon dioxide in our atmosphere than ever before in human history, and over 3 million households in the UK are experiencing fuel poverty. We can and must do better.
Confronting these challenges requires a fresh new approach – one that places human welfare on an equal footing with profits. By merging the right people, processes and technology, we can create better outcomes for citizens, from reducing fuel poverty, making our roads and infrastructure safer and more efficient, tackling decarbonisation, supporting the most vulnerable in our society to resource depletion.
We’re living in an era of innovation, in which we’re able to harness the potential of smart cities, cars and wearable devices through the Internet of Things (IoT). The Internet of Things creates measurable value for public and private organisations and transforms the way humans and devices connect and interact through a single robust network.
Enhancing air quality with IoT
So how can we physically use IoT to address some of the most critical challenges in our towns and cities today?
Let’s take air pollution and the quality of our roads as an example. Roads are one of the most visible assets that councils are responsible for; the value of the road network is in the billions of pounds, yet there’s only a finite amount of funding to fix them.
IoT has the potential to reduce emissions from vehicles through smart traffic management. It can collect data from various sources such as traffic cameras, a vehicle’s GPS or other sensors and use it to analyse and understand traffic patterns. Imagine, for example, if you’re a local authority logging into an insights tool for the borough, seeing a traffic jam on a busy junction and being able to access CCTV footage in real-time. This data can then link into a smart traffic light system - that’s automatically adjustable - and helps to speed up the flow of vehicles, reduce delays and improve the air quality — all through one single network.
Visual reminders to encourage cleaner driving behaviours
Once traffic jam data has been mastered, we can take this to the next level and even target where air quality sensors are placed. These sensors can link to street signage that prompts drivers to turn off their engines by showing their impact on air quality. These could also be placed at prime targets such as busy junctions, level crossings and even outside schools, where many parents leave their engines running when waiting to collect their children. The possibilities are endless.
Keeping the roads safe
In particular seasons, it could even be possible to gather data from local weather stations, road surface temperature monitors, and gully sensors. This type of information can help councils to be more proactive in gritting local roads in the winter months or even clearing gullies that are susceptible to flooding. By using smarter technology, local authorities have the tools to be able to take preventative action that can transform how your towns and cities operate.
The integration of IoT gives us a comprehensive understanding of people’s behaviours which enables immediate action; ultimately, you can’t manage what you don’t measure. Often, we just need to take a step back, look at things a bit differently and re-evaluate current approaches to understand how responsive and effective they are to people’s real-life problems. The more interconnected your data becomes, the greater the potential is to create efficiency, speed, quality and affordability for all. Changing our relationship with technology not only drives responsible change, but it also adds significant value to the quality of people’s lives which is ultimately the end goal.