future-urban-mobility-worldsensing-blog

Operational Intelligence: The Future of Urban Mobility

Reading Time: 8 minutes

Cities today are facing many of the same problems they were facing 100 years ago. We live in a changing world but lingering remnants of history still affect our lives, despite huge leaps in our technological capacities. From congestion and lack of parking to wasteful energy expenditure and environmental pollution, most cities across the globe are losing billions every year due to historically ineffective urban policy and planning.

Given this, both the historical and contemporary contexts of today’s urban challenges should inform the innovative responses to them.

Urban mobility has long been positioned at the nexus of all of these issues, both affecting and affected by different urban socio-political and environmental factors – from economic and technological development to local and geopolitics, to beliefs about liveability and the environment. If cities manage mobility in the right way, it can be a catalyst for the economy: if they don’t, it can slow down development and catalyze other issues. This means that innovating urban mobility is at the heart of creating the future city. As with other aspects of cities, we must use history to grasp why things are the way they are today when it comes to urban transport, at the same time as understanding the specific, current challenges and trends emerging in this area. In this article, we will therefore briefly examine the factors behind cities’ present mobility situation, before exploring the key macro-trends in mobility today. We will then look at how municipalities can place themselves at the center of mobility innovation in their cities.

The origin of heavy inner-city traffic lies in the US

As Raphael Fischler – academic and urban planner – highlights, we must look to the past before we plan and put in motion a new future for cities. Many of us on the planet live in sprawling cities filled with cars because of pivotal decisions made in the past. The vision of leading individuals, in particular, business leaders, urban visionaries and politicians, had a massive influence on the present state of our cities. The ideas and actions of Henry Ford, for instance, shaped the car-centric American cities of today. His dream in the 1920s to fill the streets with cars resulted in more Americans dying from car-related accidents than from the first world war, and continues to impact our lives today with traffic and congestion remaining huge problems in most of the world’s cities. Urban planner, Frank Lloyd Wright, had already imagined and implemented suburbia with Broadacre city in the 1920s and 30s, but in the 50s and 60s, general motors took advantage of the cold war and post-WWII growth to further promote the suburban American dream. This led to mass private-vehicle ownership, with car-oriented urban design meaning that most families needed a car to navigate the urban and suburban landscape. These are some examples of the ways in which the historical figures of the past shaped how we experience cities today according to their personal visions of how humans should live. Widespread commuting in many ‘Western’ cities – causing traffic, congestion, and pollution – is one exemplary consequence of these visions. Commuting, private-vehicle ownership and suburbia are all phenomena that might not exist if we had designed urban centers around other transit options, such as cycling and public transport, or around denser urban living options.

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Image of Frank Lloyd Wright, photo courtesy of franklloydwright.org.

Cities have to both regulate and innovate

Traffic is an unforeseen consequence of a technology – in this case, the car – being introduced into cities for the first time without city governments having the right foresight or knowledge to implement sufficient regulation. As is predicted to happen with Artificial Intelligence (AI), cars were to have a far greater effect on our lives and on our planet than we could have envisaged at the time. What we can learn from the history of the car and urban planning is that cities have to both regulate and innovate and that both past and present must be accounted for. Today, cities are facing the same challenges as 100 years ago but in a different context: they are competing with each other to attract talent, dealing with mass urbanization, and heavily under pressure to conform to global climate standards.

Mobility plays a huge role in all of this, so it’s no surprise that there are many new innovators and disruptors in the urban mobility space coming up with fresh ideas about how to improve urban mobility in our changing world.

The key macro trends happening in urban mobility right now:

Electrification

Over the last 5-6 years, the number of electric vehicles in use has increased significantly. One major reason for this is that the cost of batteries has been reduced by 65% year on year during this time, meaning that kilowatt cost is under 100 dollars. Increasing electrification of cars should entail at least one major benefit: a reduction in tail-pipe and CO2 emissions. Electrification of public transport will also be increasingly important since this has a particularly high impact: urban public transport vehicles run up to 16 hours per day, compared to less than one hour for the average conventional car.

Shared mobility

Shared mobility is the word of the day. A number of startups such as Uber and Bird are emerging in this area, offering convenient, subscription or ride-based services involving anything from conventional cars to micro transit scooters. Shared mobility overlaps with electrification: ride-sharing systems are very quickly adopting electric vehicles because the unit cost of an electric vehicle is lower than fossil fuel ones if you exceed 35,000 miles a year. As shared vehicles are starting to exceed this amount, and the companies who own them generally have more flexible business models, we are increasingly seeing electric vehicle uptake in this sector.

Autonomy

Autonomous vehicles are vehicles that ‘sense’ their surrounding environment in order navigate without a human driver. Although the technology is still being developed, it is estimated that by 2025, the car market for only partially autonomous vehicles will be at 36 billion U.S. dollars, with the regular vehicle market very far behind at 6 billion U.S. dollars. Autonomous vehicles are likely to play a major part in solving the first and last-mile transit problem, heavily associated with urban sprawl and suburbia. When autonomous cars come into play, they will both eliminate the cost of the driver and be electric and, therefore, even less expensive. This means that the unit economic cost per km in the suburbs will likely become as low as for Uber in cities. The adoption and development of autonomous vehicles will vary depending on the city, but it will likely have a huge impact in some way in every urban center. For instance, if Mexico City adopted autonomous vehicles today, it is estimated that 7400 dollars could be saved per user every year.

These trends are leading to new forms of urban mobility that will change the way we will live. Combined with other phenomena such as urbanization and the disintermediation of public mobility services, we are moving into an era of ‘seamless’ or ‘frictionless’ mobility offered increasingly by private service providers, notably disruptive technology startups.

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A French-made autonomous bus cruises through a university campus in Taipei, photo courtesy of Tyrone Siu/Reuters.

What can cities do to keep on top of these trends?

In the midst of all of this disruption, and in an era where new technologies are difficult to predict and regulate, how can municipalities be involved in urban mobility innovation? The answer is data and control. Municipalities are increasingly recognizing the need to move from an action-driven approach, where they manage mobility and public services to promote public transport usage, to a passive disintermediation or facilitation approach.

Many local governments across the world are now actively encouraging private-sector service providers to innovate, often in a public-private partnership (PPP) model, and positioning themselves in a controlling or regulating role.

This means monitoring: in order to improve their control and disintermediation of public services, municipalities need to understand what’s going on in their city at any given moment, and then create and promote new regulatory measures.

Monitor urban mobility through digitization

One of the main ways to monitor real-time situations is through digitization and operational intelligence. When digitized assets such as parking spaces, cars, and shared bikes and scooters are integrated into one Operational Intelligence (OI) solution, cities can make decisions based on real-time mobility information. The insights produced by real-time intelligence enable operators, such as city mobility operators, to understand the performance of the different mobility assets, make predictions, improve efficiency and even prevent disasters. This gives them greater capacity to make the right operational decisions and engage important stakeholders, like citizens. As OI software learns from past actions through AI (specifically, machine learning), the software can improve its own decision-making processes.

Through OI solutions, municipalities can connect software solutions that are normally limited to the city control room of cities to a multiplicity of data sources – from Uber, TomTom, and people tracking systems, to ambulance locations, traffic light management systems, and camera systems, to light systems and bike sharing systems – you name it. This allows municipalities to gain real-time data about what’s happening all over their city within one control room.

OneMind Airport Dashboard.

Why is real-time mobility visibility important?

Having total visibility allows cities to predict, act and engage. Through real-time and accumulated long-term data, cities can adapt existing and create new systems and regulations to accommodate new technologies with concrete evidence about what’s happening on the ground. For example, when autonomous vehicles become more widespread, some people may buy them and ‘uber them out’. This will require the municipality to instigate new tax laws to regulate people making a profit from their privately-owned autonomous car(s). But first, they will need to know who owns the car, how they use it, how many journeys the car takes each day, and how much they charge per journey. This kind of data will be key to regulating both predictively and retrospectively.

Operational intelligence will also enable municipalities to engage with citizens, who are not only the users but also the producers of mobility services – think of Waze, the citizen traffic information-sharing app. Having access to all technological systems allows the city to create and connect to user apps – giving citizens information about local traffic jams, or ‘telling’ their connected cars about the approach of an emergency vehicle. Other consequences will also result from increased controlling and monitoring. Diminished congestion, improved emergency response times, and reduced CO2 emissions, for instance, are the potential results of reducing traffic through the implementation of a citywide congestion and parking monitoring system.

If Ford and Lloyd had worked with real-time data

Ford and Lloyd Wright didn’t have the data to predict the consequences of their future city visions; they couldn’t establish the ‘best’ kind of urban development and mobility for both people and the planet with solid evidence. Today we have that capacity: with technologies like Operational Intelligence and sophisticated sensing equipment, municipalities and businesses can work together to collect real-time data on different aspects of their city so that they can not only improve urban mobility but other areas of city life. In the end, this allows municipalities to not only make city processes more efficient and climate-friendly but ultimately to improve quality of life for all their citizens.
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From Uber to Bird: Managing Urban Mobility Disruption in Smart Cities

Reading Time: 7 minutes

With more than half of the world’s population living in cities – and more moving in every day – urban mobility services are struggling to keep up. Bursting at the seams in terms of population growth, city councils are having to deal with citizens’ growing demands for more efficient, cheaper and easier-to-use transport options. In the era of global austerity and ever-siloed local authorities, it is no surprise that city governments are in many places being bypassed by emerging tech startups who can offer their end-users – the traveling urban public – the mobility solutions that they want. Think Citymapper, the international multimodal travel app, Drivy, the new Spanish car-sharing service, or Ofo, the app that lets you hop on a bike anywhere in the city.

