Smart Building

Self-Healing Cities: Using IoT for Infrastructure Repair

Create: 04/18/2017 - 14:54
smart city IoT San Francisco

Photo: Melanie McMullen


The rise of megacities such as Tokyo and Delhi, India, are quickly becoming the new reality across the globe. According to a new urban population report from Bank of America Merrill Lynch, 80 percent of cities worldwide are showing signs of fragility. The report notes that because cities such as London, San Francisco and New York City are engines of global economic growth, they are at a tipping point and set to be transformed by disruptive technology such as broadband, 5G, sensors, IoT, Big Data, cloud and AI.

Officials in these megacities face increasing pressure to repair and beautify cities through financially and physically sustainable mechanisms. Self-healing cities could be the technological solution that addresses the concerns associated with the rise of global megacities and other densely populated urban cores.

The self-healing city concept, a five-year project funded by the UK’s Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), has been jumpstarted by Rob Richardson and Phillip Purnell, two academics at the University of Leeds in the UK, as well as local technology firms. Additional partners for the project include local city councils, industrial representatives and academics from University of Birmingham and University of Southampton.

The group envisions an urban landscape where robots with sensors can “identify, diagnose and repair street-works through minimally invasive techniques” to meet the UK’s Great Challenge of zero disruption from street works by 2050. Theoretically, a robot would be able to address an infrastructure problem as soon as a report of a problem has been noted.

According to a report in the Institute of Making, Richardson says that robot-run repairs would “increase overall precision level and drastically decrease the amount of disruptions to daily commutes, rush hour and other high traffic times for these self-healing cities.”

The IoT Patch Team

Specifically, the project is focused on developing three case study concepts that will help planners create a sustainable, efficient self-healing city. Those include:

●     Perch and repair. Drones will perform minor repairs, including remote maintenance and street light modernization.
●     Perceive and patch. Groups of autonomous flying vehicles will perform inspections, run diagnostics and prevent and repair highway issues, such as potholes.
●     Fire and forget. Various task-oriented robots will operate for an indefinite amount of time via live utility pipes. These hybrid robots can conduct inspections, metering, reporting and repairs. In terms of size, these robots will range from as small as the average worm or insect to as large as birds.

As part of this project, the Institute of Making will research materials and 3D-printing technologies for minimally invasive sensing, maintenance and repair of city infrastructure. This includes assessing non-conventional materials for additive manufacturing that may be suitable in 3D repair of infrastructure and mechanical testing of materials for 3D printing, scaffolds and inserts.

Robotic Repairs

Partners of the project have noted that the use of robots to create self-healing cities will have many positive effects on communities, which include:

●     Increase in overall well-being, happiness, health and economic success of people who live in these cities, due to a decrease in impact of manmade infrastructure on these natural systems.
●     Increase in innovative insights and techniques employed by UK researchers in urban planning and architecture, by researching sensing and automated repairs.
●     Increase in types of technology that can autonomously prevent, detect and diagnose problems with old and new infrastructure.

Smart Materials

Self-healing cities will go beyond drones and innovative robots. Constructionists would also incorporate different types of resilient materials for buildings and other types of infrastructure within these urban centers. These materials include self-healing concrete that contain bacteria capable of repairing cracks and holes. The water-activated bacteria eat food within the concrete mix and patch up breaks and ridges within the building material. Similarly, researchers at Cambridge are currently looking into how a combination of bones and eggshells can be a substitute for steel and concrete.

These alternative forms of materials can be a valuable antidote to the increasing risk of infrastructural impact of natural disasters, since they provide a unique form of structure and resistance to external damages.

To learn more about the self-healing cities project, visit the Institute of Making

Sleep-Enhancing IoT Devices on the Rise

Create: 03/24/2017 - 18:49
IoT sleep aids

Photo: Nightingale


Over the counter sleep technologies, apps and smart sleep monitors are not just a passing dream, they are here to stay, say sleep experts in an article in Intel IQ. IoT developers and medical technology companies have woken up in their efforts to tackle one of the most difficult challenges in healthcare: sleep deprivation.

The CDC reports that sleep eludes millions of Americans, and more than one-third of adults are affected by a “massive sleep debt” that leads to health problems, accidents at work and even physical exhaustion. The restless masses are hopeful that smart technology might be the best new sleep aid.

The study in the Journal of Sleep Medicine reports that sleep-tracking products are outselling health-tracking products on sites such as Kickstarter. A search for sleep apps returned more than 500 different applications, including sleep sounds, sleep trackers, sleep IQ calculators, sleep “pillow” audio and even a virtual nighttime fan. The report also notes that one of the top five paid apps was a sleep tracker and alarm clock.

