Less Trash, No Rats and Dry Clothes: The Value Proposition of the Internet of Things

“The Internet of Things (IoT) is an incredible development, perhaps one of the most technologically mind-boggling achievement of the last decade,” said ZincFive’s Pete Johnson at the ITS World Congress in Montreal earlier this month. “But if the power goes out what have you got? The Internet of No Things. Where’s the value in that?”

Johnson has a point – a point that was out there to be disproved by a panel of experts at INTERSECT17 primed and ready to discuss the role of IoT in the Smart City and pertinently, its value proposition. Joining GRIDSMART Chief Technology Officer Dr. Jeff Price were Zipit Wireless’ Vice President of Business Development Ralph Heredia and John Muhlner, Alliance Director for Sensity Systems, a Verizon company.

“It’s not really about smart cities,” said Price, “but smart communities. Communities need real world examples of how the Internet of Things can benefit their lives.”

Muhlner, describing Verizon as “deeply embedded in IoT” with the emphasis on strategic partnerships, cited one such real world example where the Internet of Things is making a difference to the daily lives of a community. In New York City, a number of municipal dumpsters have been fitted with IoT-enabled devices, allowing the receptacles to wirelessly report when they are overflowing and alert the waste management division of an imminent rat infestation.

“That’s not a Verizon solution,” he admitted, “but it’s a great example of how IoT can create a better environment for a community.”

Zipit’s Heredia had a solution that was as equally domestically rooted.

“The IoT-enabled home dryer is a good example. How often does your dryer make that encouraging beep that suggests that it’s dried your clothes but you open the door and find that they are still damp? You go back 20 minutes later and they are still damp. With an IoT-enabled dryer, it has the required intelligence to know what materials your load is made from and it only tells you that your washing is dry when it’s actually dry.”

Muhlner suggested, somewhat provocatively, that customers and in particular cities don’t really care how the solution works, just that it does, and that it’s compatible with other systems. “That’s where the true value lies.”

For Heredia it’s important to get the balance right when it comes to the use of the technology.

“To me it’s about platform consolidation. Communities need to figure out the best way to use the data, just as communities in Utah have done, as Carlos Braceras told us yesterday.” Do smart trash compactors need to be 5G-enabled? Of course not – Verizon’s new CATM1 network is designed for just those purposes.

If beauty is in the eye of the beholder then it can be said that smartness is, too. Heredia cited another example very close to home of how IoT is improving lives.

“My mother is 75 and doesn’t have a smartphone or a computer. She loves having photos of her grandkids so I bought her an IoT-enabled digital photo frame. I upload pictures of my kids onto it remotely from my phone so she regularly has new photos of them. To her, and to me, that’s a tangible value proposition of the Internet of Things.”

POLICYSMART #4 Privacy as a Product

The concept of privacy as a product – where the buyer of a product “opts out” of data collection for a price – is the subject of the new book “The Zero Dollar Car.”  The author, John Ellis, talks about how we are no longer in a “ship and forget” environment and what that means for transportation in an increasingly connected mobility world. Regina Hopper, GRIDSMART Technologies’ SVP of Global Public Policy, talks with John about the interesting new vocabulary and privacy questions intelligent transportation is creating.

The U.S. and the U.K.: Differences Lead to Learning Opportunities for Better Traffic Management

The transportation industry varies from country to country, and each system uses devices and systems differently, says Alistair Gollop, Technology Services Engineering Lead for Mott MacDonald. But the main point he wanted to make at INTERSECT17, is that we can learn from these differences in the overall goal to improve the efficiency of moving people and goods.

Having experienced traffic signal technology around the world, he sees that the United Kingdom (U.K.) often has difficulties because of constraints of history and space. This made them use signaling more flexibly. The United States has more space and less historical planning issues, which has led to the creation of much larger intersections, yet the parameters for them have been more fixed. Gollop says there is an opportunity for the U.S. to use the idea of flexible signaling like the U.K to get more throughput for the intersection but it would require Traffic Management Centers (TMCs) to use more holistic management systems.

