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Smart towns and cities FutureTech

Home > What we do > Sensing, imaging, IoT > Internet of Things (IoT) > IoT FutureTech Workshops > Smart towns and cities FutureTech

IoT for smart towns and cities

In 2019, CENSIS was commissioned by the Scottish Government to explore and support the use of the Internet of Things (IoT) in Scotland’s key economic sectors.

We held workshops across key industry sectors as part of our FutureTech programme, and as part of this programme, we explored opportunities around adopting IoT technologies in towns and cities. This included a huge range of subjects, such as operational savings and the environmental, resilience and public safety outcomes that IoT technologies can deliver.

If you haven’t hear of the term ‘Internet of Things’,  in its simplest form, it is about connecting devices to the internet, and to each other. This includes everything from a FitBit or Nest thermostat in a domestic context, to industrial IoT used to enhance manufacturing or make improvements in areas such as asset management or maintenance. Have a look at our ‘Getting started with IoT‘ brochure for more information and examples of IoT in use.

We also discussed experiences and knowledge of known and emerging challenges in town and city areas and the approaches taken to address these. Examples of IoT-based projects already undertaken provided a useful base upon which to generate further ideas for solutions to meet core needs. Benefits of applying IoT in towns and cities include

  • Maximising the use of public spaces
  • Cost savings without reducing levels of service, e.g., emptying bins only when needed, or smart street lighting adjusting and varying light levels depending on circumstance and location
  • Reducing vehicle emissions in congested areas
  • Efficient urban mobility and integrated public transport, optimising public car parking
  • Better management of housing stock, integrated support for tenants
  • E-governance, digitalisation of services, improved citizen participation
  • Environmental sustainability
  • Health, including improved social care in the home for older citizens

If you would like to know more about CENSIS activity in this sector, let’s talk.

Use cases for smart towns and cities

  • Optimising space

    Optimising the use of space includes how people congregate in groups, the frequency of use of spaces and the flow of people through buildings and public transport systems.

    There are multiple sensor methods that can be used to count and track people using or moving through a space, e.g., by measuring presence and approximate footfall by detecting Bluetooth and WiFi signals from mobile phones. Other techniques use ‘vision’ systems to anonymously count people and understand their direction of travel.

    The end benefits are an understanding of demand/capacity around transport networks, leading to the better planning of transport or infrastructure, and reducing costs and/or improved service. A potential additional benefit is that of improved safety through better planning for times when congestion is predicted, such as large entertainment events, may also be realised.

    Read about Beringar

  • Improving social housing

    Better management of social housing using IoT can enable the early detection of damp. Corrective actions can then be taken to maintain healthy conditions to live in and prevent damage to buildings and their contents.

    Sensors distributed in rooms can assess humidity, temperature and carbon dioxide levels.  The data gathered from these sensors can also act as an indicator of fuel poverty, where a tenant cannot adequately heat their home.

    Read about IoT enabled tower blocks

  • Waste management

    Improving waste collection services can be achieved through sensing when bins need to be emptied and predicting when a bin is likely to be full again in the future.  Battery-powered ultrasonic sensors, fitting inside the top of a bin can measure the level of waste and regularly report their status to a waste management team.  This results in fewer wasted trips to empty part-filled bins, reducing costs-associated and vehicle emissions, reducing environmental impact.

    Read about smart waste management

    Read about smart bins in Glasgow

  • Energy and water

    There has been a strong push to reduce energy consumption in our homes, villages, towns and cities. Smart metering is being rolled-out across Scotland improving the visibility of the consumption of electricity, water and gas to drive behavioural change. In the future this may be used to reduce the peak demands of utilities through automated control of smart appliances.

    Lighting is a large consumer of energy therefore methods and technologies have been sought to reduce energy consumption to light our buildings, outdoor spaces, footpaths and roads.

    One approach has been to use interconnected sensors and computer vision systems to sense the presence of people, road users and then activate lighting only when required.  When no one is present, the lighting can be switched-off or dimmed reducing energy consumption, leading to cost savings.

    Smart lighting is often designed as an IoT system to provide control of a network of lights and also allows integration of suitable functionality to sense the condition of the lighting element, for example when it has failed and needs to be replaced.

    Read about intelligent lighting in Aberdeen

  • Outdoors and environmental

    Traditionally, environmental monitoring in our urban areas has been performed by large, expensive air quality monitoring systems.  These measure levels of pollutants including particulate matter, Nitrogen Oxide, Sulphur Dioxide and Carbon Monoxide.

    While providing accurate data they are physically large and their costs limit the number that can be easily deployed.  The introduction of relatively small wirelessly-enabled air condition monitoring units has enabled greater insights to be obtained through continuous sampling over larger geographic areas and at higher spatial resolutions.

    However, it is not air quality monitoring a lone that is enabled by IoT, other measured values can include wind speed and direction, noise levels and light levels. Common uses for environmental monitoring are:

    ·         Real-time air quality monitoring to detect high pollution levels that may be used to adjust traffic flow

    ·         Noise pollution monitoring to ensure compliance in mixed industrial and residential areas

    ·         Detection of water levels to forecast potential flooding events affecting road use and damage to property

    Monitoring of fly-tipping activity in areas with known issues and therefore allow action to be taken to prevent future incidents

    Read about our mobile air monitoring project

Smart towns and cities

We explored various areas of smart towns and cities subjects within our CENSIS FutureTech programme.

This is an area where Internet of Things (IoT) technologies could deliver huge benefits and enhance people’s lives.

Sector knowledge

Within the FutureTech programme, CENSIS met with people from different sectors to hear their ideas about the transformative potential of IoT.

IoT technology will transform business operations across Scotland and impact every sector of the economy.

5 subject areas

The Scottish Government-funded FutureTech workshops were held across Scotland throughout 2019 in the subject areas of

  • Food and drink
  • Health and social care
  • Smart towns and cities
  • Transport
  • Tourism

Take a look at organisations we have worked with

If you would like to find out more about our work with businesses of all sizes, public sector bodies and universities, we have highlighted some of the challenges we have faced together with our clients.