The sleepless are using a plethora of devices and apps for help. Sleep technologies are categorized by delivery platform, including:

  • Mobile device apps (integrated with a mobile operating system and utilizing mobile device functions, such as the camera or microphone)
  • Wearable devices (on the body or attached to clothing)
  • Embedded devices (integrated into furniture or other fixtures in the native sleep environment)
  • Accessory appliances
  • Conventional desktop/website resources.

Their primary goals are facilitation of sleep induction or wakening, self-guided sleep assessment, entertainment, social connection, information sharing and sleep education.

A Smarter, Sleepier Home

Dr. Nathaniel F. Watson, M.D., a professor of neurology at the University of Washington in Seattle and co-author of the study, sees a light ahead for the sleep deprived. “Imagine a future where sleep information and technology is fully integrated into the home and into the consumer’s lifestyle,” he reports in the study. “Users could set their sleep and wake times, and learn about ideal sleep durations from their smartphones.”

Watson imagines the perfect sleep conditions, with the help of IoT, as this: You walk into the bedroom, lighting is automatically dimmed, blackout shades come down, and temperature is adjusted to the perfect setting for your optimal sleep. You have a white noise machine that comes on at the right volume levels to block out ambient sounds.

But the average consumer may have a difficult time putting together all the interoperable pieces. While wearable sleep aids and sleep monitors are consumer-driven technologies, the solution provider has a role in providing a connected smart home that offers a restful environment. The study notes that beyond measuring sleep, devices need to soothe the senses, creating an environment that allows users to fall asleep by providing optimal light, sound and temperature control.

Light for the Night

Light is a common cause of sleep issues, and exposure to blue light at night, emitted by electronics and energy-efficient light bulbs, can even be harmful to health. However, other types of light can be harnessed to improve the sleeping environment. For example, the GE C-Sleep LED bulb automatically transitions from night hues to bright light in the morning. The system can be controlled by a mobile app and has three settings: nighttime, morning and everything in between, including “calm” light in the evening to “vibrant” light in the morning.

Photo: C-Sleep by GE app

Distracting noises, whether from traffic, airplanes, neighbors or crying babies can also disrupt sleep. Technology that goes beyond the typical white noisemaker such as a fan is Nightingale, a smart home sleep system developed by Cambridge Sound Management. Nightingale masks distracting sounds with a connected home system that “blankets” a bedroom with sound customized for a room’s acoustics. It consists of two independent units, each with two speakers, and is controllable by Amazon Alexa. It also connects to smart home devices such as Ring, Nest and Philips Hue.

Another critical component of a good night’s sleep is temperature, as experts agree the sleep environment is best when cool. While Nest thermostats can control room temperatures, other products provide closer-up temperature control. Water-based cooling pillow pad Moona regulates a user’s pillow temperature, keeping it chilled while falling asleep and warm to wake up. The ChiliPAD cube lets users set a mattress temperature as low as 55 degrees or as warm as 110 degrees F.

Put together the perfect sleep-enhancing bundle for the smart home. Download the report, “Consumer Sleep Technologies: A Review of the Landscape.” Learn more about GE’s C-Sleep lighting, and find out about Nightingale IFTTT smart home integration. 

Smart Elevators Broadcast Real-Time M2M Conversations

Create: 03/13/2017 - 16:51
KONE elevator

Photo: KONE

Smart elevator manufacturer KONE wanted to take its maintenance game up a floor or two and allow customers and users to experience the power of machine-to-machine (M2M) communications for themselves. KONE’s ad agency, Hasan & Partners, thought the best way for people to see what the sensors were saying was to hear their messages. KONE selected a handful of its elevators in different countries around the world, and using IBM Watson text-to-speech technology, literally gave the elevators a voice.

The elevators send data from IoT sensors and controls about their day-to-day and floor-to-floor performance. That data, which is in code, is collected and processed and converted to audio in the cloud. Then it is broadcasted in real-time audio and text on the Internet.

The talking elevators are located in Stockholm, Sweden, in Espoo, Finland, in Cote D’Azur, France, and in Illinois. All the language from each is translated into English.

The company’s goal is to introduce a new level of service in elevator maintenance by using IoT and M2M communications. “This technology connects elevators directly to the cloud, so nobody needs to call for repairs in the future,” says Tobias Wacker, director at Hasan & Partners, in a recent interview in Mediapost.

KONE elevator

Photo: KONE

KONE states that by listening to elevators, the real-time data and analytics help the company accurately predict equipment needs and ensure that its technicians perform maintenance at the right time. Everything is based on actual equipment condition. So in case of malfunctions, the company already knows which part caused the fault and what actions are needed.

