What is a Smart City?

A smart city uses cloud-based data and technology to create a more efficient, sustainable, and better quality of life for the people who live there. A smart city alleviates traffic jams and improves resource management by “talking” to its citizens to make data-informed decisions in real time. Smart cities are not a shiny thing of the future: they’re ever-present today.

According to the IDC, smart city technology is expected to grow to $135 billion by 2021. If flying taxis or driverless cars are our future transportation, smart cities are taking population growth and urbanization risks by storm.

Below, we assess the benefits of smart cities and how they can improve the lives of their citizens. For a look at what exactly makes a city “smart” and the world’s leading smart cities, jump to the infographic. (source The zebra

What makes a city a smart city?

A smart city, also called an eco-city or sustainable city, has a system of sensors, networks, and applications to collect data that help connect and improve the city. 

To address issues as diverse as traffic congestion and energy use, a smart city uses Information and Communication Technology (ICT) and Internet of Things (IoT) systems to connect the data that optimizes every layer of the city. This data helps trigger actions to streamline urban services, reduce costs, and improve people’s overall quality of life. 

Think of it like this: the city talks to you. It tells waste management when a trash bin needs to be emptied or commuters when there’s an open parking spot nearby. 

The data also improves communication between the people who live there, the city, and the government. This connectivity helps build a more efficient and sustainable infrastructure. In some cities, a mobile app is used where citizens can check updates in real-time. 

Why do we need smart cities?

According to the UN, over 40 megacities with more than 10 million people will exist by 2020, with 68% of the world population projected to live in urban areas by 2050. While some megacities are already struggling to deal with the influx of residents, smart cities are a solution to help make urban areas easier to live in. Better yet, they can help create a more sustainable future. 

Jesse Berst, the Chairman of the Smart Cities Council, said it best: “Cities are our hope for the future. If you’re in the U.S. or Europe, 80 percent of us live in cities already. We can’t solve the planet’s problems unless we solve them in cities.”

Environmental impact

Reducing carbon — or CO2 — footprints is a driving force behind most smart cities. Improving energy efficiency, storage, waste management, and traffic conditions are some of the most effective ways to do so. Electric vehicles, self-service bikes, smart public transport, carpooling networks, and even charging stations give city dwellers sustainable alternatives to support this mission.

  • City example: Jurong, Singapore launched the Open Electricity Market which encourages customers to be more mindful of their electricity usage, by choosing their own electricity price plan.

    Traffic management

    As a city’s population grows, so does the headache of traffic jams and overcrowded public transportation. Smart traffic signals and control sensors help monitor traffic patterns, optimize traffic flow, and relieve congestion during peak travel times. Reduced congestion, autonomous vehicles, and efficient vehicle routing are other benefits to smart city technologies.  

    • City example: The city of Chicago launched an app for commuters to make online payments, view updated train or bus schedules, and track vehicles in real-time.


    Waste removal

    Smart cities address waste management in a strategic way using real-time data systems. To avoid unnecessary trips to empty containers or overflowing waste receptacles, sensors are installed on containers to collect on an as-needed basis. 

    • City example: In Arlington, Virginia, the Solid Waste Bureau collects waste management data using radio frequency identification (RFID) tags, which are placed on all of the collection carts.

      Water and energy management

      Water waste management includes everything from solving unknown leaks to combatting over-usage. Smart water grids and smart water management help solve these issues. Smart water grids (SWGs) allow professionals to monitor the quantity and quality of water that’s transported to homes and businesses. Smart water meters, on the other hand, help spot high consumption, leaks, or low water flow and backflow in pipes. 

      • City example: Cape Town, South Africa uses smart meters to track water usage for customers and relays that data to their accounts. They send out itemized bills based on water consumption. 


      Improved security

      Smart cities allow municipalities to monitor safety and security using Closed Circuit Television Cameras (CCTV) surveillance cameras. CCTV cameras are now equipped with facial recognition which helps identify suspicious or dangerous individuals. Newer versions of CCTV cameras also have motion and smoke detectors, fire alarms, and even ways to measure air quality.

