Now that most people live in cities, urban areas are the de facto laboratories of the future.
Cities drive innovation because of their swelling populations, professional networks, and perhaps most important, the richness of data they offer. Information is everywhere, and the challenge is how everyday activities can be captured and translated into actionable insights. City planners and technologists have long grappled with the tricky issue of rolling out data-collection systems across an entire metropolis.
Recently, however, we’ve achieved a major breakthrough. CityIQ intelligent nodes, the product of collaboration between General Electric and Intel, transform simple streetlights into powerful data collection terminals. These are already capable of amassing a wide range of information by attaching cameras, sensors, and microphones to ordinary streetlights.
We know that the CityIQ intelligent nodes can collect a wide variety of information, providing hyperlocal seismic detection, weather monitoring, emergency response, gunshot detection, and traffic monitoring. But we’ve only scratched the surface of what these systems can do.
San Diego, already a pioneer in smart streetlighting with plans to build the largest known urban sensor program in the world, is exploring how the creativity of citizens can realize even more value from this powerful new technology. Co-sponsored by Intel, the San Diego Smart City Hackathon in June tasked entrepreneurs and developers with concepting new applications to take advantage of streetlight data, drawing on real CityIQ datasets and GE Intelligent Cities APIs.
The first-place team put forward an app to help aspiring small business owners find the most suitable store locations. The other top teams also had ingenious ideas: The second-place team proposed an app to identify and report drunk drivers; the third-place team suggested an app to optimize parking.
Intel and GE supported this and other hackathons, such as the recent Minds + Machines event in Berlin, to support data sharing. Bringing cities online will support entire ecosystems of innovation, opening the door for new businesses. An investment in streetlight systems pays dividends by increasing economic activity. The upside is mind-boggling: A 2014 study by consulting firm Frost & Sullivan estimated that smart cities will be worth $1.6 trillion by 2020.
As more information is collected by smart streetlights, it’s critical the data is secure. That’s why the systems use Intel’s edge processing technology and GE’s Predix platform protects data as it moves from the streetlamp to the cloud. Intel’s security-focused hardware ensures that all data is safely stored, processed, aggregated, and transmitted. The Predix operating system is already being used in other high-security networks, such as nuclear power plants and healthcare facilities.
Cities grow organically, each according to its own unique character. While the smart lighting systems stem from something universal–the need for safe, bright public spaces–there is no roadmap for where they might lead us. Instead, they open innumerable possibilities for smart cities around the globe. Armed with data, we can start building the cities we’ve always dreamed of.