A Not-So-Smart City

The only problem with all this innovation is its unforeseen consequences, as Atlanta, Nashville and San Francisco recently realized when the startup, Bird, unleashed its electric scooters all over their cities. While Bird’s nifty little scooters undoubtedly help citizens to quickly travel short distances – solving the last-mile problem – they also block pavements and pose a safety risk when people break the rules and ride them in prohibited areas. Many Chinese cities, such as Shanghai, also began to face a similar problem when dozens of bike sharing companies flooded city streets with millions of rental bicycles last year. The urban infrastructure was not prepared to handle this amount of oversupply – resulting in massive piles of broken, abandoned bikes laying around in the streets – and public services were also slow to tackle the situation. The bike-sharing boom didn’t seem quite so exciting anymore when whole fields outside Shanghai were filled as far as the eye could see with bikes.

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An overhead view of part of a group of thousands of unused share bikes in a field near Shanghai, photo courtesy of Yibo Wang / Shutterstock.

Bird and other mobility companies’ take-over of many cities is bad news for city councils because of its effect on citizen satisfaction levels. At the end of the day, it is the city governments who are seen as responsible for dealing with the problems caused by these new tech disruptors. So if a citizen is peeved about the scooter parked on his driveway, he will ultimately blame the council for not doing anything about it. Vandalism is also an issue – for example, Chinese company, Mobike, recently threatened to remove its bikes from Manchester, UK due to so many of them being vandalized or abandoned. Dealing with this vandalism again falls into the hands of the local authority, who are the ones providing the public security services – such as the police – in their local area.

Local authorities are therefore realizing that they urgently need to intervene in the growing mobility marketplace in order to make sure that the new technologies being implemented in their cities are actually beneficial to their citizens – for their own sake as much as the people’s.

From regulating to banning

Many authorities are looking to solve the issues caused by new mobility technologies by regulating – or even simply banning – them. The Bird saga offers us plenty of material here. From San Francisco, to Santa Monica, to Tennessee, city councils are putting in place measures to make sure that Bird’s little scooters don’t become a large problem in their city. Santa Monica, where the company is based, sued Bird before reaching a settlement that allowed it to operate, Bloomberg reported. The company similarly received a ‘cease and desist’ letter from Nashville metropolitan authority in May 2018 after only two days of being in the city. The company was told they had 15 days to remove the scooters or the local authority would do it instead.

Bird is not the only disruptive mobility startup facing opposition from local and national governments. Uber is a prime example of a disintermediating mobility disrupter which has faced a lot of public – and in turn governmental – backlash. Uber has already actively been banned from some of the world’s cities – Barcelona and London are examples of this. Uber’s continuing lawsuits with more than a handful of the world’s cities are the testament to how cities are trying to regain control of the transportation situation in their city, cracking the whip with those companies who are perceived to be ‘too disruptive’ to allow.

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A rental scooter left on the San Francisco sidewalk, photo courtesy of Dan Brekke / KQED.

Finding a middle-ground

Questions remain over whether regulation is effective, or even desirable. These new startups are, after all, only responding to the law of supply and demand. Many also argue that regulation of any kind stifles innovation, stopping nascent companies from realizing their potential.

A Startup Mentality in Palo Alto

Some city councils are taking an alternative approach to innovation in the mobility space, either alongside or instead of regulation. Palo Alto, the famous birthplace of Facebook in Silicon Valley, have decided to take on a ‘startup mentality’, working with local and international tech disruptors to test out new mobility solutions – such as autonomous cars and robots – on the city’s streets. In 2016, the city council decided to make itself a ‘testing area’ for driverless vehicles, and they are now a fairly regular sight on their streets. In fact in the state of California in general, there are now 27 companies that have permits to test autonomous cars on real streets, with a total of 180 vehicles approved for operation.
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Approaches for cities to take back control

A crucial tool for city councils looking to gain more or regaining control of their city’s mobility operations is an overarching mobility or global city operations solution – such as an operational intelligence solution for city control rooms. These IoT based solutions are comprised of a smart core platform which allows integrating any existing city IT system e.g. for smart waste management, or data sources like smart sensors. Local transport officials can oversee and manage all of the city’s transport in one place through digitizing mobility ‘assets’ – moving or static – so that they can be monitored in real-time: traffic lights, CCTV cameras, parking spaces, police officers, smart bike or scooter locks, among others, are connected through an advanced, long-range, IoT network and transmit their data to a gateway which communicates with a software application that interprets the data sent into useful, actionable insights to help city operators make data-driven decisions.

Eradicate internal silos

An intelligent city mobility solution enables local councils not only to eradicate internal silos, because cross-departmental collaboration is easier when everyone is using the same technology but also to work more cooperatively with external mobility – and other sectors – stakeholders, including the market disruptors. With the aid of an overarching city operations management system, city operators can, for instance, see where all ‘connected cars’ are in the city and therefore manage congestion by implementing measures to redirect traffic or change traffic-light sequencing.

Sharing third-party data with cities

IoT solutions are becoming more and more essential when it comes to urban disruptors – particularly those in the sharing-economy space. Imagine that through their smart locks every bike or electric scooter is transmitting real-time information about its status and location to a central transport hub where the IoT solution is doing its thing, and every person in the city is using a mobile application to locate and book these shared vehicles. City-councils can then effectively oversee and integrate the supply and demand of these disruptive mobility options in their overall mobility strategy, making sure that public and private transport is not only more resource-efficient and functional, but, as a result, quicker and easier to use for city-dwellers.

The challenge cities are facing here, is to come to an agreement with third-party providers to share the data of their vehicles – generate through smart locks – with the city council.

By investing in a comprehensive operations management system, cities will be able to incentivize third-party providers to share their data through, for instance, giving them access to new city populations and therefore new markets through end-user applications like smart parking or multimodal mobility apps. This data can then, together with all existing city data, be integrated into a “system of systems”, through which urban mobility, as one aspect of the system, can be managed holistically, strategically and collaboratively. This benefits cities, allowing them to regain control, and also mobility providers, enabling them to cut idle-time and increase their turnover.

A combined approach

Every city is different and will deal with mobility disruption in its own way. A combined approach – a little regulation here, a little experimentation there, in addition to introducing a holistic city management system – looks like it will be the way forward. Cities need to stay on top of emerging mobility trends – both locally and internationally – and make sure that they are collaborating with all stakeholders across the city community. This is where IoT mobility management systems are essential. Digitization generally redefines the value chain, putting customers/citizens at the center; it also massively facilitates cooperation and collaboration. This is what urban mobility needs right now – a redefinition according to actual citizens’ needs, and then the tools to facilitate collaboration and innovation.

Third party mobility providers are often operating in an ‘a-legal bubble’ due to the lack and slowness of regulations being put into place. The question remains, how can local authorities participate in or even lead urban transport innovation in a digitized world? How can they influence new city mobility operations?

Aside from putting in place regulations, cities need to experiment themselves – as Palo Alto demonstrates. This requires not only qualitative engagement with citizens but also the collection of quantitative data through city mobility systems. Ultimately having data on how citizens actually use transport options in their city and what they want out of transport will allow public authorities to develop solutions in collaboration with other public-sector and private-sector stakeholders that are more effective and relevant to citizens’ needs, making for ‘happier cities’ in the long-run.

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Parking Fraud: An Often Overlooked Issue For Cities

Reading Time: 7 minutes

The general public may not perceive parking fraud to be a huge problem. Yet city councils all over the world lose millions in revenue to it each year. The City of Westminster Council in London, UK, lost around €365,000 ($450,000) in potential revenue to parking fraud in 2015-2016, adding up to a total estimated annual loss of over 11 million euros (13.5 million dollars) for the City of London. Scale this up to every city in the UK, and then the world, and you have an eye-watering sum.

Many income losses

Fraud is not the only challenge for cities when it comes to parking. Inaccurate parking occupancy prediction is an other important one. In other words: cities failing to predict accurately where and when there is a high demand for parking also results in a loss of money, as city councils fail to redirect drivers towards empty, paid parking spaces.

Investing in parking management solutions is therefore not optional but essential for local councils’ budgets. This is especially the case in countries where austerity dominates. Recuperating this “lost” source of funding is imperative to ensuring city ecosystems can survive in the potentially turbulent future, with urban populations growing by a predicted 190,000 people daily from now until 2050. With public spending cuts deepening and lost public revenue contributing to this cycle, it is more and more difficult to effectively manage urban parking systems. And this all the more through the traditional, often costly, methods – such as employing more parking officers.