      • City example: Nairobi, Kenya implemented a communication network that links 1,800 CCTV security cameras to over 100 police bureaus and over 7,000 officers.

        What does it take to become a smart city?

        Not just any city or urban area can be transformed. A city needs to first identify its strengths, key challenges, and goals to work towards. Beyond this, below are the key elements a city needs in place to become a smart city:

        • Infrastructure to support the technologyThis includes both soft infrastructure like regulations, policies, or laws to the hard infrastructure or built environment of roads, utilities, or energy. 
        • Resources and funding for technology. Smart cities require financing to bring the IoT technology to life, often through creative or innovative ways.
        • A taskforce with a leaderFrom a mayor to a city manager, a visionary leader helps to align smart projects and push them forward across the city.  (source The zebra

7 IoT tips for home users

Image Source: Adobe Stock: denisismagilov


Change Default Passwords

According to Brad Ree, CTO of the ioXt Alliance, too many IoT devices have universal, simple passwords, so you should change default passwords and make sure not to reuse passwords. Take advantage of new authentication options, such as Google Authenticator and biometrics, including fingerprint or facial recognition, he adds.

Indeed, default passwords are a major problem across industries because manufacturers share them across product lines and product groups, says Jeremy Boone, technical director at NCC Group. Be aware that more states will pass laws banning default passwords as did California and Oregon. For example, under the California law, single, hard-coded passwords are not allowed, and every IoT device must either have a unique password or require the user to generate a new password before using a device for the first time.

Think with your head

Erez Yalon, director of security research at Checkmarx, points to using some common sense. Think about the kinds of devices you bring into your home and the connectivity they require, he advises. For example, does your baby really need a baby pacifier with an IP address?

Also, just about anything you bring into your home today has a camera and microphone, so start by being aware of the capabilities the unit has and keep it away from your workspace. In addition, turn off IoT devices or put a piece of tape over the camera or microphone when not in use.

Inventory your assets

Consider borrowingg a page from enterprise security pros by creating an inventory of your devices, says Daniel dos Santos, research manager at Forescout Technologies. Even though there’s a lot of focus on the smaller IoT devices, such as babycams and monitors, threat actors are more focused on laptops and smartphones.

“That’s where people store their sensitive data, like their bank accounts and credit cards,” dos Santos says. “And those devices are susceptible to being encrypted by ransomware.”

Segment the home network

With so many devices coming into the home, think about creating a subnet — a segmented piece of a larger network — for your IoT devices, the ioXt Alliance’s Ree says. Most home routers let you run two wireless network names, known as SSIDs, so especially if you’re working from home, you can run one SSID for your work devices and a second one for your home devices and appliances with IP addresses.

Checkmarx’s Yalon echoes Ree about thinking in terms of segmenting devices as they come into the home. For example, when you bring a new device into the house, one of the first questions to ask is which network segment it should reside on.

Buy products from companies that care about IoT security

IoT devices are small devices that often cost $10 or $20 — $100, tops — so margins are thin. That’s why so many IoT manufacturers don’t build security into their devices. On smaller-ticket items, there may not be much of a choice, but for some of the more prominent IoT devices, Checkmarx’s Yalon advises to take take note of how the different companies respond once security researchers point out vulnerabilities in their products.

On two different occasions, once with an Amazon Alexa and also with Google-Samsung on an Android camera, Checkmark found some flaws, and both times the giant tech companies took responsibility and responded within a few weeks with security patches, Yalon notes. Google surprised Checkmark by first releasing a “quick-and-dirty” fix almost immediately to make sure its users were safe, even at the expense of temporarily deactivating a specific feature. Once that was out the door, Google started working on a long-term fix. Amazon, too, was very collaborative and transparent during the entire disclosure and remediating process, Yalon says, not only mitigating the specific attack vector, but learning what the company did, thinking ahead, and placing safety measurements for other attack scenarios.

