November 2019

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IoT for the Greater Good

How Advances in Technology are Transforming Our World for the Better

Apurba Pradhan,
Vice President, Products and Marketing
Adesto Technologies

Figure 1

Among the many positive applications of the IoT are the way we work, communicate, protect and entertain ourselves.

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Hindsight, as the proverb suggests, is often 20/20. But what’s better than hindsight? Foresight--the ability to anticipate and prevent future problems as opposed to realizing how they could have been avoided after the fact. Foresight allows you to prepare for an event rather than merely applying the lessons learned from a past event the next time around.

With AI, big data and machine learning (ML), we now have the ability to process massive amounts of sensors and machine data faster than ever before. The means to analyze data quickly enables those in charge to identify potentially dangerous or costly situations and take action. That, in turn, gives us an unprecedented chance not only to improve upon existing procedures but to add something new: using data to predict future events and diagnose potential problems before they occur.  

So while the IoT cannot, for example, stop a natural disaster from happening, it can be used to warn citizens and broadcast instructions to their personal devices, guiding them on how to best proceed when a disaster is about to strike. All of which fits nicely into the three-pronged approach experts recommend for disaster management: mitigating the potential damage, ensuring immediate and suitable assistance to the victims, and promoting effective and rapid recovery.

In this way, too, IoT can compensate for a poor infrastructure that leaves developing and emerging countries exposed to the risks of natural disasters with limited means to lessen their effects. According to a World Bank study1, more than 95 percent of all deaths caused by disasters occur in developing countries.

IoT technology can be applied to various kinds of disasters: microwave sensors can be used to measure earth movements before and during earthquakes, and infrared sensors can detect and measure floods. Gas sensors on trees can take measurements that indicate when a fire has broken out or alert that there is a strong risk of one as determined by temperature, moisture, CO2 and CO levels.

Faster response

Connected devices and network technology can also help disaster relief teams respond more quickly and more effectively. Traditionally, public safety officials have relied on dispatchers to alert them of active emergency situations. Unfortunately, the information they relay might not always be complete, and first responders may lack the necessary knowledge before arriving. To solve this, cities need a way to give public safety officials the means to better assess emergencies, reduce response time and deploy the appropriate agencies to respond.

Figure 2 

In a smart city, interconnected technology can work seamlessly to improve public safety, transportation, energy efficiency, and economic development

The emergence of smart city technologies encompassing big data, IoT and distributed sensors allows cities and public safety agencies to transform emergency response. In so doing, the systems put in place can also improve outcomes across every aspect of city operations and enhance the services government can offer to its residents.

The need to use smart city tools is being driven by an undeniable trend toward urbanization. Today, 55% of the world’s population lives in urban areas, a proportion that is expected to increase to 68% by 20502. Projections show that urbanization, the gradual shift in residence of the population from rural to urban areas, combined with the overall growth of the world’s population could add another 2.5 billion people to urban areas by 2050, with close to 90% of this increase taking place in Asia and Africa, according to a United Nations study3.

IoT devices are becoming part of a smart city infrastructure that can combat the strain of city growth, from traffic control to environmental issues. Smart parking garages have lights that turn on only when a car approaches, and also alert drivers to available parking spaces. Smart traffic signals organize traffic flow based on the number of vehicles and pedestrians. Smart buildings use motion sensors to dim or shut off lights when a room is empty and also enable efficient and comfortable temperature control. Smart water meters can alert maintenance of leaking pipes and also enable greater control of precious resources. Smart electric meters monitor energy use and alert officials when it reaches a specific threshold.

Smart streetlights, often the first smart technology to be deployed in urban areas, can save energy, lower operational costs and enhance the safety of city dwellers. In Copenhagen, for example, where nearly half of the commuters travel by bicycle, smart street lighting is a critical element of the city’s efforts to guarantee the well-being of its citizens.  Over three years, nearly 20,000 of the city’s outdoor lights—half of the total number—were replaced by LED luminaires and connected to a city-wide communication network to adjust lighting levels according to area, traffic and other identified needs. The new lighting network also offers opportunities to connect new services in the future, such as video protection cameras, noise and air quality sensors.

