Tarik Aossey: A Trillion Sensors: Unprecedented Opportunity

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​Imagine governments that connect, engage and inform each other and their citizens through open cloud-based systems to share information and analytics on sustainability trends, experiments and community changes they are undertaking; where new business models such as collaborative consumption are engaged and stewarded by municipalities instead of stonewalled; and ambitious companies such as Bitcarrier (gathering and using municipal traffic data to reroute traffic, reduce congestion, noise and air pollution), Libelium (creating smart parking systems to reduce congestion and resource waste) and Nooly (using immediate-term, localized weather data to detect and proactively manage traffic snarls and accident hot spots) are nurtured and embedded in community support processes.  Governments that truly balance privacy and regulation with the fostering of innovation and facilitation of advancement.

Imagine reducing pollution by embedding sensors in the world’s sewer and water systems in order to proactively identify failure points, improve corrective maintenance costs, reduce loss and minimize community impacts from failures.  As cities continually grow, using data gathered from traffic signal, sidewalk and utility pole sensors to identify hot growth areas in order to proactively address potential congestion, crime and growth outcomes.

Much has been written about the future of smart homes: Hyper-connected domains where effectively anything with an on-off switch will be interconnected by ubiquitous sensors managed through personalized hubs. Containing products such as the Nest Thermostat, which turns itself down when you leave the room; Belkin Conserve Surge Protector, WeMo and Echo products, low cost devices that allow homeowners to easily manage “phantom power” consumption, remotely turn appliances on or off, and analyze and report on electricity, water and gas consumption; applications such as SmartThings and WigWag, cloud-based platforms that use sensors and mobile applications to let home owners remotely manage lights, temperature and power use; and building materials such as Corning Smart Glass containing intelligence and sensors that integrate into a home’s contextual ecosystem for more effective and sustainable home management.

In addition to mass-transit initiatives, opportunities abound in the transportation space, where shared systems, such as Zipcar, Uber and B-Cycle provide services only when and where needed, utilizing data from companies such as Bitcarrier and Waze in the process, and providing data back to those services, as well as to other stakeholders such as auto manufactures and municipalities for efficiency and other improvement opportunities.

The above represent a few examples of how the cities of the future will thrive as they grow. We are entering an unprecedented period of advancement spurred by ubiquitous sensors, low cost devices and applications, easy to access information and easy to use analytics, that if stewarded and utilized effectively by individuals, enterprises and government alike, could serve to leap frog sustainability and economic development. As urbanization accelerates, these collaborative innovations will serve as the foundation for ongoing health and viability.


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