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Towards a sensors infrastructure

Lamp posts may become host of sensors creating a city wide sensors infrastructure. Credit: ATT – image credit CMDA Atlanta

Sensors are becoming ubiquitous and they are being deployed by the thousands every day. Each of these sensors is able to detect a specific parameter of its surrounding and they are deployed with a specific goal in mind by an interested party.

Although a city already has tens of thousands sensors (actually a more reasonable figure for a 1 million city inhabitants would be in the order of 100+ million sensors – each smartphone has 10+ sensors, each car has 100+ sensors, each home has 100+ sensors, …), these are not forming an infrastructure since each one is not related to the others. Yes, they are all (most) connected or connectable to the internet but this connection does not lead to a real infrastructure where data are being shared.

This is the real goal for the next decade. Transforming individual sensing point into a tapestry providing the pulse of the city.

ATT at CES 2018 has announced a “smart city sensor system” to monitor structures like bridges and constructions able to detect strain and cracks.  This follows the announcement made in January 2017 of the availability of sensors nodes that can piggy back on lamp posts. Since the 2017 announcement a few cities have started deploying the nodes, as an example San Diego has deployed over 3,200 of them in 2017.
Municipalities, clearly, are major players in creating this sensors infrastructure, however my feeling is that the most effective way for making this happen is not through the deployment of sensors and sensors hubs, as the one proposed by ATT, rather to created a conducive ecosystem where this infrastructure emerges.

More specifically this requires creating a citizens culture of being active participants in the city evolution and life (hence sharing their sensors data that are by far outnumbering all the others -smartphones, cars, homes…) and by providing a regulatory framework that creates trust ensuring privacy and ownership.

These cannot be guarantee by legislation only, you need to have technology supporting it, but technology without appropriate legislation is not going anywhere.

This is something we will be discussing at the IEEE World Forum on IoT in Singapore on February 6th, 2018. Don’t miss the opportunity of joining in and have your saying contributing to the future of our cities. We will be discussing not theory but practice, starting from what is being done in cities like Trento, Malaga and many others experimenting with the FIWare Platform, looking at how EIT Digital is working to deploy smart innovation in the city scape harvesting the strength of scale ups.

About Roberto Saracco

Roberto Saracco fell in love with technology and its implications long time ago. His background is in math and computer science. He's currently the Chair of the Symbiotic Autonomous Systems Initiative of IEEE-FDC. Until April 2017 he led the EIT Digital Italian Node and up to September 2018 he was the Head of the EIT Digital Industrial Doctoral School. Previously, up to December 2011, he was the Director of the Telecom Italia Future Centre in Venice, looking at the interplay of technology evolution, economics and society. At the turn of the century he led a World Bank-Infodev project to stimulate entrepreneurship in Latin America. He is a senior member of IEEE where he leads the Industry Advisory Board within the Future Directions Committee. He teaches a Master course on Technology Forecasting and Market impact at the University of Trento. He has published over 100 papers in journals and magazines and 14 books. He writes a daily blog,  http://sites.ieee.org/futuredirections/category/blog/, with commentary on innovation in various technology and market areas.

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