One of the most promising applications of smart city technology is traffic control. IoT sensors for traffic management can have a large impact on improving traffic flows and reducing congestion and pollution. In the City of Nanjing, China, there are about 10,000 taxicabs, 7,000 buses, and one million private cars running on the city’s road network. Nanjing has developed a smart traffic system that includes the use of sensors and radio-frequency identification (RFID) chips to generate continuous data streams about the status of transportation systems across the city. This data is combined with data on the travel behavior of individuals, road conditions, and area accessibility. The resulting data is transferred daily to the Nanjing Information Center, where it is analyzed, traffic flow patterns adjusted and updates sent to commuters via their smartphones.

[an error occurred while processing this directive]In Holland, the city of Tilburg has tested an app called CrossWalk, installed on a smartphone, that works together with GPS and traffic control software to give elderly and the disabled citizens more time to cross the street. A sensor in the traffic light monitors an intersection, and if it senses someone waiting when the button is pressed, the app can adjust the time allotted without causing significant delays in traffic flow (the developer, Dutch company Dynniq, says only pedestrians that really need it are given extra green time). Another version of the app detects visually impaired pedestrians and activates the ticking sounds that tell them it is safe to cross.

A network platform and the connectivity it provides form the foundation for any smart city. For instance, Harumi Flag is a residential compound being built on 18 hectares to serve as the Olympic Village for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. By 2024, a total of 5,632 privately-owned/rental flats will be completed in this area. Harumi will be a hydrogen-powered town with a full-scale hydrogen infrastructure system and a hydrogen generating station slated to be built near the town with pipelines installed in each block. The station will also supply hydrogen to the fuel cell vehicles of the city’s Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) services that local residents will use to commute to and from the center of Tokyo. A digital signage system will help communications throughout the town using the LAN that will stretch throughout Harumi Flag.

Smart Buildings

In smart cities, where systems like lighting and traffic control systems are in place, smart buildings will play a leading role to fully achieve the smart city status. Structures with sensor networks that can monitor electricity and water usage in real-time, track sustainability performance and interact with other parts of the municipal infrastructure will become the dominant species of the future smart city.

As facility managers increasingly understand the benefits of merging traditional building automation and control (BAC) systems with IoT-based sensing, communications and cloud technologies, the various systems of a building—fire protection, ventilation and climate control, lighting and security—will no longer do their jobs separately. In a smart building, the vision is for these systems to feed into a central control and communicate with each other and with the cloud, despite coming from multiple vendors and running multiple communications protocols.

Data collected and insights generated can then lead to reduced energy consumption and help improve public health and safety. An important side benefit of smart technology is that it makes buildings more attractive to tenants, which can result in lower vacancy rates.

With its SmartServer IoT edge server platform,  Adesto Technologies Corp., a leading provider of application-specific semiconductors and embedded systems for the IoT market, enables the development of smart buildings by integrating their systems’ multitude of non-interoperable communications protocols with new sensing, analytics and predictive AI services not available through traditional BAC systems.

By providing a single network platform that can support multiple applications and speeding IoT integration, Adesto makes it easy for customers to embrace their legacy environments, extend their edge devices and enhance their solutions through deep insights from cloud analytics platforms such as IBM Watson IoT Cloud and Microsoft Azure Cloud.

Echelon by Adesto

Benefits for All

In the IoT, sensors and devices work at the edge (the network entry point) to collect data. Networks send data collected to the cloud or to be processed closer to where it is created so that further analysis can be made to recognize patterns, anticipate needs and make more informed decisions.

Whether this analysis results in more efficient use of resources, better traffic flow, improved environmental quality and/or minimizing the risks of dangerous or disastrous events before they occur, one thing is clear: IoT technology can be used for the greater good: it can, at once, allow infrastructure to run more efficiently, reduce threats to public safety, enable facility managers to make smarter decisions and give city residents a better quality of life.

For more information about Adesto products and solutions including SmartServer IoT go


About the Author

Apurba Pradhan is Vice President of Products and Marketing for Adesto Technologies Corp., joining the company in 2018 through its acquisition of Echelon Corporation, where he was Head of Product Management. Previously, Pradhan held product and strategy positions with companies including LUMA Lighting Group, JDS Uniphase and Luxim Corporation.

Time to Insure Developing Countries Against Natural Disasters, World Bank 2017
2United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs 16 May 2018
3United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs 16 May 2018 


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