Integrated smart city technologies are now offering alternative methods for tackling parking fraud and inaccurate parking occupancy prediction. These technologies help city councils to identify fraudsters and ensure that they pay fines. Meanwhile, it is also aiding them in adjusting their city operations in tune with the real-time parking situation. The improvement of parking occupancy prediction is a solution to that.

On another hand, they also help citizens to avoid getting parking fines in the first place. In fact, it makes it easier for them to find and pay for legal parking spaces – especially at peak times.

Here are some examples of the smart technologies to use to improve urban parking management.

Parking management systems

Parking management systems allow city councils to monitor and manage parking availability, through data provided by both city-wide IoT sensors, installed (for instance) in parking spots or street lights, and by citizens, through their smart devices. Every parking space is “digitized” so that cities can manage KPIs in real-time through a connected software solution. Those key indicators are for example average turnover and lengths of stay . Cities can therefore charge more – and fine more – for spots in prime neighborhoods. They can also set aside enough legal spaces for delivery vehicles through the data and insights generated by this network of sensors. Those vehicles are often the major perpetrators of illegal parking.

If enriched with operational intelligence (OI) features, parking management systems are even able to alert city operators as to when drivers don’t pay or don’t have the necessary permit to occupy a particular space.

These systems can also connect the apps that parking wardens use into one network. This makes it easier for them to see where they should be focusing their enforcement activities. As such, an OI-enriched parking management system can pinpoint the main areas where parking fraud happens. So that councils can take action in a more targeted and therefore more economically efficient way. Increasing parking occupancy and parking fraud detection over time, through the system’s deep-learning algorithms, consequently increases city revenues.

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Electronic badges

Electronic “badges” can solve the problem of disabled parking fraud and allow councils to charge drivers for fines electronically. New companies like “Biopark” use device-embedded software and fingerprint identification to stop forgery and abuse of disabled parking permits. These devices mounted on the vehicle’s dashboard as a permanent feature can replace the need for paper parking tickets. This also helps the city to cut paper usage. Once activated by the fingerprint of the designated user, these “badges” can be “verified” by traffic officers through an app on their smart device. It allows them to visually confirm that the person is authorized to use the space. This makes “blue badges” much easier to verify, allowing parking officers to immediately identify if someone is exploiting the system. Then, they can thus report it electronically to the local authority.

Electronic meters

Making parking ticket payment electronic is an easy, “first-step” to preventing illegal parking. In today’s digital age, people don’t always have change… So, allowing them to use cards or their phones for payment increases the likelihood of them paying. Case studies of citywide smart metering, such as with San Francisco’s SFpark system, have had encouraging results. The SFpark system works by using smart pricing so that drivers can quickly find open spaces, and by periodically adjusting meter and garage pricing to match demand. In this way, electric meters not only allow customers to pay digitally. They allow the likelihood of fraud but also play an important role in the wider city parking management strategy. By allowing demand-responsive pricing they can be implemented more easily in all areas of the city. As such, electronic meters are integral components of any overarching parking or city mobility management system.

Permit verification systems

Permit verification systems can quickly help to identify potential fraudsters without the need for officers to check all parked cars in the city. They can also pinpoint the zones where fraud happens the most. Software such as Pondera’s Fraud Detection as a Service (FDaaS), a Google-powered, cloud-based analytics solution, uses machine-learning and geospatial mapping in order to uncover new and emerging methods of fraud.

It sifts through massive local government data sets to identify:

  • data anomalies,
  • suspicious activities,
  • potential collusion,
  • and trends or changes over time.

These “trends” can then be validated by experts working on the ground. In fact, they can allow councils to dedicate resources to specific people or areas flagged as suspicious, rather than manually scouring the entire city for potential parking fraud.

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Exploiting underused parking spaces

In most major cities, there are a whole host of private car parks that cannot be accessed by the public. Therefore they remain empty for long stretches of time. These can range from private office car parks and hotel car parks to shopping centers and private plots of land. Some of them sit vacant for years in areas with high parking demand. Taking advantage of these empty spots is a great way to give citizens access to a hidden wealth of car-parking spaces. It takes pressure off public resources and offers businesses and individuals new ways of making money.

Peer-to-peer apps such as JustPark and Parklet, allow locals to rent out their driveways to anyone who needs them. This ensure that this “spare” land is always in use and reduce high demand for spaces on surrounding streets.

Other apps, such as Parkbee, use smart technology to open up private car parks to the public. This makes parking easier and more affordable. Increasing the number of legal parking spaces in a city makes citizens less likely to use illegal spaces out of desperation. Aside from providing a cheaper way of parking (making people more willing to pay), some organizations, such as Parkbee, also leave customers no option. Cars are registered through the app and surveillance technologies recognize their number-plate whenever they use a Parkbee space. This means that the customer can only enter or leave the parking zone when the technology recognizes that he has paid… Making fraud impossible. This also increases parking occupancy detection if this technology is linked to the city’s overarching parking management, or city mobility management, platform.

City mobility management solutions

City mobility management solutions, which are similar to IoT platforms, go one step further than parking management systems. With an umbrella approach that targets parking, alongside other mobility areas such as traffic flow, critical infrastructure, and construction sites. These systems give cities and transport operators an overview of how the wider urban mobility system is functioning in real-time. This means they can see patterns in the data and create insights in order to implement actions that improve operating efficiency.

Furthermore, through the system’s deep-learning capabilities, cities can receive predictions (e.g. parking occupancy) that enable them to manage demand during peak times. Many modern mobility management systems allow for the integration of existing city operation systems, and mean that all aspects of urban mobility can be managed “under one roof”. Cities can therefore integrate all the different parking management technologies mentioned in this article into one overarching platform.

This solution not only allows the city to see where people are parking and when... But it also gives them the ability to :

  • quickly detect overstaying vehicles,
  • dispatch wardens,
  • and obtain information on historical parking usage.

Like specific parking management systems, mobility management systems also allow for the implementation of flexible pricing strategies based on demand. This increases revenues while also decreasing operational costs, as fewer parking officers are needed to detect fraud.

Building a smart parking ecosystem

Overall, smart technologies are entirely changing the way cities deal with parking issues – from lack of spaces to parking fraud and beyond. They are providing innovative methods for councils and parking operators to recuperate money lost to parking fraud, at a much lower price than traditional methods, such as hiring thousands more parking officers.

For these technologies to be most effective, it is essential that cities take a multi-faceted approach. This means creating their own smart parking ecosystem that integrates all the different technologies used to manage parking and fight fraud into one overarching system. Finding an IoT solutions provider is a great way to facilitate this process. These organizations can analyze what kind of technologies a city needs, taking into account its individual needs and existing technological infrastructures. They also manage a network of partners, and support the city in building its ecosystem.

Smart parking solutions thus provide an alternative, cost-efficient approach to dealing with parking fraud in the digital age, but are most successful when combined into an overarching smart parking ecosystem. For local councils or parking operators, these ecosystems are a much-needed tool in the battle to win back income from fraudsters.

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The 5 Pain Points Transport and Highway Operators Face before Implementing an IoT strategy

Reading Time: 7 minutes

Transport and highway operators, particularly those in the private sector overseeing tolled roads, have a lot on their plate. Keeping traffic moving and customers happy is no easy task. Although transport and highway operators cannot totally control the occurrence of road accidents – they cannot ensure everyone is a good driver. For example, their job is to ensure that both new and, notably, aging infrastructure is sufficiently monitored and maintained so as to prevent any potential risk to both assets and people. This requires a detailed understanding of the number, type, and weight of the vehicles using their core assets (roads, tunnels, and/or bridges). With design-build highway projects and warranties on performance becoming more and more popular, accurate measurement of vehicular movement is also required. This helps to find out if the roadway has met or exceeded the original design requirements.

Moreover, although in only 2 – 3% of accidents the principal contributory factor was the road environment. Transport and highway operators are more and more at risk of being targeted for financial recompense claims by injured road-users. This means that they increasingly need proof that their roads are not the principal cause of the accidents that occur on them.

In order to keep customers happy, and cover their own backs, transport and highway operators need predictability and knowledge. Something that up until recently was difficult to access. With manual monitoring of highways and routes, operators in this sector have long been unable to predict future incidents or plan for potential jams; meaning that an incident can cause mayhem when it occurs.

In this article, we are going to look at some of the issues that highway operators face. And then, we will explore how IoT technologies can help to solve them.

What are highway operators’ main pain points?

1. Revenue collection

Transport and highway operators often use tolling to generate more income. Generally, their owners are private equity companies or infrastructure funds. So there is a high pressure to perform financially in order to keep profits up and satisfy the expectations of stakeholders. This puts effective revenue collection at the heart of their operations. An effective tolling system requires a lot of hardware and software and must be constantly maintained and monitored. Some older systems also require human intervention, for example, human cashiers, which can significantly push up operational costs.

Finding the most efficient and low-maintenance way to implement tolling systems can therefore be both difficult and expensive.

2. Asset availability

In the Intelligent Transport System (ITS) industry, real-time visibility over operations is essential. Without this, incidents can unexpectedly happen and make assets unavailable for lengthy periods of time. Asset availability is key in this sector since the asset at hand – the roads – are both the product and the service on offer. If they become unavailable, highway operators are left with highly aggravated customers and high costs in incident-management and liability payments. In effect, their entire business in these cases is on hold. Moreover, a nation’s roads are essential to its economy.

