How can we use IOT to make cities more energy efficient?

Here we provide some specific details of what one city is doing to become smart.  We look at Copenhagen, because they have gone further than most cities who have made this a goal.  The main goal is to save energy, both to save money and reduce carbon emissions. But the city also wants to improve quality of life and attract businesses and skilled labor. 


Copenhagen is a city that has seized on the definition of a smart city as a whole.  They have built a city-wide Wi-FI to power IoT, deployed sensors, built a big data platform, and launched a software and engineering initiative.  So they have embraced the IoT vision of a smart city in its most expansive definition.


Read Some Examples of Smart Cities


CopenHagen Smart City

Copenhagen says the goal of Copenhagen Smart City is to become carbon neutral, attract businesses, and improve quality of life.  All three of these things together drive down energy costs and carbon emissions.  The whole nation of Denmark is already out in front with regards to Green initiatives even with systems that you would not necessarily characterize as smart.  Denmark is a big user of wind power.  And Copenhagen is using the cold waters of the ocean both for cooling and heating houses and businesses.


This city of 1.3 million people has deployed intelligent lighting and transportation systems, put sensors in waste bins to manage the collection of garbage and recycling, and installed sensors in the water system to help with flood control. 


To do this, they have embraced the public-private partnership model to invite vendors and entrepreneurs to contribute to and tap into data in their big data cloud as well as joined European wide initiatives that provide funding for pilot projects.   And the city has built a lab where vendors can demonstrate and test their ideas.


Much of the system is based on RFID sensors and the citywide Wi-FI.  They have attached RFID sensors onto vehicles, bikes, baby carriages, and more and use triangulation from the Wi-Fi transmitters to track those in order to reduce congestion, reduce theft, and make smart parking and transit systems.


Here we look deeper into the details of each of these initiatives.


Big Data Platform and the Copenhagen Solutions Lab

CopenHagen has worked with private vendors and public agencies to build the Open City Data Platform and Copenhagen Solutions Lab.  That makes monitoring weather, noise, waste, buildings, and other metrics easier by having one data standard and making it available to whoever needs it.  Working with Hitachi, they have build a Data Exchange where companies can sell data or download it for free.


For example, you can download parking data in JSON format.  And the lab is a laboratory where vendors and entrepreneurs can test their ideas.  It is also a gathering place where vendors, users, and government agencies can meet each other to find ideas and partners to work with.


The IoT Communications Layer

Copenhagen, Antwerp, and Helsinki have put out a call for proposals looking for vendors to help their build the Select for Cities IoT platform.  Their goal is to build what they call IoE (Internet of Everything). CopenHagen lists as a specific goal to integrate their IoT Mobility and Air Sensors Network.  HelSinki wants to improve remote care for diabetes patients.  And Antwerp is looking to manage traffic better.


The goal is to “... provide actionable insights for policy makers, city planners, domain experts and citizens.”  They specifically cite using the IoT data not just for day-to-day operations but use analytics to measure things like the improvement in air quality after implementing a green corridor on the roadway and predicting the impact on air quality when changing the speed limit.


Citywide Wi-FI

The current IoT system in Copenhagen is powered in large part by a free citywide Wi-Fi network.  It is both the IoT communication infrastructure and provides free Wi-Fi for tourists.  That second feature has the added advantage of boosting tourism.  The Wi-Fi devices collect data using triangulation and RFID tags, with 5 year batteries. The tags can be read up to 150 meters.


Traffic Management and Intelligent Transit

There are multiple initiatives aimed at traffic management and making public and private transportation smart.

 Making transport more energy efficient in cities


Copenhagen joined six other European cities in the 3 year EU sponsored Compass4D project.  That put sensors in vehicles and on the side of the road.  The system monitors red light violations, road hazards, and intersections.  For example, a vehicle knows when the traffic light in front of them is going to change.  This avoids stopping unnecessarily, thus saving fuel.  The system also helps coordinate lights and signs to move heavy trucks and emergency service vehicles more efficiently.  The system was built by Siemens, Volvo, Hyundai, and dozens of other vendors.  EU funding ended in 2015 but solution remains in place.


Other transit systems monitor congestion and parking spaces.  They monitor the movement of people and bicycles too.  This helps with crowd control at public events.  And it allows for dynamic pricing for parking meters and tolls.  A cell phone app lets motorists filter routes by weather, noise, roadwork, speed, pollution, and events.  And in a city with so many bikes, it makes biking safer.  When a bikers approached an intersection, the system turns off the right turn light for vehicles.


Analytics too is an important component.  The data gathered by the sensors and the actions taken by meters and signals lets the city calculate car hours saved, reduced bike thefts, liters of fuel saved, CO2 reduction, and even calculate the impact on tourism.  And the data models find correlations between events taken by the intelligent systems and their impact on those data metrics, thus allowing predictive models.


Smart Water Defense

Being so close to sea level, Copenhagen floods when it rains.  So they have deployed sensors in pumping stations.  That shows which areas are flooded and then alerts motorists via signage.


A Platform for Growth

With the infrastructure in place and the project to expand the IoT communications layer, Copenhagen will become even smarter as ideas and use cases come from public-private partnership in the Copenhagen Solutions lab.


Read Some Examples of Smart Cities