IoT in Action: Snowy Smart Cities

I have a gorgeous view outside my home. Everything is covered under more than 2 feet of snow. My flight for tomorrow is cancelled and schools are shut down until Tuesday. For my children, its probably a dream come true but for businesses, it doesn’t help when things come to a standstill. Also for many who need to be on the road, safety is a huge concern and reports of damage and injuries keep getting featured on the news. But the authorities have diligently been working on keeping the city functioning and technology – specifically the ‘Internet of Things’ (IoT) has been helping. You might be thinking: what do snow and IoT have to do with each other? Well, some of the key elements of IoT have already been in play this week across the East Coast and some are likely to happen in the near future across cities globally.

Predictive Analytics

I must admit being impressed by the weather folks who predicted the timing and the quantity of snowfall so closely to what actually occurred, which gave ample time for county authorities to prepare for severe weather and respond timely. Jonas, despite being a powerful and potentially harmful snow blizzard of 2016, it will be remembered as a proud moment for meteorologists who worked on predicting the power of the storm much in advance. Meteorologists use wide spectrum of data (you can call it big data) and algorithms that are used to predict upcoming weather. Predictive Analytics use cases that have been talked about in IoT from the past several years i.e. if you know more in advance you can do better. The National Weather Service has helped in doing exactly that by using available data and the latest technology. The New York times cited Dr. Louis W. Uccellini, the director of the National Weather Service, “we’re living in extraordinary times,” he said. “This is something that the entire enterprise has been working on for decades.”

Connected Snow Fleet Management

GPS connected snow removal fleet have been operating in snowed environments for the past few years. Even in the current blizzard, with GPS technology, authorities have been able to monitor each snow plough vehicle to ensure they’re on the assigned routes. Additionally, since many independent contractors are involved, authorities are able to drive greater accountability by ensuring that these vehicles are working on the routes assigned to them. As per AMNY,  New York City’s Snow Removal Operations Center walls are lined with screens showing the location of fleet in real time, as well as cameras showing real-time conditions across the city, on key boulevards and highways.

Remote Connected Home Devices

The importance of Internet-connected devices grows during such weather conditions. For example, if you’re stuck at an airport and unable to fly home, you’re probably using your remote thermostat and other devices e.g. connected lights and door locks to ensure peace of mind. Over the next several days, as semi-normal life commences and you’re coming to a frozen house, there is more likelihood you will use your phone app to control the temperature of your house. If you have a connected heated driveway and are on travel, you would be able to turn your driveway heating on remotely so you can return to better conditions.

Future Smart Cities – Self Driving Cars, Drones & Lots of Sensors

I am certainly living in somewhat of a smart city and am thankful that modern means have allowed my family and I to stay safe in the snow. In developing and under-developed cities without basic infrastructure, getting these IoT benefits become harder but future technologies will make cities smarter globally and things will hopefully not have to come to a standstill during such severe weather. Will self driving cars help us? What about machines that know how to move in snow without human intervention? Although it might sound scary, it can very well be argued that autonomous cars and vehicles can be programmed to function better in severe weather conditions. Drones would also prove to be very useful in making important deliveries so you don’t have to drive to the store if you need something urgently or even for regular grocery needs. If you have a passenger drone, you might be able to even go to the office. And more sensors in the roads can help authorities determine the amount of snow around the city and manage snow removal fleet better.

These are just some examples. In the near future, although we might not be able to solve every major issue associated with snow and other severe weather conditions, but IoT definitely promises to overcome some of them and bring normalcy faster to our lives.

This article was originally published on Pranay Prakash’s Linkedin. To learn more about Pranay Prakash, connect with him on LinkedIn or follow him on Twitter.

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