The Bureau of Economic Analysis of the U.S. Department of Commerce values the continent’s road system at close to $3 trillion; with 75 percent of goods being transported on roads by truck, and 93 percent of workers using roads for their daily commute.

When roads become unavailable, there is a massive negative impact not only on transport and highway operators’ budgets but also on the entire national economy.

3. Operational costs

Operational costs includes various tasks such as:

  • Reducing the cost of toll collection ;
  • Knowing when and where accidents happen ;
  • Reducing the manpower needed to monitor and maintain the roads or toll systems ;
  • Ensuring that “golden assets” like bridges and tunnels don’t fail, as this results in high operational costs ;
  • Responding to incidents: the ability to solve incidents quickly is crucial in this sector. For example, estimations say that motorway closures cost the UK economy alone around £1 billion each year.

Many operational costs can be significantly reduced by ensuring that the highway system is well-monitored and maintained.

4. Incident Management

As mentioned in the introduction, without some kind of real-time, wireless monitoring system, highway operators find it very difficult to predict and/or prevent potential incidents on their roads; whether this is a car accident or a crack in the road. This is a significant problem! Incidents leave customers unhappy (due to asset unavailability, long queues etc.) and sometimes even put them in danger.

Incidents also massively increase operational costs. “Fixing” a road after incidents occur is a particularly high operational cost in this sector. This is especially true during the winter or extreme weather incidents when bad conditions mean extra road maintenance.
Liability payments can also be the cause for the increase of operational costs. Transport and highway operators, therefore, need a real-time monitoring system not only to prevent incidents, and thereby prevent liability claims, but also to prove that their asset (whether a road, tunnel, or bridge) was not the principal factor in causing any road accidents that occur. The long-term data collected through road-monitoring systems allow for this quantitative proof.

Without any way to consistently monitor and measure the state of the roads, highway operators risk two things. Firstly, and most importantly, they are putting their customers at greater risk. But they also risk decreasing their margins as maintenance and liability costs increase.

5. Congestion

Congestion is probably customers’ number one bugbear on highways.
Traffic jams not only produce disgruntled drivers but also cost highway operators money; as fewer people use their roads after hearing about or experiencing traffic due to them taking an alternative route.
If congestion becomes a long-term issue on a highway, people may consistently avoid it. They will choose a different route or even switch to another, more convenient form of transportation.

Different factors increase the risk of traffic jams. Among them: poor toll station management, inadequate parking space availability, and traffic incidents or accidents… However, implementing a consistent, overarching monitoring system of the roads can help transport and highway operators to take measures to reduce congestion before it happens.

How can ITS operators alleviate these pain points?

There are a variety of different ways that transport and highway operators can alleviate some of the above pain points. One of the most effective emerging solutions lies in new technologies, notably in IoT operational intelligence (OI) solutions. The latter turns real-time traffic and asset data into actionable results, through connecting sensor-based data, systems, and people to generate instant, geo-located insights, and recommendations.

This kind of technology allows transport and highway operators to save both time and money through various optimized levers.

Monitor road capacity and travel time

This can be done through sensors placed on the roads and on critical assets such as bridges and tunnels, which transmit data back to a central gateway through low-range, low-power networks. Then, the OI solution analyzes the data in order to produce actionable insights and recommendations for future steps. Overall, this kind of constant, real-time monitoring system increases asset availability, as vehicular movement and road saturation are continuously being monitored. This way, operators can plan ahead to avoid congestion arising.

Monitor critical infrastructures 

Here we are talking about infrastructures such as bridges, roads, and tunnels, improving asset management. As above, a wireless transport monitoring OI solution means direct and constant communication between sensors with wireless nodes placed on critical assets and the operator’s central hub, where they are using the OI software to make evidence-based decisions. This allows for the real-time collection of data, and real-time responses to any deviations in the normal status of critical assets, if, for example, a crack appears in a road or a bridge appears to be moving.
This way, operators can implement maintenance actions before any severe damage is done. Thus, they prevent incidents and ensure constant and immediate management of their assets over time.

Track assets more effectively

There are various ways for tracking assets:

  • Real-time overviews/ visibility of key assets and infrastructures
  • Incident detection
  • Detecting traffic flow interruptions

Aggregating incidents via, for example, Waze, Twitter, drivers’ apps, and operators’ own workforce apps, which allows drivers to be updated in real-time about incidents. In comparison to the manual tracking tools customarily used by agencies to carry out retro-plannings based on how previous incidents were managed, incident detection tools more effectively improve incident prediction and response-times, making overall operations more time- and cost-efficient.

Prepare business for the future

Very soon, critical mobile and static assets will be able to communicate with each other – for example, smart cars and trucks will communicate with smart bridges and tunnels. The need for technologies that will facilitate this connection will therefore only grow with time, and investing in the right solution now will place businesses ahead of the crowd regarding increasing asset connectivity.

Reduce and prevent congestion

Traffic jams are a real problem, but it is possible to reduce or even avoid them, in particular by:

  • Knowing when and where congestion happens
  • Predicting problems in advance in order to plan accordingly for them

Managing tolled roads more effectively in order to offer a better experience to drivers (reduced travel times, smoother, quieter, safer, etc.).

Maximize revenues

To reach this last point, the following points are the important ones to provide:

  • A comprehensive overview of the cost of toll collection
  • An overview of revenues and insights into if these revenues are being generated correctly
  • An overview of asset availability in real-time
  • The ability to see if assets have been damaged by third parties
  • The ability to use dynamic pricing depending on demand (demand-response pricing)
  • New ways to avoid high costs for managing claims and the capacity to reduce “red claims”, for example, if someone damages their car due to a pothole, a rock hitting the windshield, or if the road markings are not visible
  • Real-time operational KPI tracking
  • Data which allows drivers, highway operators’ main target group, to make evidence-based decisions about routes, etc.

Conclusion

For transport and highway operators, the main goal is to maximize revenues while simultaneously reducing costs, incidents, and asset unavailability.
This is not possible without the aid of new technologies – notably IoT.

Investing in IoT solutions thus offers transport and highway operators new ways to transform their operations in order to make them more cost and time-efficient, safer, and more financially profitable in the long-term. In order to really take advantage of the potential of IoT on their highways, these operators need to look for a solution that meets their specific operational requirements – notably the need to continuously manage incidents, for example, traffic incidents, which affect their fleet management.
They, therefore, need to look for IoT providers that have solutions that target their specific pain points, reducing the cost of manpower (particularly for private-sector operators) and increasing overall operational efficiency. So if you’re a highway operator, don’t wait around: invest now and get ahead of the crowd.

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Turning Data into Value: Industrial Internet of Things

Reading Time: 5 minutes
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IoT, as the main accelerator for digital transformation, has seen rapid growth in recent years. According to the International Data Corporation (IDC), this trend does not seem to be stopping any time soon. Forecasts predict that the IoT global market revenue will reach approximately US$ 1.1 trillion by 2025. 

Yet for business owners and leaders to understand the real impact of IoT and be better prepared for the upcoming changes, it is important that they appreciate the difference between individual IoT systems and end-to-end IoT solutions that can actually enable transformation. With the latter, they can gain real-time intelligence and make decisions based on actionable insights. 

Two service managers within OneMind give us their impressions and visions on the topic. Nuria Casas, Head of Delivery and Customer Success and Pilar Retana, Head of Presales present how, for them, IoT can revolutionize the way industries and cities operate and explain how OneMind, our intelligent solution, serves this purpose.

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Nuria Casas and Pilar Retana during the Smart City Expo World Congress in Barcelona

We are experiencing a hype where IoT influences everything. A multitude of products is labelled “IoT platform” in the market. How are decision-makers supposed to figure out what product is best for their business or city if they’re not an expert? 

Pilar Retana: In the first place, decision-makers need to know what problem they want to solve, this sounds very obvious but it’s not so easy sometimes. Businesses or cities often know that they’re not being efficient in managing their operations or assets, but they don’t know what technology they need in order to improve. And this is normal. It’s technology experts like us who need to do the job to help them define which areas to work on to achieve their goals. 

If you are evaluating an IoT platform, some parameters can be assessed, for instance, in terms of connectivity, whether your solution is scalable and will cover your future needs, if it can integrate 3rd party data and solutions (interoperability) and how easy this will be, or the level of security and privacy (methods for authentication, encryption and user/role based access, for example), to name a few. 

The point is to make sure you’re working with a technical provider that will translate your needs into a specific technology solution.”

What kind of issues is OneMind helping the clients with? 

Pilar Retana: “Many clients already have a lot of information about their operations, in some cases the information is already digitized. But generally, all this information is parcelled, in silos. Cities for example have made efforts in recent years to improve mobility, environmental protection, or others but the way they’ve done it is tackling issues as they became a problem, in line with the accelerated growth in urban centers.

Many times these silos are IoT platforms themselves. But companies when they come to us, they say “I already have lots of data, but I’m not turning it into value”.

Companies are thus struggling with transforming data into knowledge.”

