The commercial push for IoT has long been recognized. Between Fitbits, smart speakers, remotely monitored pacemakers and robot vacuums, the popularity of IoT products is increasing exponentially. It’s estimated that by 2030, the world will be home to no less than 50 billion IoT-connected devices, and due to the popularity of IoT, companies like Amazon, Tesla, Google and Apple are reaping serious rewards.
Far less feted, however, is the potential of IoT within our residential communities. The technology brings with it the opportunity to both increase quality of life and strengthens human bonds – internet connectivity begetting human connectivity.
But how exactly will IoT change suburban life? Today we’ll take a look at several applications of IoT in communities, both current and potential, to better understand where the technology might take us in the years and decades to come.
Currently, most households take a very insular approach to IoT, thinking about products and systems from an individual perspective. But just as a community with a Neighborhood Watch program is more secure than one where residents take care of themselves, a community that joins forces through IoT is stronger than one that does not.
One real-world example of using IoT to enhance community security is in the Streety app from Vivint Smart Homes. The app grants residents access to a network of neighborhood security cameras, where they can keep an eye on kids, cars, property, and potential intruders in shared spaces. The Nextdoor app meanwhile takes a more collaborative approach, encouraging conversation between residents in order to promote community spirit, improving safety by improving communication.
The neighborhood safety offered by IoT may extend beyond human threats too. With home security systems now boasting a range of sensors. Including those for biometric data, hazardous materials, temperature, and smoke, in the future, IoT could be utilized to measure air and water quality. Also, detect fires and gas leaks, alerting both the home in question and any neighbors who could also find themselves in danger.
Between lighting, security, HVAC, waste management and other systems, keeping a community safe and comfortable is an energy-intense exercise. With the help of IoT technology, however, smart communities can ensure they are as efficient as possible with their energy use.
Occupancy sensors can ensure that systems are only switched on when there are residents about. Light sensors can adjust the brightness of lights according to the time of day. And just as they would in a smart home, temperature sensors can improve the delivery of heating and cooling systems in public areas according to the prevailing conditions. IoT systems can also help to identify inefficiencies in waste management, using sensor, camera and GPS data to improve a pickup route or better understand the waste habits of residents.
The Australian residential development of Woodlea is a smart community that features an array of sustainable and energy-efficient IoT features. Its smart streetlights, for example, are far more efficient than traditional models, while also delivering enhanced community safety via their built-in cameras.
Transport and Movement
As our cities get both larger and denser, transport has become a key factor in smart city initiatives, and IoT has a significant role to play in planning for the future of transport. The density of big cities means that a major element of smart city transport is tackling congestion. In short, the number of cars on the roads needs to be reduced. And shared neighborhood garages are one way that a city can do precisely that.
Car share services have been around for almost two decades (Zipcar in 2001 and GoGet in 2003 were some of the first), and shared bike and scooter services have exploded in recent years. IoT grants neighborhoods the opportunity to manage their garage of shared vehicles, reducing waste and easing congestion in the area.
IoT has also proved to be an incredible tool for redesigning cityscapes to be more transport-friendly. It collects user data which can be analyzed to create landscapes that maximize the use of bikes and public transport and minimize the use of single-passenger cars. Design and consultancy firm Arcadis is in the process of using IoT insights to turn Los Angeles, a notoriously car-reliant city, into a more bike and public transport-friendly place.
The benefits of such an undertaking for local communities are enormous: more efficient journeys, cleaner air and more active residents, to name but a few.
Tempering IoT Excitement
IoT is already beginning to change the shape of our cities and our experiences within them. The potential of the technology is seemingly endless, and all the excitement can make it easy to get carried away with grand plans. The truth is that the evolution of fully IoT-enabled communities will be a slow one, and we don’t know where things will end up. This transformation will also have its challenges, particularly in regards to surveillance and data privacy concerns.
A measured approach is required; one that seeks to understand both the merits and the dangers of each new community IoT innovation, and moves forward only after maximising the former and minimising the latter.
But if done right, the upsides of residential IoT, inconvenience, quality of life, sustainability and happiness, will be incredible.