Smart urban sensors become ubiquitous

The number of Internet of Things (IoT) devices worldwide is forecast to almost triple from 8.74 billion in 2020 to more than 25.4 billion units in 2030. IoT devices are used in all types of industry verticals and consumer markets, and Smart Cities have seen a mass proliferation in recent years.

As we know, nowadays cities leverage smart urban sensors to extensively collect data and manage their infrastructure, power and water networks, essential public services, and more. Recent ABI Research report took a position on the most relevant trends to happen in 2022 and confirmed smart urban sensors are on their way to ubiquity, as the number of use cases where IoT can offer added value is multiplying.

Emerging sensor-based solutions include automated traffic management at intersections, people density and flow tracking for Covid-19 distancing, air quality monitoring, advanced public security applications featuring mobile surveillance and gunshot detection. However, IoT deployments in smart cities are still primarily aimed at efficiency improvements and cost savings, sustainability and decarbonization.

Following the hype of COP26 event in Glasgow, sustainability and carbon neutrality will be a pressing challenge for cities. The EU’s Green Deal and pledges from cities and governments across the globe will raise the bar for cities, that naturally stand on the front line in suffering the effects of climate change and trying to mitigate them.

Key smart urban sensors applications such as smart lighting, smart waste, or smart parking will continue to drive investments in 2022, says ABI Research. Much of their momentum is due to both the increasing range of high-performance sensor technologies and the emergence of powerful edge AI compute, with the opportunity of unlocking more value from captured data and enabling predictive intelligence.

Despite the increase in popularity of circular economy models, analysts fear there will be no measurable progress in the next 12 months. The principle is yet in the very early stages of development, so it would probably require more time to pick up any relevant large-scale result.

But ABI Research points out another interesting trend: city governments are now waking up to the real possibility of smart urban sensors data monetization. What is this about? It relates to the possibility to leverage data generated by connected devices and applications to design new revenue streams for cities, much needed in the post Covid-19 era.

The background for any data monetization program is the availability of a perfectly safe and accountable urban infrastructure, where data are fully transferrable and assignable (and blockchain technology can be the answer to this).

A platform such as PE Smart Urban Network allows data generated by urban devices to be shared and tokenized, hence transformed in tradeable assets. This means data streams can be easily sold and bought through a secure digital marketplace. Parking-related data can be used for instance to design mobile apps to check free car lots in real time, reserve and pay them via smartphone; live environmental data can be leveraged to monitor the impact of traffic-mitigation measures and dynamically manage restricted traffic zones; and so on. Start ups and local businesses might design and provide applications mashing-up different data to create their own services.

Smart urban sensors are ubiquitous – and cities are learning how to leverage them not only to improve efficiency and sustainability, but also to generate revenues to fund innovation and future growth.

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