So do companies and cities realize that they need a step forward? 

Pilar Retana: “Definitely. Operators want to understand the city ecosystem because these different elements in silos are obviously interconnected. Not only in cities, this also happens in industry business, like mining, they need to understand what is going on in their operation as a whole in order to react better and faster to any issue. Technology can’t be limited to data delivery, it should help define the roadmap.

We help clients in several areas: to better manage tourism and ensure that cities find a way of promoting sustainable tourism without putting the local environment and culture at risk, or in health crisis management; for example, for the monitoring of Dengue outbreaks in the city of Singapore, information is already made available to the citizen. And of course traffic and mobility management, something we started doing ten years ago. In general lines and beyond specific issues, we try to impact and reduce the consumption of resources, and costs, and make cities more resilient, improving the response time and efficiency when an incident occurs, among others.

What does smart city intelligence mean? 

Nuria Casas: “A smart city is made out of different elements: from sensors, data, historic behaviors, and lessons learned. When talking about operational intelligence, we refer to a system that helps business decisions by having the city operators, workers and citizens use real-time data to improve their operational procedures.”

Pilar Retana: “For us a city is intelligent when technology outcomes enable cities to operate more efficiently by managing their resources and services at a transversal level. Technology that is also capable of preventing or mitigating a crisis situation having the citizen at the center.”

When a municipality approaches OneMind Technologies because they want to become a smart city, how to work with them? What are the main challenges when deploying a project? 

Nuria Casas: “When we start a new project with a municipality, the most important part is to understand their strengths and weaknesses, identify their pain points and motivation for becoming a smart city. 

Therefore, when we start working with them, we first go through a design phase, where we understand their data and also the features that, according to them, the technology solution should have. From there, we are able to identify and design proposals for each issue, say, for example, one for waste management, one for environmental issues and a third one for transport efficiency. These proposals make each project unique, as each city has specific problems while similar situations are not managed the same way by authorities in different cities.

Each city has specific problems while similar situations are not managed the same way by authorities in different cities.

This definitely is one of the main challenges for us because understanding how we can bring the best value to the city is a complex process. But at the same time, this step enables us to offer a customized end-to-end solution that really makes a difference for the citizens.”

How to do that? 

Nuria Casas: “We call our system “intelligent IoT solution builder” because we are able to offer a high level of technical flexibility in terms of what you can do with your data. Our solution builder is capable of ingesting data from different sources and the possibilities vary depending on the client’s needs: we can offer a general and consolidated view of all operations or we can customize features that correlate and analyze specific data in depth. We also offer the option to digitize assets as a first step for those operators whose data is not in a digital form yet. 

In cities, municipal leaders are realising that smart city strategies begin with people, not technology. We use the information to engage citizens and improve the quality of their living experience: the best city for their citizens.” 


cross-domain control hypervisor view

Product Insight Series #1: Outperforming operations with cross-domain control

Reading Time: 4 minutes

This article is the first of a series to present our product, OneMind, in more detail. You will learn more about its features, how it works, and what makes it unique. In this first focus, discover the advantages of cross-domain control applied in our solution.  

Smart cities and smart industries are facing many challenges in facilitating their management 

Today’s cities, and even more so, megacities and megalopolises, follow the trends and technological advances of our time. The same applies to all the various elements of which they are composed: airports, train stations, construction sites, means of transport, schools, shopping centers… All places are faced with advances in new technologies, and therefore evolve accordingly and equip themselves to become smart places. Faster to react, with centralized and linked information, the management of any site is evolving to that end, but challenges remain.

The first challenge is the one of pooling all the information systems that a location possesses. Indeed, within cities, for example, a multitude of actors are present, each with its own products, tools, and systems, and each system manages its own operations.
As a result, data is processed in silos and is difficult to access. Due to this pattern, it has become difficult to centralize and standardize systems.

Lack of communication between departments is an additional problem… It makes it difficult to unify not only the process but also the language and the operation. This plurality of actors also presents another problem for the management of places such as smart cities or smart regions.

As more entities and organizations develop within a city, more information and data are provided, something that also complicates their regulation… Each one governs its operating systems as it sees fit. It is therefore necessary to regulate them but also to standardize them so that the data collected by each can then be pooled for analysis and manipulation.

This is where the added value of OneMind is demonstrated. The solution offers operators a hypervision and standardizes all the subsystems connected to it.

The cross-domain control, an additional asset to hypervisor in the Onemind solution

So OneMind does not just bring systems together in one place, it also standardizes, harmonizes, and connects them together!

The key element to achieve this is our business rule engine. Constantly listening to all data-streams, it generates an event in the form of an alert that is automatically triggered to the operation if the thresholds that are set are surpassed.
In addition to triggering events for a specific ‘data sets,’ the product also allows the combination of several ‘data sets.’ The use of Boolean operators thus allows for obtaining information between different controlled domains that are monitored via OneMind.

This is where cross-domain control comes in. The concept dates back to the time when the U.S. Air Force started using multi-domain intelligence in their battlespace. In the modern military lingo, there are five interrelated domains: land, maritime, air, space, and cyberspace. We can use exactly the same principle for the management of today’s cities!
In order to control them and make the best decisions at the best time, hundreds of data points must be connected between all these domains.

Application example, the correlation between road traffic and air quality

Let’s take an example. Traffic jams and pollution provide two different datastreams, one recorded in the land domain and the other in the air domain. Collecting data on these two subjects at the same time in the same place is a good thing, but what is interesting is to correlate them to see how the first one can affect the second one. Indeed, the air quality in a place can change from time to time depending on the road traffic.

A road accident that causes traffic jams will thus have an impact on pollution at this location. Treating the two datastreams separately is therefore not useful because the answer to pollution, in this case, is on land, not in the air.

Other example, steps for action following an accident

Within a city, following a road accident, the importance of cross-domain control can also be demonstrated between more inputs to be linked:

  • – Police officers, 
  • – The fire department,
  • – Tow trucks, 
  • – Travel time, 
  • – The cameras…

The city operators monitor transportation roads and streets 24 hours a day and know in real time when an incident occurs.
In the case of an accident, an alert from Incidents informs them about a car-crash but they could also notice it from a lull in road traffic, for example.
Operators then investigate to seek out surrounding information to make better decisions to mitigate the impact of this incident. Information at a district level helps them locate and coordinate the resources.   ​


In addition to helping them analyze the situation by concentrating all the information in a single platform, OneMind also allows actions to be taken directly from its platform.

Indeed, response plans can be predefined for different types of incidents, to guide and accelerate operator actions. The operator can use OneMind to follow the Response Plan, for a car crash in this case, which establishes for each event a step-by-step action plan to ensure that the correct procedure is followed.

This then triggers the intervention of one or more tow trucks depending on the number of vehicles involved. Police and firefighters are requested to come to the location to create a security perimeter, divert the traffic and adress the situation. Hospitals are advised before the injured arrive, and citizens are also informed as to what is happening.

All of these steps allow a return to normal as quickly as possible, without the risk of forgetting a key step or a lack of communication.

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How IIoT Is The Driving Force Behind The Development Of Smart Cities

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Urbanization is one of the biggest global trends of our time and is showing no sign of slowing down.

By 2050, more than two-thirds of the world will live in cities, a sharp increase from just 30% in 1950. Megacities will continue to grow, reaching population sizes that would exceed those of many modern Western countries today.
For instance, Tokyo is estimated to become the highest populated city in the world with 37 million inhabitants predicted to be living there by 2030. To put this into perspective, that’s more than four times the current size of New York and would eclipse the whole population of Canada.

But cities are not expanding as fast geographically as their populations. This means that the population density of cities will continue to rise, causing them to become more crowded. In fact, according to McKinsey, urbanization is predicted to raise the average city density by 30% over the next 15 years. Even though cities will become massive “knowledge factories”, they’ll also face the significant challenge of coping with the complexity of managing megacities. The solution to this growing issue is smart cities, and IIoT.

Smart cities – Why do cities need to become smart?

As world digitization progresses, cities will have to compete with each other to secure the best talent and achieve the fastest economic growth. The winners of this race will be the cities that manage the complexity of their size best. In other words, metropoles will need to become smart cities in order to maintain a competitive advantage.

One key benefit of smart cities is that they offer a better service to citizens. They find ways to leverage technology to improve traffic flow, solve traffic congestion problems, making urban living more pleasant and transportation simpler. Additionally, smart cities will increase the quality of life by reducing air pollution, lowering noise levels, improving the health of citizens, and many other lifestyle improvements. Another benefit of creating smarter cities is that they can be more efficient with resources.

This helps to improve the quality of urban services, optimize current resources for the most effective application and, ultimately, save money that can be invested in other areas.

Smart cities will increase the quality of life by reducing air pollution, lowering noise levels, improving the health of citizens, and many other lifestyle improvements.

The examples and use cases of cities taking advantage of IIoT are very broad. For example, the city of Zaragoza uses an IIoT-based traffic flow management system to collect real-time traffic information, optimize traffic flows and provide citizens with instant updates about journey times and incidents.

Barcelona uses IIoT solutions in their parking management system that allow the city to optimize parking management for tourist coaches.

