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March 31, 2015

Improving Quality of Life with the Internet of Everything

Most of us don’t usually associate California’s Silicon Valley with public transportation. Traffic jams and technology, perhaps. Trains, not so much.

But the city of San Jose is in the midst of a pilot using Internet of Everything technology to make it easier for people to use public transportation, particularly on days when the air quality is poor.

By providing real-time data about air pollution and transportation alternatives, “We want to change the conversation with people by making them aware of what’s going on at a very hyper-local level,” says Vijay Sammeta, San Jose’s chief information officer.

San Jose is just one of many local municipalities turning to the IoE to boost their inhabitants’ quality of life. Their efforts include everything from encouraging the use of public transportation to cracking down on parking violations. Here are three examples:

San Jose: Clearing the Air

The San Jose pilot’s first focus is on air quality detection. To that end, the city recently has installed 10 sensors in key areas of the city, such as locations where major freeways intersect with large population centers like malls and schools. Once the air-monitoring sensors are running smoothly, working with the Silicon Valley Transportation Authority, Sammeta and his team can integrate the data with transportation information.

Specifically, analysis of sensor data would reveal increases and decreases in air quality in real-time. Then those results would be conveyed to the public, along with relevant transportation data. For example, if air quality is poor, commuters could check the schedule for the nearest light rail station, as well as parking availability, instead of driving to their office; about 50,000 people work in downtown San Jose during weekdays.

Ultimately, the goal is to create a dashboard, which will help the public interpret the raw data and present green, yellow and red lights indicating air quality, as well as let people zero in on, say, Co2 levels. But even more important: “Seeing changes in air quality minute by minute will be a great way to change behavior,” says Sammeta.  “If you want to change something, you’ve got to be able to measure it.”

Kansas City: Ready for Anything

In Kansas City, folks are building a smart platform, which will allow them to plug in just about any application that can create more efficient services in real-time.  “We want to be able to add new sensors whenever the need arises,” says Ashley Hand, chief innovation officer of the City of Kansas City.

The first phase, underway now, is building connectivity. Specifically, Hand and her team are taking advantage of a new street car line covering 2.2 square miles as their starting point. “With so much construction underway, it’s a key moment for us,” says Hand. “Our community won’t have as much appetite for digging up all that ground again.” Due to be completed by the end of the year, the infrastructure will include sensors that can help with the efficient operation of the new transit system. The city hopes to extend the line once the first phase has been finished.

Parking is one major example. Cars parked on the tracks, for example, could wreak havoc on the new transit system. Strategically placed sensors will be able to detect the presence of an unwanted vehicle and alert parking enforcement, which can dispatch someone to look into the matter. “Instead of having the usual situation, where a person may or may not be patrolling the area at the right time, you’ll have a real-time response,” says Hand.

Montgomery County: Integrating Data from Lots of Devices

The question Montgomery County, Md., and its partners want to explore, according to Dan Hoffman, chief innovation officer, is this: In an environment with many devices—think anything from smoke detectors to carbon monoxide monitors—how can data from that equipment  be delivered quickly to a platform integrated with a 911 response system?

With that in mind, last year, the County built a prototype aimed at a 14-unit affordable housing complex. When the pilot was completed, the team moved to the next phase—focusing on a 60-unit senior living facility. With a particular emphasis on health, it will include even greater panoply of devices than were used in the prototype, such as water leak detectors and air quality monitors outside the building. Sensor data will be delivered to a cloud service through WI-FI, cellular networks or ultra-narrow band. It then will contact individuals via a phone call or text message. If there’s no response, a caregiver will be contacted. In more serious situations, a 911 dispatcher will alert police or fire fighters. To make things work more efficiently, fire fighters and police will have plans of the building, as well as information about particularly dangerous situations, like an individual who uses an oxygen tank.

One objective is to gently nudge current efforts to create standards and protocols for connectivity. “There are potentially thousands of devices using a variety of protocols,” says Hoffman. “We want to move that conversation forward.”


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Anne Field is an award-winning journalist who specializes in covering entrepreneurship and small business. A freelancer for many years, she has contributed to Bloomberg BusinessWeek, Business Insider, Crain's New York Business, Inc., and the New York Times, in addition to many other publications. She lives in Pelham, NY, with her husband, two children, and dog. Used with the permission of http://thenetwork.cisco.com/.

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