Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Smart City and Internet of Things – Makes Life Simple Yet Bling

Smart City and Internet of Things – Makes Life Simple Yet Bling

Anmol Sharma
Software Engineer, NIIT Technologies
Email: anmolksharma@gmail.com

              Copyright ©ICICCT-2016.     
           
Submitted for - International Conference on Information, Communication and Computing Technology (ICICCT-2016)

ABSTRACT

Our life has been deeply affected by technology, albeit in a positive way. Technology has not only made life simpler for us but also provided innovative ways to deal with our day to day problems. As they say, that ’Beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder’, just like that in a similar way, the way any the technology can be implemented in various forms that are useful for different sectors of society. It totally depends on the way any technology enthusiast would like to use it, the way one perceives it. The overall purpose of technology is not mere advancement, but to solve real-world problems. Any technology results in innovation, the moment it provides a solution to an existing problem and makes lives of people simpler. Every once in a while, a new technology knocks our door and affects our lives in an ever-changing way.

Smart city and Internet of Things are two buzz word in the tech world these days. Both of the concepts are equally simple and complex. A lot has been discussed by leading tech innovators around the globe about these concepts. Smart city and internet of things are two interrelated cohesive technologies whose purpose is to bring technological advancement to each and every routine task that we do in our day to day life. In other words, Smart City and Internet of Things brings technology to a whole new level spanning across everything that we come across. For any layman, it can be easily inferred from the terms ‘Smart City and Internet of Things’ is that it is   a people centric technology and improve the lives of the people around the globe.

In the following paper, the concept of Smart City and Internet of Things will be thoroughly described, a sample work is done in the field of actualizing the concept of ‘Internet of Things and Smart City’ by the author and his associates will be presented along with future scope the technology will vary across the dimensions of 21st century.

KEYWORDS

Smart City, Internet of Things, Innovation, Smart Meters, Real Time, Network, Connectivity, Electricity, Power Consumption


INTRODUCTION

The term ‘Internet of Things’ was first coined by British technology enthusiast and entrepreneur Kevin Ashton while working in his research group ‘Auto-ID Labs’ on radio-frequency identification (RFID) and emerging sensing technologies in the year 1999. Originally he was referring to a global network of Radio-frequency identification connected objects in his lab. Slowly the term was globally accepted as an upcoming trend in the world of technology. To simplify the meaning of ‘Internet of Things’, let’s break it into individual words. The word ‘Internet’ as we all know is the global system of interconnected computer networks that use the Internet protocol suite TCP/IP to link billions of computer devices worldwide. The word ‘Thing’ as in general usage means any object, entity or being. In relation to ‘Internet of Things’, the word ‘Thing’ includes every possible object that can be connected to the internet and interact with each other. Combining both we can define Internet of Things as the network of physical objects which are equipped with software, sensors and network connectivity which allows these objects to connect with similar objects and exchange information and data with each other.

Smart City is another tech buzz word that was coined at the beginning of the year 2007 by Professor Rudolf Giffinger, Vienna University of Technology in order to point out an urban development which is more dependent on technology and connectivity. Smart city demands the integration of technology with every aspect of life in a town. A smart city is the effective integration of physical, digital and human systems in an environment to deliver sustainable, prosperous and technological advance future of its citizens. Going by formal definition, a smart city makes use of information and communication technology that improves the connectivity between citizens and various entities like service providers, Government, etc. On a large scale, many sectors are covered in smart city concept including Electricity and power management, transport & traffic management, water & agriculture management and various other sectors.

Smart city promotes real-time connectivity, so does Internet of Things. And that’s where the amalgamation of both takes place. The merger of two concepts - smart city and internet of things take the advancement at all new level because of the uniting of the two techs, we are able to visualize future much better and also implement better solutions of the problems that can be answered with the help of technology considering both the sectors.

In the next section of this paper, we will provide a solution to a real world existing problem that uses and promotes the concepts of Smart City and Internet of Things. The solution – ‘iVidyut’ that will be further described in the paper was an academic project done by the author of this text (Anmol Sharma) and his academic associates (Steve Naupuni & Ratnesh Saxena).


