A Smart City is the one in which citizens live a smart and well-organized urban life with the help of information and communication technology (ICT) while maintaining sustainability and causing least harm to the environment. In details, means living smartly in a city which is planned smartly infrastructure-wise and where urban services are efficient and citizens can easily interact with the local bodies thus, playing a larger role in the city’s management.
Smart City is a place where all the city’s systems like water management, waste management, healthcare, policing & governance, smart buildings, education, energy, etc. are managed in an optimal fashion that benefit the citizens, government and also the nature. Reduction in cost and resource consumption is integral to the ideal Smart City plan. And, all this is impossible without this offshoot of ICT – the IOT technology that can offer governing bodies with real-time solutions for above mentioned current urban challenges.
What is IOT
Internet of Things or IOT is basically a network of interconnected devices like sensors and smart devices that pass on information to each other and a supreme console via the internet. It is a way in which we interact with our belongings. All these devices generate data that is so humongous in amount that it will need hi-tech cloud applications to store, process and mine. This process is conducted by Big Data Analytics. Any smart city project will use big data to capture, store, process and analyze a large amount of data generated by several sources and to transform the data into useful knowledge that enables better decision-making process.
How Big Data and IoT are being used in Traffic Management
Traffic management is one of the biggest infrastructure hurdles faced by developing countries today. Developed countries and smart cities are already using IOT and Big Data to their advantage to minimize issues related to traffic. The culture of the car has been cultivated speedily among people in all types of nations. In a common scenario in most of the cities, people prefer riding their own vehicles no matter how good or bad the public transportation is or considering how much time and money is it going to take for them to reach a particular destination.
Thus, increase in use of cars has caused immense amount of traffic congestion. Several countries are overcoming this traffic bottleneck by fetching information from CCTV feeds and transmitting vehicle related data to city traffic management centers to help in the smooth traffic run. Better-organized traffic system means better flow of vehicles on the road and it means no idling cars, buses and trucks in traffic jams. All this eventually translates to lower run times, proper utilization of natural resources (gas) and less pollution. Emittance of gases is the largest during stop-start driving that happens in spots where traffic is regulated by lights. Hence, if you go for smart traffic, this helps in pollution reduction throughout the entire city.
However, smart traffic management also involves other factors like smart parking sensors, smart streetlights, smart highways and smart accident assistance amongst other things.
Traffic lights that use real time data feed are being used to smooth traffic load. Sensors mounted at strategic places can use IOT technology to gather data about high traffic junctions and areas diverting vehicles from these places. Big Data can analyze this information further and figure out alternative routes as well as better traffic signaling to ease congestion. Meanwhile road-side lights can also work according to weather sensors mounted on them. Dimming of light happens not only as a part of day-night process but also when weather conditions turn murky. Roadside light sensors can pick up these signals and turn on and off accordingly.
Parking has become an Achilles heel in the urban planning scenario. Lack of parking spaces as well as parallel parking has heightened traffic snarls at important junctions in cities. IOT-based sensors in parking lots can give out real time information of empty spots to cars approaching from a long distance looking for a parking space. Such sensors have already been installed in European cities like Paris, France as well as Kansas in US. They have all seen remarkable results with a double digit percentage reduction in parking issues observed in a span of a year.
Road accidents have been one of the top causes of deaths across the world. However, what adds to this gloomy number is untimely help and assistance to victims of such accidents. CCTVs and sensors on roads can help in locating accident spots and communicating these to the nearest Emergency Rooms. Once this communication is established in time, all else can be better handles.
All pros become more quantifiable with cons. While IOT and Big Data present a path-breaking opportunity in Smart Traffic Management and Solutions, they also have some limitations. Firstly, current cities already suffer from infrastructure issues like road planning, zoning and other construction-related issues which could pose problems when implementing IOT technology.
Secondly, all these fancy hi-tech solutions need high-speed data transfer techniques and thus, can work only in cities with great internet connectivity. If for any reason this connectivity is hampered the entire Smart City could fall apart.
Thirdly, more number of devices accessing the central network means more opportunities for hackers to conduct their malicious tasks. An added layer of security apart from the usual one, and another one top of that will be needed to make an impenetrable hack-proof smart traffic solution. Data privacy will also have to be maintained looping in lawmakers and engineers.
Traffic is a crucial aspect that determines a city’s livability factor and efficiency status. Population surge will stop mattering if data and sensors are used capably to manage traffic. As smart cities evolve and increase in number in the coming years, IOT and Big Data will play a key role in the development and integration of their services and infrastructure. With passing time, other issues besides traffic like waste management, energy conservation, etc. will greatly benefit from the concept of IOT and Big Data.