Verizon Enterprise Solutions (VES) last week announced that it would increase its attention to smart cities and smart agriculture via wireless networks and the Internet of Things (IoT). That, in short, is quite a general position. Computerworld said that VES is entering into alliances with the Smart Cities Council and the Thrive Accelerator mentoring program. Verizon is a partner in the AgTech Summit, which is set for July.
The biggest challenge to the use of the IoT and wireless for smart cities and farms is finding a way to methodically harness the technologies. The problem is not coming up with good ideas—they are almost countless. For instance, IoT sensors can be programmed to turn irrigation functions on and off without human intervention. Livestock can be monitored and labor-intensive processes, such as feeding, can be streamlined. In cities, traffic lights can be monitored and controlled to allow ambulances to have all green lights from the scene of an accident to the nearest hospital emergency room. The list in both town and country is nearly limitless and exciting.
The challenge is that each of these functions and thousands of others don’t make sense as standalone approaches. They must be features of a standardized and uniform offering. Establishing the platform to achieve this is the key, and it’s happening:
Smart cities and farms are more than buzz words. Cities are increasingly willing to invest in new IoT technology and wireless carriers and network providers have been actively involved. In Kansas City, Mo., last week, the City Council voted to authorize a contract with Cisco and its partners that envisions video sensors, free public Wi-Fi, 25 interactive kiosks, and smart lighting along a 2.2 mile-streetcar line that’s under construction in the downtown area.
A case study about a project in Japan illustrates how deeply the IoT can impact farming. There is a special need for low potassium vegetables in Japan. Thus, a pilot project was undertaken in 2013 to hydroponically grow lettuce with this characteristic. Fujitsu, the Reconstruction Agency and the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry ran the project until March 2014. They used cloud technology from Fujitsu to collect sensor data on illumination level, humidity, temperature, the pH level of the liquid fertilizer, CO2 density and other important pieces of data.
The trial then moved to the production stage. The technicians found that the information was used in an inconsistent manner. Technology from Microsoft was subsequently implemented to improve the collection and sharing of data.
Whatever the definition of smart cities turns out to be, one thing is clear: There will be many coming on line during the next few years. The site Economic Times reports that India will build 100 smart cities during the next three years. Twenty will be named this year and 40 in 2016 and 2017. That report and others are vague about what the cities’ electronic profiles will be, but the investment sounds substantial.
Carl Weinschenk covers telecom for IT Business Edge. He writes about wireless technology, disaster recovery/business continuity, cellular services, the Internet of Things, machine-to-machine communications and other emerging technologies and platforms. He also covers net neutrality and related regulatory issues. Weinschenk has written about the phone companies, cable operators and related companies for decades and is senior editor of Broadband Technology Report. He can be reached at [email protected] and via twitter at @DailyMusicBrk.