Another interesting case study shows the application of a connected infrastructure solution to monitor the Ponte Vecchio bridge in Florence, ensuring its stability and the safety of millions of annual visitors.

Traffic-heat-map-zaragoza-city-worldsensing-iiotTraffic heat map of Zaragoza City

What are smart cities?

Smart cities collect data, extract information, and use it to become more efficient and to offer citizens new services that improve their lives. While this definition holds true for different historical eras of civilization, that doesn’t mean that what has been considered a smart city in the past should necessarily be considered a smart city today or in the future.

To grasp this overarching idea of a smart city, simply look to the multiple evolution stages of the concept.

The three evolutions of smart cities

Historically speaking, the first evolution of smart cities surfaced in the 1990s in the analog age. Cities were boasting technologies such as traffic lights, photo radars, and video cameras. However, in order to retrieve any useful information from them or to apply their implications to real life, people still had to go through a lot of manual processes. They had to move to the physical location of the hardware to change lighting settings, check car velocity numbers or download surveillance videos.

Today, we are experiencing the second generation of smart cities, influenced by the digital age. Internet access means we’re all continuously connected, and data collected by devices can be stored directly in the cloud. This enables us to analyze data quickly and make informed decisions to optimize environments faster than ever before.

Interconnectivity, the third evolution of smart cities, is already well underway. Once it’s complete, everything will be connected and able to communicate: humans with technology, technology with humans, and technology with technology. Smart cities will extract information and automatically put it to use simultaneously in decision-making processes and changes to urban environments. An example of this is the innovative capability to adjust the timing of green and red traffic lights according to demand, to improve traffic flow and reduce congestion.

Once interconnectivity is complete, everything will be connected and able to communicate: humans with technology, technology with humans, and technology with technology. Smart cities will extract information and automatically put it to use simultaneously in decision-making processes and changes to urban environments.

Industrial Internet of Things – Why is the IIoT essential for creating smart cities?

As we enter the third stage of the evolution of smart cities, the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) will form the fundamental technology that enables cities to get “smarter”. IIoT is critical for gathering information and initiating the first step to smart decision-making: seeing, understanding and reacting. Without seeing, measuring and quantifying the current climate, city authorities will lack the vision to grasp what’s actually occurring and make an informed decision based on knowledge and understanding. Fortunately, smart cities can collect information from two primary sources: sensors and citizens.

Sensors

When we think of IIoT and smart cities, sensors are the first thing that comes to mind. Sensors are hardware devices that are installed to measure various metrics such as speed, location or weight. They are often added to machines, objects, cars, and platforms to improve processes and efficiency. Authorities invest in sensors because they enable cities to quantify and gather data that can be employed to inform changes to city living. Through the connection of sensors and machines through IIoT, cities can optimize many aspects of our daily lives such as traffic flows, waste disposal, and public transport service.

Citizens

IIoT is not just about sensors and machines. Citizens are a great source of data, as they can use apps and other technology to share their feedback in real-time. This opens up an entirely new set of measure points such as “client satisfaction” based on value perception. For example, with regard to garbage collection, sensors might say that the streets are clean and the system efficient because all bins are never fuller than 90%. However, citizens might disagree about the effectiveness of the garbage collection system if they see dirt and rubbish on their street, or if they are woken up every morning at 4 am by the noise of garbage disposal teams.

Evidently, creating a smart city is not exclusively about incorporating data via sensors, nor only about citizens. Instead, truly smart cities will utilize a perfect interaction and “marriage” of both pools of resources. By taking advantage of the amalgamated data resources of sensors, citizens and machines through IIoT, innovative urban improvements can be made automatically and instantly.

2021' smart city events

A Comprehensive Guide to 2021’s Most Innovative Smart City Events

Reading Time: 12 minutes
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2021 is an exciting year for the growing smart cities sector. With so many smart city events happening worldwide, there are numerous opportunities to discover the latest trends and network with smart city organizations, city officials, and other urban innovators across all four seasons.

After 2020 and a year in which events have all been cancelled or transformed into 100% digital, it is good to return to appointments and face-to-face meetings.

That said, as the health situation does not facilitate travel and large gatherings for the moment, the start of the year will see a majority of the events being held digitally.

As it can be challenging to find the most relevant events for you, we’ve cherry-picked the very best to make your life easier. Take a look at our comprehensive guide to 2021’s best smart city events and start planning your annual conference calendar now.

March

Smart Cities Expo World Forum

When? 01 March – 3 March 2021
Where? Digital event
What? Smart Cities Expo World Forum normally combines the power of collocated conference with state-of-the-art expo floor in order to educate people towards smart cities and urban planning technologies, strive for innovation, promote business and connect thousands of smart city experts from around the globe. However, this 2021 edition is limited to a digital-only event.

Why you should attend: Attending this online conference, you will be part of a global community and tech ecosystem that is committed to creating optimum solutions, developing a more stable economy, improving our quality of life and promoting a better future, by considering incoming smart city trends and disruptive technologies.

Smart Cities Expo

When? 15 March – 16 March 2021
Where? Dubai, UAE
What? Smart City Expo educate people towards smart cities and urban planning technologies, promote innovative business solutions, and connect thousands attendees from around the globe.

Why you should attend: Smart City Expo being digitalised this year will focus on conferences. Committed to determine and propose solutions for smart cities planning, implementation, and policy-making by taking into account of recent technological advancements and innovations, the event aims to be the place to congregate urban capacity, to increase the strength of cities, to identify and promote business opportunities, to increase the productivity in short time, to establish partnerships and contribute to implement relevant policies.

SXSW Cities Summit

When? 16 March – 20 March 2021
Where? Digital event
What? The Cities Summit at SXSW provides an opportunity for global professionals at every level to participate, learn, and network, coming together to transform the cities of tomorrow.

Why you should attend: This smart city event is unique in bringing together all types of professionals working in the city space – from city officials, to urban artists, to big tech firms. Its talks tend to be more varied and can therefore be very insightful in terms of giving a glimpse into alternative, “outsider” perspectives and new, radical ideas.

IoT Tech Expo Global 2021

When? 17 March – 18 March 2021
Where? Digital event
What? The event is a free online conference consisting of thought leadership discussions exploring the IoT ecosystem.

Why you should attend: Consisting of live and on-demand sessions, the conference will explore this innovative technology and its impact on a range of industries including, manufacturing, transport, supply chain, government, legal sectors and financial services energy, utilities, insurance, healthcare, retail and more.

The Virtual Expo will provide insight from over 40 speakers sharing their unparalleled industry knowledge and real-life experiences in the forms of solo presentations, expert panel discussions and in-depth fireside chats.

Smart City Summit and Expo

When? 23 March – 26 March 2021
Where? Taipei, Taiwan
What? The event this year consists of a trade show in Taipei accompanied by a simultaneous virtual event.

Why you should attend: This year’s event will host a gathering of mayors from cities around the world to share their experiences around smart cities.
The event is intended to be multidisciplinary and will be a mix between conferences, mitchmaking, meetings and a contest of innovative start-ups: the 2021 AI 50 Campaign’s Application.

CiscoLive

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When? 31 March – 1 April 2021
Where? Digital event
What? Cisco Live delivers education, connection and inspiration to technology enthusiasts.

Why you should attend: Cisco Live is where the “heroes of the digital age unite to make anything and everything possible.” Cisco is a key player in the international smart cities space, so you know from the outset that this event is important if you are working in this sector. The great thing about this conference though (compared to others) is its focus on learning: you can take part in programs, such as their IT management program, where you will gain concrete professional skills while simultaneously networking with other smart city experts and Cisco’s leading lights.

Smart Cities Asia

When? 21 April – 24 April 2021
Where? Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam
What? Smart Cities Asia Conference aims to be the intersection between urban planning, technology, governance, and citizen involvement to address the modern challenges of cities.

Why you should attend: This conference provides the opportunity to discover and discuss some of the most creative emergent smart cities practices from the Asian region – an area renowned for its technological innovation and fast economic growth.

April

Smart Airports and Regions

When? 26 April – 28 April 2021
Where? San Antonio TX, USA
What? The SMART Airports & Regions Conference & Exhibition is the premier event covering how SMART airports and their adjacent regions are leveraging “connectivity” to stimulate “innovation and opportunity.”

Why you should attend: The annual SMART Airports & Regions Conference and Exhibition will explore the catalytic effect and critical success factors covering the economic development ecosystem of SMART airports and the regions they serve, integrate and connect with.

May

Smart City Forum Warsaw 2021

When? 12 May – 13 May 2021
Where? Warsaw, Poland
What? The Smart City Forum is the largest congress in Poland devoted to the functioning and development of smart cities.

Why you should attend: The event gathers decision-makers at the national level, local government administration, and well-known experts from industries such as transport, construction, security, energy, data management, and also public services, which makes this Smart City event the most important initiative in Poland devoted to smart cities on such a scale and with such substantive background. 

This upcoming edition is done for making the visitors consider how cities and regions are to manage in times of crisis and pandemic. 

Smart Cities New York

When? 14 May – 15 May 2021
Where? New York City, USA
What? Smart Cities New York (SCNY) is North America’s leading global conference to address and highlight critical solution-based issues that cities are facing as we move through the 21st century. It is the biggest North America’s smart city event that is going to happen this year.

