How the Internet of Things for Smart Cities is Revolutionizing Transportation

The Internet of Things (IoT) is the concept of physical objects that are connected to the internet. They generate data to make our lives easier. Think about a handheld device that you can control with your voice to do things like lock the doors to your house, turn your lights off, or run the dishwasher. Now, imagine the technological possibilities of the Internet of Things for smart cities: self-driving cars, automated traffic lights that can adjust to traffic volume, and surveillance systems. Those are just some of the amazing possibilities that technology is making reality today in the world’s smartest cities.

Smart cities use the Internet of Things to collect and analyze data. This data is used to improve infrastructure, public utilities, service, and more. We're going to talk about the things that the IoT can do for smart cities when it comes to transportation. You might be surprised at how much it can do!

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Internet of Things for Smart Cities: Mobility as a Service (MaaS)

One way that smart cities are using the Internet of Things is to improve transportation and mobility. Mobility as a Service (MaaS) is a shift away from personally owned or operated modes of transportation toward shared mobility systems. Think of services like Car2Go or Barcelona's bike sharing program Bicing. These are becoming increasingly popular in major cities around the world. With a simple smartphone app, users can unlock cars or bikes and use them as needed for a small fee (or in some cases for free) within the bounds of a geographical area.

A great example of technology at work is the rail industry in Japan. A Japanese railway company recently introduced a congestion visualization system on its trains. The system lets dispatchers get data about congestion and train delays in real time. For passengers, they can receive similar information via a smartphone app. The system works continuously so that passengers can choose to take less crowded trains, and train operators can increase train frequency on particularly crowded lines. The improved service should encourage commuters to choose light rail as opposed to taking a personal vehicle, thereby decreasing pollution and potential for accidents in the streets.

Transportation Hubs

Another way the Internet of Things and Mobility as a Service are working to promote sustainability and smarter cities is with the creation of transport hubs. Imagine the geographical area of a city, with connection points around the perimeter. Here, self-driving trucks can deliver goods that will then be picked up by couriers riding bikes. All of this would operate on a shared grid system.

Google Maps is a great example of how this technology is being used in cities all around the world. Citizens can plug in their start and end points and receive a series of real-time options for travel. Many cities offer  bus, train and even flight schedules all in one place on a single device.

Using the Internet of Things for smart cities will also local administrations to crack down on problematic behavior. For instance, our own Public Transportation Fraud Detection allows transportation companies to see if a ticket is being used illegally using IoT technology in the ticket barriers. It can also predict hardware failures before they occur, thus allowing administrations to proactively deal with problems.

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Coming Soon...

The next step in Mobility as a Service will be smart ticketing options. Consumers will soon be able to use apps on their smart phone to purchase a single ticket that lets them use multiple modes of transportation. Imagine buying one ticket that allows you to access a bike, paddleboat, and a bus to cross a canal-strewn city - and quickly and cheaply. This technology can also be used to help companies provide timely and cost-effective delivery services in large congested cities. British food delivery company Deliveroo is a great example of this.

A new example of this technology is Switch, by transportation companies DemandTrans (USA) and Kyyti Group (Finland). This offers “an integrated multimodal mobility solution that allows [the consumer] to plan a route, compare the various mobility options and costs of different mobility services easily and safely from one application.”

The system works on Demand Responsive Transit application modules that an operating agency can use to provide a variety of service plan possibilities including single party taxies, and various public transportation options. The system is already operating in Finland where it has seen success, and is scheduled to launch in US smart cities this year.

There is also the potential to combine IoT technology to make our cities safer than ever. Imagine if you could turn every traffic light into a smart sensor. You could get valuable data about things like traffic, weather conditions, and accidents. Solutions like our own Traffic Fatalities Prevention can use this data to make the city safer for everyone.

An Exciting Future

According to the Shared Use Mobility Center in Chicago, Illinois, at this time in the United States alone there are 400 traditional carsharing services currently operating, more than 120 North American cities with bikesharing systems, and 300 cities with ride-sourcing or Transportation Network Companies (TNCs). Cities all over the world are looking to incorporate more and more IoT technologies to make their cities smarter than ever.

The Internet of Things for smart cities has completely revolutionized transportation and will continue increasingly to do so. We can't wait to see what advances the future holds.

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