Look for different features in products that make it easier to reset the device, NCC’s Boone adds. “Take the time to see if there are any added security features and what the security posture of the company is before bringing something into your home,” he says. “At least for now, people should buy from first-line suppliers and known manufacturers.”

Patch and update frequently

Make patching and updating software on your IoT devices a regular part of your routine, Forescout’s dos Santos says. Also, ensure the latest version of the firmware is loaded on the device before using it, as well as turn off Universal Plug and Play (UPnP) on IoT devices and enable https so all web browsing activities are encrypted.

The ioXt’s Ree advises checking to see whether the security has been enabled on your printers or home security cameras. Typically, manufacturers don’t lock down items such as these, so the bad guys can enter your network by sneaking through your peripherals and IoT devices. You can check by entering the IP address of your browser on the command line, and the interface for the product should come up. In many instances, it takes three or four steps to arrive at the passwords link — and that’s if you get past other obstacles because the browser may not tell you to click “Advanced” on the settings.

“There really needs to be an easy way for consumers to get on the settings and in one or two clicks set the password for the printer,” he says. “Most consumers wouldn’t even think to check their printers and set the password.”

Look for 5G SIMs

So much has been written about 5G technology, though much of it is still hype. However, later this year and into the first part of 2021, start looking for 5G SIMs in standard IoT devices, says Jimmy Jones, telecom business development lead at Positive Technologies. You will benefit by getting the same kind of authorization, authentication, and encryption that you get on your smartphones and on most standard IoT devices.

Source: https://www.darkreading.com/

How to Choose a System-on-a-Chip (SoC) for Your Consumer IoT Product

There are a lot of development boards and SoCs available on the market these days. Choosing the right one for your use case can be difficult. We know this because, well, we love working with IoT devices. Although we don’t build hardware at Yonomi, we see first hand how much variability exists in the hardware spaces. That variability can make a big impact on your IoT project.

In this article, we discuss design challenges, cost and delivery for producing devices at scale across three development approaches for prototyping your IoT use case.

Linux-Cased Dev Boards (Raspberry PI/Intel Edison/Pine 64)

We will use the example of a Raspberry PI to cover the wide range of available Linux dev boards.

Raspberry PI is a highly versatile development board. It has many I/O (In and Out) ports, as well as different versions of the board that fit various use cases. At the core of a Raspberry PI is an ARM processor. It can run many different Linux distributions out of the box and has enough RAM (Random Access Memory) to run the most RAM-hungry processes with ease.

Running a Linux OS gives developers the freedom to quickly write firmware code in many different languages.

There are a few things, however, that tip the scale. Writing the firmware can be easy, but managing firmware updates for devices in the field at scale utilizing OTA (Over the Air updates) isn’t straightforward. There aren’t a lot of supplemental libraries or services available to help with OTA implementation, which takes additional development time and adds cost. If a third-party service is used, it will also incur its own cost to manage the OTA updates for your devices.

Raspberry Pi isn’t an ideal board with which to produce an IoT product at scale. The cost of the hardware is generally higher and includes the need for supplementary functionality on the board to package everything into a user-friendly product. Using a Raspberry Pi may also lead to licensing issues when it comes to deploying them in production.

Overall, Raspberry Pi is a great product for rapid prototyping and testing your use cases. However, it requires additional time, cost and effort to turn it into a production-ready device.

ThinCloud supports an SDK for node.js and has a guide that can be followed to prototype your IoT use-case using a Raspberry Pi.

IoT WiFi SoC (ESP8266/ESP32/Marvell-MW320/Arduino-MKR1000)

We will use the example of Espressif ESP8266 to cover the wide range of available System on a Chip (SoC) boards.

ESP8266 is a low-cost WiFi SoC. It’s available as a dev board by different chip manufacturers. It’s highly versatile, low cost and widely used.

