Sensor technology is extending into every aspect of our lives, from facial recognition tech on our phones and computers to smart city technology that can identify gunshots, adapt to traffic patterns, and monitor pollution – and you might not even notice its there. That invisibility is precisely what makes this technology so pervasive, and so powerful. Today’s smart city technologies are just the beginning of how cities, campuses, and airports are keeping a digital eye on people. Do you know how your city is using these tools?
Community Safety Strategies
Gun violence is a major concern in the United States today, and one state that has been disproportionately impacted is Georgia, which ranked 4th in the nation for gun deaths in 2016. That’s why it should come as no surprise that Atlanta, Georgia’s urban center is attempting to make the city safer using sensors that can detect gunshots. Posted on streetlamps around the city, these sensors work in conjunction with existing video cameras to monitor crime, but what makes the sensors unique is that they capture the sound of gunshots and can be used to triangulate the location of a crime, locate victims, and recover evidence.
The acoustic sensors in use in Atlanta are an outgrowth of military sensor technology that’s currently in use on the battlefield. In combat situations, these sensors, which can be attached to vehicles, helmets, and even drones, can be used to identify unseen threats, such as distant gunshots, helicopter movement, or even people speaking out of site. Though urban acoustic sensors are simply intended to aid in the response to crimes, they may also have preventive capabilities that could be used in the future.
Watching Over Waste
Smart city technologies are usually thought to emphasize traditional surveillance, using tools like facial recognition technology to identify individuals wanted for crimes, monitor human traffic patterns, and review who was present during an act of terrorism. In reality, though, a significant portion of smart city technology is dedicated to monitoring resource use and reducing waste in large cities.
Why put such an emphasis on resource use? One reason is that monitoring of this sort helps cities develop better public policy. In New York City, for example, the OpenData platform monitors taxi trips throughout the city. Based on a subsequent analysis, researchers determined that taxi-sharing services could cut the number of trips by 40%, offering the city a way to potentially reduce traffic congestion and carbon emissions.
Small Cities Think Big
Though most sensor technology is currently in use in big cities, smaller areas are also interested in implementing the technology – and it would be a smart investment. In fact, considering the potential cost savings associated with sensor technology, any tax revenues invested in smart city tools would really be a reinvestment in the city itself. Columbus, Ohio, for example, a city of just over 800,000 people, won the 2016 Smart City Challenge sponsored by the US Department of Transportation and was also named Intelligent Community Forum’s Smart City of the Year. Columbus is proof that a city doesn’t have to be big to be technologically advanced.
Small cities need to begin installing basic smart city infrastructure like motion sensor lighting, intelligent signage, and EV charging stations if they’re going to maintain economic growth going forward. These are the simple improvements that will attract businesses, members of the creative class, and young residents – because sensor technology isn’t just about safety. These are the tools of a thoroughly modern city and without them smaller areas will be left behind.