SUBTITLES

The amalgamation of Internet of Things and Smart City helps in widening the horizon where the solution approach could be applied. Not only this will result in much broader coverage of technology but will also allow innovators to work in two related yet separate fields. It is very important to note that these two technological concepts cannot exist without the backbone i.e. Information and communications technology. ICT is an extension of the term Information Technology (IT). Though information technology is the major prime component through which the devices will be composed of including the software and sensors but it will be the Communications technology that will bring the devices to life and help them connect with each other. In the absence of connectivity, all devices are of no use and they cannot perform their intended tasks without connecting to each other. For a very basic example, just consider a PC without internet connectivity. No matter how advance its processor might be, if it can’t connect to the internet, its capabilities can never be actualized.

For the concept of Smart City and Internet of Things to bloom, the existence of strong wireless technology is mandatory. The telecommunication network should be strong enough to provide seamless connectivity. Usually, put as ‘Unified Communications’ that makes real-time communication possible. Real-time communication is the most vital component for the successful deployment of techniques based on Smart City and Internet of Things concepts. Unified communication in a general sense describes the integration of real-time communication services like instant message services, Voice calling over Internet, audio/video conferencing through various devices, desktop screen sharing etc. Unified communication is not a single product on its own, but dependent and combination of various existing services and infrastructure that makes real-time communications possible. Unified communications and communication technology is essential for exchange of data between devices and the devices further convert that data into meaningful information. Though as per the concept and architecture of unified communication technology, it promotes real-time live communication and exchange of data/messages but it can also serve as a server of exchange for non-real time message when either of devices is not connected at any moment or unavailable due to scheduled down-time and outage.

The amalgamation of the concept of smart city and internet of things brings convenience to people. It results in maximum automation. Just for an example, imagine you scheduled your washing machine to wash your clothes and while washing, suddenly the washer motor malfunctions. In today's scenario, the machine is rendered useless until the user manually contacts the repair guy to visit and bring the machine to a workable stage. With Internet of Things in practice, the washing machine is just not a standalone object, it has a sensor, a software and a communication wireless device that can detect failure and ability to connect to a network and register the issue with the concerned persons and the service personnel’s knocks the door to rectify machine on priority even before the user of the machine knows about the failure.

Or just take another example of a refrigerator, you have just made a solution for homemade ice-cream and then put it in the refrigerator to allow it to freeze. In current scenario you will mostly check by 3-4 hours’ time to see if it has frozen properly and if it hasn’t, you will let it be in there for a couple of more hours to let the job complete. Now let technology take its course and let the refrigerator send a personal message to the user that the ice cream is fully prepared.

In layman’s term, internet of things makes devices stay connected to each other and allow them to communicate with their users in every possible way. Yes, the machines too now can speak. The implementation of the internet of things on a wider scale promotes the smart city concept.

Now let us discuss further a real life problem and its elaborate solution being worked academically. The most important component of our day to day lives is electricity. Without electricity, nothing is possible. No matter how advanced gadgets and electrical appliances you may have but all are rendered useless without electricity. Electricity is the lifeline for everyone. Have you ever thought of having a control over your home's electricity supply? All that you can do now is to use electricity judiciously, switch off unnecessary appliances, pay bills, and repeat. Surprisingly we don’t have a real-time control over electricity.

Let’s bring the concept of smart city and internet of things together and propose a solution to this problem
In this section, we will describe a real world problem and the proposed solution that works on the concept of Internet of Things and Smart city.

Every once in a while, a revolutionary technology comes along that changes everything. A technology which eases the burden on human-kind. The automatic meter reading (AMR) or smart meters is a technology that is based on ‘Internet of Things’ and ‘Smart City’ will be beneficial for every individual of the country who has an electricity connection in his/her house and a Smartphone.

The author along with friends (Steve Naupuni & Ratnesh Saxena) has developed “iVidyut” -  a prototype of an android mobile application which will retrieve real-time electricity consumption data from the electricity department’s database right on the mobile device of the consumer and offer various other utilities including bill payments, setting alerts etc.

