Smart home, city, generic
Innovative IoT solutions are the future Image Credit: Pixabay

The term “smart city” has been bandied around for over a decade, and not without good reason. Smart cities are an attainable representation of what we can achieve by realising the full potential of the internet of Things (IoT). Championed by innovative IoT solutions and “low power wide area network” technologies, we can look forward to a better quality of life, thanks to connected devices facilitating enhanced convenience in every aspect of our lives.

Supporting such a connectivity is Artificial Intelligence (AI), by bridging the barriers between the physical and digital world. We now not only have the power but the potential to change every aspect of our lives, including manufacturing, transport and energy efficiency.

Manufacturers are tackling an increasingly competitive market by harnessing IoT-enabled smart manufacturing. Those behind the manufacturing process are always looking for ways to do things better, faster and more cost-effectively. By providing full visibility of assets, processes, resources and products, business operations can be streamlined, productivity boosted, and RoI (return on investment) amplified.

The formula is simple. By connecting equipment, integrating diverse industrial data, and securing industrial systems for the entire lifespan of the equipment, manufacturers can look forward to reduced waste and faster production, while improving yield and quality of goods produced.

The once tedious process of collecting data is a thing of the past. Factory managers can automatically collect and analyse data to make better-informed decisions. With enhanced capabilities, including remote monitoring, operators can now manage processes and change production plans quickly, and in real-time as needed.

The changes are not only evident on the factory floor. A truly smart manufacturing operation is one that replaces the hierarchical structure, historically defined as the “shop floor”, with an open, flatter, fully-interconnected model. We can now look forward to a tangible link between R&D processes and supply chain management.

The benefits of harnessing technology extend well beyond the gates of factories to the products themselves and ultimately, those who use them.

A truly connected smart product is able to feed information back to the factory, so that quality issues can be detected and fixed at the earliest stage by adjusting product design and manufacturing processes. Smart products can also provide valuable insights on how they are actually used by consumers, enabling adaptation of features and capabilities to best meet consumer demands in a highly competitive marketplace.

The added agility can reap rewards, including faster and better production and a more well-received product.

Does all this mean that the need for humans in the manufacturing process is a thing of the past? Hardly. The level of automation that AI has to offer doesn’t necessarily make humans redundant but, on the contrary, it will revolutionise our approach to solution design and problem solving.

Alongside manufacturers, the energy industry is also on track to leveraging this technology. The automotive industry is hot on the heels of the revolution. Improved infrastructure, efficiency, convenience and quality of life are just a few of the rewards to be reaped as cities work towards developing their very own smart city road maps.

Smart energy

A heightened demand for energy is driving a need for more efficient management. While the demand in our homes is on the rise, the number of devices that we use on a daily basis in on the rise too. However, there are other key aspects of daily life that are dictating our relationship with energy.

Smart energy is an integral part of smart city projects, crucial to delivering more efficient and reliable power. Global expansion of smart energy projects will result in a truly smart power network, a fusion of traditional and sustainable resources, and one that does not place a strain on a low carbon economy.

Today’s highly successful smart grids have become comprehensive IoT networks with millions of connected meters that share massive real-time data about people, businesses and their energy consumption. The insight enables consumers to save on energy bills and utilities and helps energy players to better balance supply and demand.

It is also crucial information to help integrate renewable energy sources. Regional utilities are accelerating the implementation of smart meters as consumers seek better insights into their consumption at a time when every drop counts due to increasing user tariffs and subsidy reforms.

Smart meters are becoming an industry standard and deployments are growing. At the same time, renewable energy sources are on the rise. Governments, manufacturers and private citizens are joining the energy marketplace as they deploy solar and wind installations, while the spread of electric vehicles and next generation car batteries provide new means of energy storage.

We are in the midst of an exciting smart energy transformation where the IoT is enabling compelling new business models that support an increasingly complex energy infrastructure.

Transport of tomorrow

A city-free from congestion, emissions and accidents? This is the reality of autonomous vehicles in the not so distant future. Permanently connected cars are here, and they are redefining how cars are built, driven and owned.

Smart cars are at the very epicentre of smart, connected cities with their emission-free engines and ability to spot congestion and locate nearby public transport.

At the heart of the connected car is the digitalisation of driving through a network of computers and sensors. With data gathering and processing at the very core of the technology, we have evolved from in-car and smartphone GPS to an increasingly sophisticated system where we can find out where the nearest empty parking bay is available.

With connectivity at the core of everyday life, we can look forward to doing so much more. All the time getting better, faster, and more efficient whether at home, the workplace, or on the road. That, is the smart city revolution.

Sherry Zameer is Senior Vice-president, Mobile Services & IoT, CIS, Middle East and Africa at Thales.