Can You Hear Me Now?

Here’s a typical conversation between the KONE elevator and the KONE Cloud, from the elevator located in Illinois:

Elevator: Arrived on floor 0. Travel took 7.1 seconds.

Cloud: Adding that to my analysis.

Elevator: Waiting for passengers in the USA.

Cloud: You’re idle. Check.

Elevator: Minimal bounce while landing on floor 1.

Cloud: Measured. Good landing.

Elevator conversations rank only slightly higher than Muzak on the level of excitement. But they definitely bring the concept—and value—of using intelligent M2M communications up a notch.

Listen to Kone M2M elevators talk live.

Smart Cities are Investing in IoT Infrastructure

Create: 03/08/2017 - 14:05
smart city IoT

Instances of IoT technology being successfully implemented on a large scale—like the city of Barcelona, who leveraged IoT-connected lighting, smart watering, parking management to save more than 75 million euros in 2014—have already been driving adoption for the last few years. And smart cities’ attractiveness goes beyond saving money on infrastructure and improving the lives of their citizens, they also support growth, drawing new residents and businesses alike. Smart cities that boast robust Wi-Fi networks, reliable public transit, lower utility costs and more, are appealing—broadly appealing.

All these potential advantages are translating into significant spending. SmartAmerica Challenge forecast that cities across the globe will invest a total of about $41 trillion over the next 20 years on infrastructure upgrades that will enable them to reap the many benefits IoT has to offer.

When it comes to fully bringing smart cities’ IoT-enabled features alive—and to realize the maximum long-term value of their investment—cities need to create a solid, well-rounded and reliable infrastructure. Let’s take a look at the current status of three metropolitan areas’ IoT network rollouts.

IoT By the Bay

With its proximity to Silicon Valley, it’s no surprise the San Francisco Bay Area was keen to jump on the IoT network train. Launched in the fall of 2015, San Francisco’s primary IoT network is provided by Sigfox. The French network management company is using a very low ISM band frequency and low power, briefcase-sized antennas to transmit data between the city’s connected things (devices). The company claims the network is the first of its kind in the United States.

To facilitate the installation of the new technology, San Francisco leased space on the roofs of its public libraries to Sigfox. This enabled the city to set up the network at no cost, making it a smart move indeed. Leveraging the library-based stations, the city was able to successfully establish a San Francisco-wide area of connectivity dedicated to IoT network application. Since the project’s implementation the city has successfully completed its first IoT pilot, a sewage monitoring system. 

The pilot was identified by Sigfox and the city when they hosted an IoT hackathon to jumpstart use of the new network, though it wasn’t technically a winner of the competition.

The San Francisco Public Utility Commission (PUD) was interested in gathering greater information on the speed and flow levels of city sewage, as well as a better idea of the extent of saltwater intrusion, since saltwater disrupts the numerous organisms that break down sewage in treatment plants. 

The city wasn’t satisfied with the limitations of its existing sensors that used a traditional cellular network, which created two significant handicaps.  One, data could only be sent once a day. Two, the devices’ battery packs only lasted three months. This meant that a two-man team was always rushing from manhole to manhole to swap in new packs. These burdens put limits on both how much data could be analyzed and how many devices the city could install (and reasonably maintain).

With the new network, the city’s PUD was able to work with remote-monitoring company Ayyeka, a Sigfox partner, to install low-powered devices equipped with sensors that could retrieve all available data and relay it several times per day, all in near real time. The Ayyeka devices were also much tougher than the units they replaced, which is important when you’re talking about intense humidity and saltwater, not to mentions bugs and critters of various kinds.

The city has plans to launch more pilots alongside numerous startups and nonprofits this year.

Atlanta Gains IoT Access

Ingenu Inc., a leading provider of machine-exclusive wireless networks, announced in November 2016 that its Machine Network™ was operational in the greater Atlanta metropolitan area. The company’s eighteen RPMA (Random Phase Multiple Access) access points are providing connectivity to more than 3.2 million Atlanta residents—covering over 99 percent of the city’s population—a total coverage area of 2,360 square miles.

A leader in improving sustainability, Atlanta was one of the three first-mover cities in the nationwide Better Buildings Initiative, which is focused on reducing buildings’ energy and water usage through the use of connected, smart technology. “Ingenu’s RPMA is the perfect technology to enable smart city applications in the critical infrastructure segments of transportation, energy and public safety,” said Peter Murray, executive director at Dense Networks, a social think tank that addresses the specific challenges facing the industry and the global community. “Everything from street lighting, traffic signals and parking will be connected and monitored, and RPMA is the ideal connectivity solution for a city such as Atlanta.”