Why you should attend: SCNY brings together top thought leaders and senior members of the private and public sector to discuss investments in physical and digital infrastructure, health, education, sustainability, security, mobility, and workforce development to ensure there is an increased quality of life for all citizens as we move into the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

Smart Building Conference

When? 31 May 2021
Where? Barcelona, Spain
What? Smart Building Conference is a full-day conference produced by Integrated Systems Events. It is the must-attend pan European conference for professionals working in the smart buildings, smart homes and smart workplaces industry.

Why you should attend: The day-long conference will explore how the unfolding new technology landscape facilitates the deployment of smart technology within buildings. The event will see top expert speakers presenting ideas throughout the day alongside a host of new innovation workshops.

June

Urban Future Global Conference

When? 16 June – 18 June 2021
Where? Rotterdam, Netherlands
What? The Urban Future Global Conference happens every year in different European cities and brings along CityChangers from all over the world. The conference is Europe’s largest event on sustainable cities.

Why you should attend: Every year, the event evolves around new main topics. The four focus areas are changing from year to year, taking into consideration any input they get from local and international stakeholders. This year, the four core themes are Urban Mobility, Skills and Leadership, Circular, and Districts and Neighbourhoods.  

At Urban Future, you will have the chance to meet mayors, architects, mobility experts, city planners, scientists, sustainability managers, representatives from start-ups, environmentalists, innovation experts, and many more.

Intertraffic China Conference

When? 17 June – 19 June 2021
Where? Shanghai, China
What? Intertraffic a bi-annual event that is key to staying up to speed on the developments in the fields of infrastructure, safety, parking, smart mobility, and traffic management.

Why you should attend: The event features hundreds of exhibiting companies from more than 40 countries. Over 11,892 traffic and mobility professionals will attend the event, making Intertraffic China a prominent platform for professionals to exchange knowhow, create high-quality leads and build long-lasting relations in the region.

World Cities Summit 2021

When? 20 June – 24 June 2021
Where? Singapore, Singapore
What? The World Cities Summit is an exclusive platform for government leaders and industry experts to address liveable and sustainable city challenges, share integrated urban solutions and forge new partnerships.

Why you should attend: Since its inauguration in 2008, the biennial Summit has been attended by over 250 global cities and supported by leaders from government, business, international organizations and academia. As in previous editions, the WCS workshops will help connect global cities with consultants, funders and solution providers to tackle their urban challenges in a concrete way.

4YFN – Four Years From Now

When? 28 June – 1 July 2021
Where? Barcelona, Spain
What? 4YFN Barcelona brings together the international startup community where innovators, founders, creators, and leaders gather to shape the future.

Why you should attend: The 4YFN exhibition is an integral part of the Mobile World Congress, the world’s leading exhibition for the cell phone industry. 4YFN is therefore the antechamber of the show, which highlights start-ups and all the technological innovations in the field.

Mobile World Congress

Where? 28 June – 1 July 2021
When? Barcelona, Spain
What? Mobile World Congress is the world’s largest gathering for the mobile industry, organized by the GSMA and held in the Mobile World Capital, Barcelona.

Why you should attend: The MWC is the annual event for technology companies, especially those focused on IoT and telecoms, and includes both huge multinationals and emerging start-ups (in particular at its parallel event, 4 Years From Now, mentioned just above).

A lot of these companies are already in the smart cities space, especially those related to IoT and mobility, but others are now looking to get involved. While the conference is not specifically focused on smart cities, this gives you the advantage of being able to meet a greater diversity of companies whose technologies may be relevant to the smart cities industry even if they have not entered this space yet. This is your chance to meet not only the smart city divisions of the big tech companies but also the new players in this field, allowing you to know in advance what lies ahead regarding 2018’s smart city tech innovations.


September

IOT Tech Expo Global

When? 6 September – 7 September 2021
Where? London, UK
What? The IoT Tech Expo is one of the world-leading IoT conferences. It will bring together key industries from across the globe for two days of top-level content and thought leadership discussions across 5 co-located events covering IoT, 5G, Cyber Security & Cloud, Blockchain, AI & Big Data, and the newly added Digital Transformation track.

Why you should attend: The Expo will showcase the most cutting-edge technologies from more than 125 exhibitors and provide insight from over 100 speakers sharing their unparalleled industry knowledge and real-life experiences in the forms of solo presentations, expert panel discussions and in-depth fireside chats.

The topics are very varied and there will be subjects for every center of interest: Digital Transformation, Data Analytics, IIoT & Smart Manufacturing, Connected Environments, Developing for the IoT, Process Optimisation, Sensor Deployment, Connectivity Considerations, 5G & Future Connectivity, Security & Standards, Cloud Computing, Autonomous Transportation, Device & Asset Management, Connected Fleets & Smart Logistics, R&D, Smart Energy & Enterprise Sustainability, Industry Collaborations & more.

Arab Future Cities Summit

When? 14 September – 15 September 2021
Where? Dubai, UAE
What? AFCS Dubai is UAE’s leading smart city event. Over 400 senior executives from municipalities & government, developers, technology and sustainability experts, designers and architects attend each year.

Why you should attend: This conference brings together a wide variety of mobility, sustainability leaders, solution providers, and security vendors, giving you the opportunity to interact with those working in the cities space in the Middle-East and beyond. This 2021 edition of the conference will analyze the rapid development this region has seen in order to evolve into one of the leading smart cities in the world.

International Conference on Transport and Smart Cities

When? 17 September – 19 September 2021
Where? Frankfurt, Germany
What? The International Conference on Transport and Smart Cities gathers researchers from around the world to share the latest advances in the field of Smart Cities, with a focus on Transportation.

Why you should attend: ICoTSC 2021 welcomes researchers, engineers, scientists and industry professionals to an open forum where advances in the field of Transport and Smart Cities can be shared and examined. The conference is an ideal platform for keeping up with advances and changes to a consistently morphing field. Leading researchers and industry experts from around the globe will be presenting the latest studies through papers and oral presentations. 

ISS World Americas

When? 21 September – 23 September 2021
Where? Washington D.C, USA
What? ISS World Americas is the world’s largest gathering of America’s law enforcement, Homeland Security, defense, public safety and other members of the government intelligence community as well as telecom operators responsible for cyber threat intelligence gathering, DarkNet monitoring, lawful interception, and cybercrime investigations.

Why you should attend: ISS World Programs present the methodologies and tools for law enforcement, public safety, and government intelligence communities in the fight against drug trafficking, cyber money laundering, human trafficking, terrorism, and other criminal activities conducted over today’s telecommunications networks, the internet, and social networks.

October

IoT World + MtoM Embedded

When? 5 October – 6 October 2021
Where? Paris, France
What? After three years held in parallel in the same pavilion, a new stage will be reached in 2021, that the IoT World – MtoM & Connected Objects – Embedded trade shows will be grouped together.

Why you should attend: The exhibition will bring together various activities with different formats: keynotes, round tables, expert opinions…These conferences aim to provide the audience with the visions, analyses, expertise, and user feedback from experts, personalities, academics, consultants, industrialists and customers concerned by these subjects, technologies, applications and services, developments, best practices.

IoT Solutions World Congress

When? 5 October – 7 October
Where? Barcelona, Spain
What?  The IOTSWC 2021 edition is focusing on industrial customer demand instead of vendor-centric. It’s the place where end-users come to discuss their projects and where the discussion leads to sales for vendors.

Why you should attend: The event is focused on targeted end-user. Indeed, according to the market trends and evolution we are switching to focus on industrial customer demand powering IOTSWC as the platform where end-users come to discuss their projects in a peer to peer environment, creating a discussion that leads to sales for providers.

Intelligent Transportation System conference

When? 11 October – 15 October 2021
Where? Hamburg, Germany
What? The ITS World Congress provides the ideal opportunity for all city stakeholders to come together, discuss and make the necessary contacts to move initiatives forward and to develop their business by exhibiting and demonstrating state of the art ITS solutions.

Why you should attend: If you’re in the smart cities space and working on anything to do with urban mobility, this is an essential conference for 2021. Not only will you have the chance to meet other professionals and government officials working in smart mobility, but you can also get ahead on the latest developments in ITS and attend numerous workshops on this topic, giving you access to the world’s current, and future, best practices in ITS. Plus, this is a bi-annual opportunity to attend an ITS World Congress in the European region – so don’t miss it!

Gitex Technology Week

When? 17 October – 21 October
Where? Dubai, UAE
What?  The Gitex is the UAE region’s biggest technology event, and a good place for taking the opportunity to put tech strategies into action-mode and source cutting-edge innovations from around the world, with a choice and scale that no other show can match.

Why you should attend: In 2020, in the aftermath of the coronavirus, Gitex was the only large-scale trade show to take place physically and not only digitally. This confirms the event’s position as one of the world’s leading events on the subject of IoT and new technologies. It is also the best place to interact with EMEA decision-makers on solutions for their cities.