There are numerous frameworks in different languages that you can use to write the firmware. The most widely used language for this SoC is C, but you can also use microPython or mongooseOS to write your firmware. You’ll want to make sure the framework you choose has a lot of supporting libraries and a large community of developers maintaining and managing source code and design.

The ESP8266 dev board comes with many I/O ports and has a small memory and compute footprint. This makes it ideal for uses-cases that involve 2-way control and small data footprint (i.e. a cloud-connected light bulb).

OTA support is built into some frameworks available for this board.

There are several things to consider when choosing an SoC. The small compute and memory footprint can sometimes be an issue depending on the use cases that are being implemented. Poorly written firmware can eat away RAM and unknowingly cause the devices to fail and restart intermittently. An end product based on this SoC would require additional circuitry to turn it into a shelf-ready product.

Overall, systems like the Espressif ESP8266 are great for prototyping and are cheap enough to have in an end product manufactured at scale.

ThinCloud supports a C SDK and has a guide that can be followed to prototype your IoT use case using these types of SoCs.

Custom Hardware

Custom Hardware is the most ambitious way to build or prototype your IoT product. Sourcing all the components and managing a design lifecycle over a custom hardware implementation can be a lengthy and costly process. The advantage, however, is complete control over every aspect of your device.

That said, you would still require business specific logic implemented on the hardware. This approach is only beneficial for large enterprises who have the resources to put together a piece of hardware from scratch.

Designing your own hardware requires a lot of R&D upfront to produce a board that is production ready.

Go Build the Future

Regardless of the dev boards and SoCs available today, all shelf-ready IoT products require certain engineering efforts. Choosing the right SoC for your product can be challenging with new solutions on the market every day. Below is a simple checklist to help you choose the right hardware for your next great IoT product:

  • Ability to factory-reset or roll back to factory default firmware
  • Over the Air (OTA) Updates (Cloud-based end-device firmware updates)
  • Secure way to commission/decommission devices on the network
  • Transport-level and end-to-end security
  • Power supply/battery management module (if required for your use-case)

Source: https://www.iotforall.com/

How does IoT work?

Most devices in the future will be connected with each other and a hyper decision framework will define the further course of action.

Before you understand how IoT works, it is important to understand what are the important pieces and how do they piece together the puzzle, let us, therefore, look at what are the different components involved here.

Components of IoT

The main components that makeup IoT include:
1) IoT Sensors
2) Connectivity/Network
3) Cloud
4) Hyper Decision Framework
5) User Interface

IoT Sensors

The “things” in IoT come to life because of sensors. Let’s take an IoT service example, where the heating of a machine is being monitored. In a typical scenario, a heat sensor would display the temperature on an analog or digital screen and someone would be monitoring it physically or on a more advanced level when the heating goes beyond a threshold there would be an alarm raised. You will need to be in proximity to the alarm to take action.

In an IoT setup, however, this sensor would be able to send a message to a decision engine that has rules built in to take the action.

There are many types of such IoT sensors including temperature, humidity, pressure, CO2, light, occupancy, motion and more. What’s important is that these sensors are an integral part of the ‘IoT device components’. They are the origin of truth and when connected with a decision engine, can make things work.

Connectivity / Network

Now that we understand the sensor technology in IoT and what they do, let’s get to know how they communicate with the decision engine.

Decision engines are not new. They have been in existence for a few decades in the form of PLC’s. Most of these connections to the decision engines have been wired. With the increase in sensors and the proliferation of these in various devices and machines, it became more and more important to connect wirelessly.

Various connectivity protocols using radio frequency technology, have emerged in recent years. Some of the most widely used technologies are, Bluetooth Low Energy BLE, LoRa, ZigBee, SigFox and NB-IoT. There is no need to get flabbergasted by these terms. In simple terms, all these technologies have modulated the radio frequencies to provide wireless connectivity for data originating from IoT sensors.