He said many U.S. TMCs use multiple systems for different detection uses which requires more staff management and expertise. This current setup may not maximize the potential of each system, but if a city were to put it through a common master database that calculated all of the inputs and then delivered options to traffic managers, they would be able to make better decisions to alleviate traffic problems.

Security Prepping for a CV/CAV Future

The Intelligent Transportation industry continues to push forward into uncharted territory as professionals plan to implement and deploy connected and autonomous vehicles. It’s an exciting time if you think about the potential for saving 40,000 people a year with these lifesaving technologies, however, the panel all agreed, that everyone’s attention is on how to make these vehicles more cyber secure.

With recent headlines focused on semi and autonomous vehicles crashing, even though it’s often as the result of human error, legislators and the media are hyper focused on making these vehicles safe from hacking. Jason Goldman, Vice President of External Affairs & Stakeholder Engagement for the Intelligent Transportation Society of America (ITS America) said the number one issue he deals with on all fronts are fears of cybersecurity, but a big question is how we help communities stay ahead of this growing threat.

Will Summerlin, Chief Executive Officer of Pinn, said that current infrastructure and legacy systems were not always built with security in mind and that the Internet was built to be an open way to communicate, but that allows bad actors to infiltrate the systems. He believes that we are at a unique point in time where we can build both the car and the infrastructure that connects to it from the ground up with security as the main priority.

Cars right now are horribly exposed since the controller area network (CAN) bus was made externally accessible in 1997, says Dr. Robert Bridges, a Research Mathematician that works on vehicle security research at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. This is how high-profile professional security hackers have tested out their theories in the public spotlight. But he says data science can be used to help mitigate security risks by leveraging signals that are specific to each car and potentially installing fixed protocols into the vehicles.

Bryan Wells, Engineering Senior Manager at DENSO, stated that we need to be borrowing technologies from other industries like security certificates that banks use to keep money transactions safe. As we build these CAV systems we should look at predictive diagnostics as well as redundant systems that can detect when things are slightly off, and if that occurs, then a car can be placed into a certain standard mode that automatically seeks safety.

Summerlin followed that the parallel example is the aviation industry where all planes currently have redundant systems. As of right now, he isn’t aware of any catastrophic hacks to date, but because of past accidents, the airline industry has been heavily regulated by government which makes it horribly expensive.

While the costs of these connected and autonomous vehicle technologies and securities are very high now, over time, the panel agreed that they will come down. However, it still remains to be seen how much cost the insurance industry, OEMs and general public will be willing to bear for this ultimate safety.

The Importance of Policy as the Next Iteration of Transportation Evolves

Day 3 at INTERSECT17 focused on the future of transportation. In his morning keynote address, former Congressman Bob Walker spoke extensively about the importance of policy as the next iteration of transportation evolves. “Nowhere is it more important than in the arena of transportation. Policy has to reflect and it’s not doing so at the present time,” he said. “The regulatory structure in this time of change retards technology rather than advancing it and government is incapable of moving at the speed of technology.” Walker who was hugely influential as the chairman of the U.S. House Science Committee sees a confluence of technologies that all deserve space in the same conversation. “Drones are clearly having an impact. They were toys and now we understand their military and retail applications,” he said. “What happens when they fly passengers? In Dubai, they’re doing it now.”

Walker listed the concepts that are steps away from becoming transportation realities from the possibility of a Hyperloop trip at hundreds of miles per hour to solid state batteries that promise to extend electric vehicle range while recharging in one minute, developments are loaded with promise but also come at a cost. He highlighted the concept of autonomous modules that could one day soon, contribute to declining personal vehicle ownership. “But what about the people who are invested in parking garages?” he said. Walker suggested that people who will inevitably be displaced by the new economy will adapt, developing new skills in line with the requirements of new technologies.

Chairman Walker who is on the board of Space Adventures and chairs the advisory board of The Alliance for Transportation Innovation says that technical advancement will be an international barometer moving forward. “The technologies of the future are going to define that future and those who take the lead on it are going to win,” he said.