ISS World Forum, Panama

When? 26 October – 28 October 2021
Where? Panama City, Panama
What? ISS World Latin America is the world’s largest gathering of Central and South American law enforcement, intelligence and Homeland Security Analysts as well as telecom operators responsible for hi-tech electronic investigations and cyber intelligence gathering.

Why you should attend: You will not only get to network with the key players in the Central and South American Security and Intelligence sectors but you will also get the chance to find out about the latest methodologies and tools for law enforcement, public safety and Government Intelligence in the fight against drug trafficking, cyber money laundering, human trafficking, terrorism, and other criminal activities conducted over today’s telecommunications network and the internet.

November

MOVE 2021

When? 9 November – 10 November 2021
Where? London, UK
What? MOVE brings together people and companies redefining the transport industry around the world. The event is dedicated to the tech & transport unicorns engineering the future.

Why you should attend: With an audience of over 10,000 attendees, companies can showcase their mobility solutions to many of the industry’s leading players. The event will include 400 speakers across 18 stages, as a hub for inspiration from across the globe, and play host to 500 of the world’s most exciting start-ups in the field.

Intertraffic Mexico Conference

When? 9 November – 11 November 2021
Where? Mexico City, Mexico
What? As presented earlier in this article, Intertraffic is a bi-annual event. After a first gathering in China, the second one in 2021 will take place in Mexico, presenting innovations in the fields of infrastructure, safety, parking, smart mobility, and traffic management.

Why you should attend: The event, staged in Mexico City, provides a prominent platform for professionals to exchange know-how, create high-quality leads, and build long-lasting relations in the region. It provides visitors with a global presence in Mexico and more generally for all of LATAM from which they can benefit all year round.

Smart City Expo World Congress

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When? 16 November – 18 November 2021
Where? Barcelona, Spain
What? Smart City Expo World Congress is the world-leading summit of discussion about the link between urban reality and the technological revolution. Since its first edition in 2011, it has become a dominant global event in supporting the development of cities.

Why you should attend: This smart city event is probably the number one annual world congress on smart cities. It’s the place to explore all the latest smart city projects and technologies and to build valuable connections with key decision-makers across the spectrum of city councils, government institutions, established businesses, and new industry disruptors.

December

Bangkok International Conference on Smart Cities

When? 16 December – 17 December 2021
Where? Bangkok, Thailand
What? The International Research Conference is a federated organization dedicated to bringing together a significant number of diverse scholarly events for presentation within the conference program. 

Why you should attend: The Bangkok ISCS aims to bring together leading academic scientists, researchers, and research scholars to exchange and share their experiences and research results on all aspects of Smart Cities. It also provides a premier interdisciplinary platform for researchers, practitioners, and educators to present and discuss the most recent innovations, trends, and concerns as well as practical challenges encountered and solutions adopted in the fields of Smart Cities.


Now you have all the information, it’s time to get planning your own 2021 smart city events calendar. We’ll meet you there.

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IoT Platform Buyer? 6 Criteria You Should Be Using To Find Your Ideal IoT Vendor

Reading Time: 6 minutes

Choosing the right IoT solution for your business is not easy.
The IoT market remains incredibly fragmented; while some clear leaders have started to emerge, there are still a huge number of smaller vendors offering a plethora of products that can be difficult to fully understand. This can be incredibly overwhelming if you’re looking to invest in an IoT solution. The process of picking the right IoT vendor is often complicated by the lack of clear differentiation between IoT platforms, applications, and solutions. Many vendors have capitalized on the hype around the IoT platform to market their products as platforms, when in fact they frequently offer only a fragment of what a platform technically is.

Without knowing the exact differences between the varying kinds of IoT products out there, or even what actually constitutes an IoT platform, it can be difficult to know exactly what you need for your organization.

For this reason, we have come up with six core characteristics to look out for in IoT vendors, as a first step to help you make the right decision for your organization, regardless of its sector.

1. Pain point focused

Choosing a vendor who understands your pain points well, and who has experience in your industry, is a real plus. They will have experience working on problems similar to yours, and their solution may even be specifically designed to handle the type of data collected in your sector. They may also be able to assist you with industry-regulation and legal compliance.

This is often where IoT applications can outshine enablement platforms. If you’re confused about what the difference between an IoT application and platform is, take a look at our recent article explaining the different IoT products out there.

2. Offer discovery workshops

Your IoT provider should first and foremost offer you a discovery workshop. This constitutes a kind of consulting session, where they can help you figure out your key needs and desired outcomes. The purpose of this workshop is to assess if you have any unidentified problems that you should be working on, why you have already identified issues, and to prove to you what their IoT solution can do to solve all of these issues.

Following this initial assessment, or as part of it, the vendor should visit your site, in order to identify which solution is best suited to your problems. Based on these assessments, the vendor can then design the best possible solution to be tested in the next stage.

The chosen vendor should also have strong onboarding – especially if you do not have any in-house IoT experts. Ultimately, you should opt for a company with a strong solution or consulting team, who can train your team, help develop the right IoT architecture for you, and give you committed guidance and recommendations through the IoT implementation process and beyond.

3. Uses “Proof of Concept” to demonstrate its value

Proof of concept (PoC) allows you to assess the ability of the IoT platform-provider to meet your needs. To explain, “Proof of Concept” is exactly what it sounds like: proof that their concept will work and bring you results. It is, therefore, a ‘test’ phase, that happens once the consulting stage is complete, and your key needs, goals and desired outcomes have been identified.

During this stage, the technology offered by the provider is deployed on a small-scale at first in order to test its ROI. It can then be implemented full-scale once concrete results have been demonstrated, giving you greater peace of mind. For example a mobility management platform-provider might deploy 5-10 sensors in a certain area of the city for a few months, and then, once it has been able to show how these sensors, combined with its software solution, will help the city operator to reduce traffic and congestion, or better monitor parking, they will install sensors all over the city and connect the software with their existing subsystems.

Crucially, the Proof of Concept stage should demonstrate which KPI(s) can be improved through installing the system. Based on the defined pain points and goals that need to be achieved, you may also want to request a report, or something similar, which officially lays out what has been accomplished so far.

Just offering “proof of concept” in itself demonstrates that a company is reputable and likely to be good at what they do: after all, they wouldn’t offer to prove their worth if they didn’t know how effective their services already were. This stage is especially important for organizations with less money who really do need proof of the real long-term value of the investment. If a company does not provide this, or they do but it does not reflect enough value, then you know that you need either a different provider or a different solution.

4. IoT knowledge and experience

With so many companies out there selling IoT platforms or solutions, you want to make sure to choose a reputable company who has the right knowledge and experience. IoT can be risky in many ways – whether in terms of transforming your whole business model or in terms of privacy and security – and investing in a solution means relying on an IoT provider to manage the core elements of your product and services. It is therefore vital to be able to trust the provider that you go with and to know that they have carried out similar projects successfully in the past. Make sure to assess their reputation, stability, financial and track record.

5. Real-world implementations

The provider of your choice should be able to present you with case studies, even of joint projects with well-known companies, or proof of concepts, which will show examples of real-world implementations that they have carried out. This real-life experience should demonstrate their product’s ability to bring concrete results to your business. Look at the vendor’s website for obvious case studies and sample projects, as well as checking in the news for any mention of their initiatives. It may also be useful to do some Google searching in order to detect their presence in the news. If their initiatives are getting a lot of press for the right reasons, it may indicate that they’re a safe option – if their press is distinctly less favorable, it will give you a clear answer that they’re not your IoT soulmate.

6. A Strong Partner Ecosystem

Companies with robust app and partner ecosystems are good choices regarding future optionality and expansion. This is particularly important if the provider you go with only offers one element of the IoT value chain, such as the sensors, as it is a lot easier to find the other components to create your own end-to-end IoT solution if your chosen vendor has partner organizations whose technologies can be easily integrated with their own products. To clarify: you do not want to have to find these other components on your own, so it is essential to choose a provider who has a large ecosystem of partners who they manage themselves, and whose products they know inside out.

The majority of leading IoT platform vendors only offer enablement platforms and source their hardware or business applications from smaller IoT companies. Providers like this, who have links with other organizations, generally have strong partner ecosystems simply because they have to.

Conversely, the same can be said for the smaller companies, offering specific IoT applications, who need to partner with the bigger players to gain access to a greater audience of clients. A strong partner ecosystem is a win-win for you: whether you go with the big provider who can give you access to a whole network of smaller bespoke technology vendors, or with a smaller application-vendor whose technologies can be linked up with that of other vendors, the partners of your chosen vendor will potentially be as important to the success of your IoT system as they are.

Focus on the qualities of your IoT vendor

It is increasingly clear that IoT is essential to the digitization of businesses, something that is looking more and more important as we move into the connected world of the future. Picking an IoT vendor for your organization can be difficult, however, even if IoT is at the top of your strategy. To make this process easier, it is key to both ensure not only that you and your colleagues understand the different options out there but that you also know the key criteria that vendor needs to fulfill before you choose to invest.

Reliability, specificity, and consistency are some of the qualities encapsulated above, but at the end of the day, you need to build a successful relationship with your vendor and know for certain that their IoT expertise can be applied to your particular sector, and business, in order to create positive change. We hope that this article helps you in your IoT buying journey.