Earlier this year, it was predicted that global IoT spending would grow to $1.2 trillion by 2022, with the suggestion that IoT market is at a turning point, as projects move from proof of concept into commercial deployment.

Behind the rapid growth of IoT spending is the intersection of different industries that reap the benefits of shared IoT domains. One of the fastest-growing intersections identified by IDC is vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) solutions, fuelled by both fleet managers or field service managers and local authorities looking to optimise the supply chain through IoT. When it comes to shared domains, the possibilities for what IoT can achieve are endless, and the smart city is one exciting area where this is really starting to take shape.

How do smart cities work?

Smart cities use Internet of Things (IoT) devices and sensors to gather and analyse information across infrastructure. This helps city authorities to intelligently manage their assets, increase efficiencies, revolutionise transport, reduce costs and, in theory, enhance overall quality of life for residents. For fleets, there is a huge potential upside: with connected infrastructure, drivers will be able to receive and send an unprecedented amount of data to make their job easier and be more efficient.

There are two key technologies that are powering smarter cities. First is the next generation of data transfer speeds. 5G offers continued technological advancements for IoT solutions, such as extraordinarily high speeds, lower latency and massive scalability. This can deliver dramatically quicker data movement from one point to another, which means data can be collected, processed and analysed faster than ever before.

Sensors are the second piece to the puzzle. Smart cities are powered by an intelligent network of sensors that collect and transmit data that is used to gather insights and information. Today, sensors are around the size of a hockey puck (or smaller), and tomorrow, they could be the size of a speck of dust, invisible to the human eye. The sensors can be placed all along our roads and can interact with people’s connected devices such as mobile phones or fitness trackers, to transmit information on our road networks and infrastructure. 

The benefits for fleets

For commercial fleets, an intelligent network of sensors and live data can be used in a variety of ways to help increase driver safety and productivity. While technology already exists to monitor acceleration, braking and other driver behaviours, imagine how safety could be advanced when combined with additional data points from IoT devices. For example, sensors can be used to monitor weather and road conditions to provide updates on potential danger points, in near-real time. This could be used to help drivers avoid stretches of road with black ice or other hazards. It could also help managers with compliance processes and risk mitigation. In addition, local authorities could use the data to assess the condition of the roads to help prioritise maintenance activities and keep roads in good condition. 

Sensors can also notify drivers of increased traffic on the roads and help with smarter routing, helping to cut journey times. Data from sensors and user data could also be integrated with machine learning processes to help transit authorities better calibrate traffic light schedules, lane allocations and variable speed limits – all based on traffic demand, weather conditions and other key factors. Finding parking spaces will also be a thing of the past as sensors can alert drivers when spaces are free. Less time finding a space can reduce idling, cut down pollution and fuel consumption.  

Improving city planning

Cities the world over are starting to adopt a ‘smart city approach.’ The town of Alba Iulia in Romania has recently been used as a test-bed for a large number of smart city pilot projects, many of which aimed at testing how smart cities can help manage vehicle traffic. Image sensors around the city are used to monitor traffic flow, volume and density to help city planners understand particular pain points for drivers and inform future infrastructure development projects. Moreover, a number of air quality monitoring stations are being used to detect levels of pollution and identify particular contaminants in the air, providing an overview of the city’s carbon footprint and helping to promote public health. In Barcelona, it is being used to make decisions for the city’s buses, allowing authorities to optimise routes and schedules based on accurate, live data. In Singapore, the concept is being embraced even further, with many municipal institutions using IoT sensors to improve public transport performance, publicise vacant car parks to citizens and provide up-to-date levels information on flood levels, amongst many other things. Singapore also has Robocars, one of the first public trials of self-driving cars for consumers.

These are just early examples of a how smart city approach will help governments and city planners understand how transport infrastructure is used and make better infrastructure decisions for the future. Better infrastructure combined with smarter route planning powered by smart cities will make cities more accessible for vehicle fleets – meaning more time on the open road and less time stuck in traffic.

Supercharging fleets with IoT and MRM

Businesses need a software platform that will allow them to tap into all the new information provided by smart cities. That’s where Mobile Resource Management (MRM) comes in. MRM is the technology that helps fleet managers and operations directors connect all the dots, allowing all constituents of a fleet to communicate and interact with data sources to gain near real-time insights. MRM uses mobile and the cloud to connect an organisation from the front line to the back end – and all the individuals involved between – to enable businesses to optimise their operations. By navigating the new smart cities with MRM, fleets can become safer and more efficient, delivering greater results for customers and the enterprise.

Sergio Barata, General Manager EMEA, Verizon Connect