In the past, we had electromechanical meters which were low in accuracy, no communication system, poor theft detection and no remote controlling scope. Right now we have the digital solid state meters which are high in accuracy, have a facility of communication & theft detection at the node level. It still doesn't offer a remote monitoring& automatic meter reading scope.
And the future is smart meters which will be implemented throughout the country very soon and especially metro cities like Delhi will be the first one to get smart meters.
IBM & Tata Power Limited has also tied up for implementing smart grid & smart meters. The App is in prototype stage which will be fully functional once it is supported by required hardware and infrastructure. .

The concept of real-time electricity monitoring promotes ‘Smart City’ in a town as it allows the residents of the city to have full control over their electricity consumption.

 Smart meters basically have an inbuilt GSM modem which sends the near real-time electricity consumption data to the database of the electricity company, for an example the state electricity board via existing cellular GSM infrastructure & mobile service provider, for an example BSNL.

Along with real-time monitoring, iVidyut offers various other utilities like allowing users to set alerts to control monthly electricity consumption, bill payment right from the app, estimated consumption calculator, newsletter, contact information, tips & tricks and more…

The Application developed is unique in the sense that no such application exists till date for this purpose by any electricity board in India. As soon as the implementation of smart meters is done, electricity board can provide the app to the consumers and then it will be very easy and convenient for the consumers to get the near real-time statistics of the electricity consumption.

FUNCTIONALITY OF THE APPLICATION

  • Along with real-time monitoring of electricity units consumption, iVidyut offers Various utilities including the bill payment from the mobile application, an energy calculator through which we can estimate the units & cost on running an appliance for a specific period of time in a month.
  •  Energy tips module which offers consumers tips and tricks on energy conservation, safety        tips, and various other related information in a user-friendly manner.
  • Grievance and complaints section provides handy information regarding the contact numbers of concerned electricity departments for handling complaints like no supply, fire and safety issues, street light etc.
  • The billing module will allow consumers to pay bills right from their mobiles by selecting their location & concerned service providers. Payment gateway could be implemented in the future versions of the app as soon as it is implemented by a particular service provider. The app can also be used by multiple electricity boards for the payment of bills.
  • The alerts module will allow users to set alerts on the basis of units consumed weekly, twice in a week, thrice in a week or monthly. The alerts module has a dedicated button to switch on/off alerts.
  • The newsletter module lets the user view latest tariff rates and  consumer-centric information like consumer meets, offers and other latest happenings in the industry for the benefits of the users.
  • Last we have the about us module which has the details of developers and their contact information including website & email address.

Right now the application is made as trial and initial apk is available for the android platform. This concept will enhance the user experience in such a manner that right at home the user will get the near real-time monitoring of  the app and such in case the app will be developing the name of the consumer number according to the customer’s consumer account number. Other utilities will make unforgettable user experience & build a strong healthy relationship between the company and consumers. Can you imagine switching on and switching off your home’s electricity supply from your smartphone? Yes, that’s possible. And all this is made possible with the concept of ‘Internet of Things’ and ‘Smart City’.

This technology can be implemented by any electricity board in any city once the smart meters along with required infrastructure becomes functional. The mobile application can be made available to all the consumers of a particular electricity board for example if Delhi becomes the first city to have the smart meter installed for its consumers then the app could be implemented for the consumers right away.


CONCLUSION

In the era of information technology, mobility, connectivity and being ‘smart’ are the buzz words. The aim of technology has to make the life of people simple, convenient & technologically advanced by providing such facilities to the people. The concept of ‘Internet of things’ and ‘Smart Cities’ makes new idea possible in unique ways that have high business value as well.


FUTURE SCOPE

The technology ‘Internet of Things’ has tremendous potential in changing the lives of human beings. When united with advance infrastructural concepts of ‘Smart City’, a plethora of opportunities are available and doors of innovation open. With the promotion of initial prototype ideas laid down by tech enthusiasts and support of tech communities along with the contribution from Government and private tech sectors, the days are not far when we would be able to justify the advancement of technology that actually defines the 21st century.


REFERENCES

[1] Wikipedia, IBM and Tata Power websites
[2] http://www.tribuneindia.com/news/comment/smart-cities-require-smartplanning/43739.html.

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