While all the above technologies have use case-based applications in IoT, the one that has gained the most popularity is BLE (Bluetooth Low Energy). Most IoT sensors can send their data to BLE using UART (Universal Asynchronous Receiver/Transmitter) and Modbus communication protocols, BLE devices have the ability to transmit this information wirelessly, to other BLE devices and or BLE receivers called Gateways.

While adding many receivers may not be possible either because of the cost or due to infrastructure limitations, BLE devices can be arranged in a Mesh Network, so that the intended receiver can receive the message through nodes that are connected on the Mesh Network. Solutions like these have made the proliferation of IoT sensors and devices across industries such as healthcare, retail, logistics and manufacturing

Once the receivers have received the data, they can send this information to the decision engines, which are mostly sitting in the cloud Private or Public cloud using onboard GPRS, WiFi, or LTE.

IoT Cloud

Now that we have been able to send the data to the cloud, let’s try and understand what is the IoT Cloud and how it is an integral part to understanding how IoT works.

IoT sensors are usually resource-constrained and require a destination where they can send the data. An MQTT (MQ Telemetry Transport) protocol is generally used by these IoT sensors to transmit data. MQTT works like a broker that receives and transmits information to whoever subscribes to it on a topic. This MQTT server is generally also called the IoT server. Generally, rules are defined on this server so that data can be filtered as it comes in.

Some have confusion on why should one need an IoT server? The rate at which the IoT sensors send data, a regular server would not be able to handle the requests.

At QuicSolv Technologies, along with the MQTT, we have built a ‘Hyper Decision Framework’ called ISAE. Data from the IoT cloud server, is sent to this framework. Let’s now understand what is ISAE and why is it required.

Hyper Decision Framework – ISAE

IoT sensors have the ability to send data to the cloud. What we do with that data is very important. In one of our employee monitoring solutions, if an employee accidentally enters a hazard area, the hyper decision framework immediately sends an alarm and notification to people involved. So, let’s break this down to understand how IoT worked. The employee tag worn by the employee sent a message to the receiver that ‘I (40567) am here. The receiver sent this message to the MQTT server. The Hyper Decision Framework picked this up and checked if the employee ID 40567 was authorized to be in the area. If not, it sent out the alarms.

So, a hyper decision framework is a set of rules built inside a rule engine that works at hyper speeds. The analysis of information received and mapping this information against a set of rules that may overlap with each other and executing the decision associated with the rule is what we call the hyper decision framework.

As another example, you may experience that in some movie theaters when the theater is not full, the temperature inside could be lower than what is comfortable and when the theater is full, you would like the temperature to be a bit lower to make it comfortable. This is because the HVAC is sending the same amount of airflow irrespective of the number of people inside the theater. By using our Occupancy IoT Sensor, we could send the number of people in the theater to the Hyper Decision Engine and it could automatically regulate the airflow, thereby, not only reducing the cost but also making our movie watching experience better.

User Interface

Lastly, there needs to be an interface to this entire system. This may manifest typically as a mobile application and it can also be used as a web-based application. This will help to provide the Machine to People interface to the solution.

This interface will help the user to interact with the system, like in the case of home automation the user interface provided will help the user to switch on or off the lights or fan in a specific room. In an industrial application, the shop floor manager can directly control a machine based on the data inputs.

IoT in the Real World

Now that we have understood the concepts, let’s understand a few ‘Examples on How IoT Works’

Shopping Mall – Proximity Marketing

The shopper of today likes to feel and touch a product before making a purchase but also prefers the convenience of a digital lense. Today, IoT is making proximity marketing a reality such that when a shopper who frequents a particular store is in close proximity of that store, IoT sensors can send the information of the user to the hyper decision framework, that will analyze shopper behavior and shopping pattern to send the right message, at the right location, at the right time and to the right person. More examples

Source : https://www.iotforall.com/