The Atlanta Machine Network will serve as host of smart city and other IoT applications in the region while Ingenu continues its network build-out in the southern region of the United States.

IoT Takes on the Windy City

Sigfox, the same French provider that launched San Francisco’s network connectivity for IoT devices, went live in Chicago in September 2016.

The aim is to provide the city and its residents with a highly efficient, less expensive alternative to the established cellular networks that focus on bandwidth-hungry smartphones. The network’s objectives include connecting public utilities and shipping tools as well as Chicagoans’ personal smart home devices, such as refrigerators and washing machines.

While the company hasn’t confirmed how many such stations it installed in the vicinity, it did state there are a sufficient number to ensure coverage for the entire city of Chicago. Operating at 902 MHz in North America, the network also reaches beyond the city, to Kankakee in the south, Aurora in the west, and the Wisconsin border to the north.

The University of Chicago, which received the base station and connectivity free of charge, is one of the local partners with plans for using the network. Monisha Ghosh, researcher and professor at the university’s Institute of Molecular Engineering, expects to use the network to test sensors in obstructed environments, such as underground or submerged in water.

Sigfox has plans to expand into more large metropolitan belts this year, including Seattle, Philadelphia and the Baltimore-Washington area, with a goal of reaching 40 percent of the U.S. population.

Cities across the country are recognizing the substantial benefits IoT has to offer and are starting to establish the network infrastructure needed to support its connected things. Learn more about how Intel can provide municipal clients with the technology they need to transform their cities with IoT.

Social Chat with Intel and Sighthound: Intelligent Digital Surveillance Systems

Create: 03/06/2017 - 16:21
Intel NUC

Photo: Intel NUC

Intel NUC Solutions Architect Ivan Laporte and Sighthound CEO Stephen Neish led our recent IoT Solution Provider social chat and described the latest innovations that solutions providers should expect in the next year in intelligent digital security and surveillance (DSS) technology.

Laporte outlined the market drivers that are pushing “the rising tide of DSS data,” which include: the increasing value and ROI of IP video; global growth in security and surveillance; and the move from SD analog to HD digital. Laporte noted that DSS technologies are on the rise in smart homes, buildings, factories and smart cities as well as in several vertical markets, such as retail and healthcare.

“DSS is a great opportunity for all of us,” said Laporte, “as we are seeing market growth at the edge and in the data center.” According to Intel forecasts, 859 petabytes of daily data will be generated globally for video surveillance in 2017. The network security camera market will hit 124 million units in 2018, compared to 46 million security cameras sold in 2013.

Laporte notes that the increase in cameras is fueling a pressing need for compute power and capabilities that can be accomplished by desktop PCs and the Intel® NUC. The new surveillance solutions typically include a PC-powered intelligent network recorder, or smart NVR, that can do real-time streaming, computer vision processing, facilitate intelligent storage, send high accuracy alerts and offer events-based archive navigation.

Using AI for Accuracy

Unlike older surveillance systems, digital security solutions can accurately detect intrusion—as it is actually happening—and send immediate alerts. Sighthound Video adds intelligent monitoring and alerts to the video stream, using AI to distinguish between a person from, for example, a squirrel or moving tree in the video feed of a front door.

“The Sighthound software can constantly monitor all connected cameras, IP or webcam. The system watches the feed with its own intelligence, so a user doesn’t have to sit in front of the video feed,” said Neish. By using AI, the system can dramatically reduce the number of false alerts.

“AI works like the human brain. It learns the scene, watches the camera feeds, and decides if what it sees necessitates an alert,” Neish explained. He noted that the solution provider could set rules in the surveillance system for the customer. For example, if Sighthound spots an intruder between the hours of midnight and 5 a.m. in a user’s yard, the software could be set to turn on all the lights or trigger the sprinkler system.

Catch the Wave of DSS

Neish added that the revenue and margin opportunities for service providers in the DSS market include:

  • Hardware, software, solution deployment
  • Security and cloud services subscriptions
  •  Upgrades and extra equipment for scaling customer sites
  •  Support and maintenance.

To hear more from Intel and Sighthound, you can replay the audio discussion, read the full transcript or download the presentation.  

Digital Security and Surveillance with Intel NUC and Sighthound Video

Create: 03/01/2017 - 14:14

In this audio chat and presentation, Intel NUC Solutions Architect Ivan Laporte and Sighthound CEO Stephen Neish describe the latest innovations in intelligent surveillance technology. They also outline the revenue and margin opportunities for solutions providers to tap into the rapidly expanding DSS market.

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Download the Presentation

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