Smart Transportation: Building an End-to-End Connected Bike System

Create: 04/27/2017 - 10:44

Photo: Intel


Citizens rely on several modes of transportation, not just to get to and from work, but also to run errands or visit friends and family. While IoT is poised to revolutionize commercial and personal vehicles—increasing profitability and productivity using the latest information technologies to improve efficiency and lower operational costs—it’s also transforming how people use bicycles to successfully navigate their daily comings and goings.  

A Smarter Bike System

Connected technologies are making the good old bicycle more accessible than ever before with new smart bike rental systems—and Intel® IoT technology is helping fast-track their growth. In 2015, Intel collaborated with Advantech and Microprogram to scale out YouBike, an Asian smart city bike system, to more cities in Taiwan and other countries in Asia.

Founded in 2009, Taiwan’s YouBike system is currently operating in four cities: Taipei, New Taipei City, Taichung and Changhua. The service has been a big hit in Taipei in particular, where YouBike’s system was used 60 million times in 2015. Since its initial deployment, the four cities’ number of YouBike stations has climbed to 430, with the number expected to reach 700 by year’s end.

Intel IoT Inside

Intel products are playing an important role in the successful expansion of the YouBike system. The company adopted an Intel Quark processor for their solution sensor node, Intel® Atom™ processors for the kiosk and gateway terminals, and an Intel® Xeon™ processor-based server in the back-end cloud server system to provide cloud computing and Big Data analytics for the whole system. These integrated components form an end-to-end system that allows timely auto detection of problems with remote control and data security of the system.

The computing power inside the Intel solution—and its scalability—has helped the company tremendously, since the features of YouBike’s system continue to grow from city to city. The number of YouBike users has increased dramatically since its launch, growing from 150,000 to 3,300,000 as of June of 2016. Which means the system has enjoyed a 20-fold increase in its users. The company currently handles 100,000 transactions per day, with an 8 to 10 turnover rate per bike per day. Intel’s technology can easily support such growth, expanding the computing power quickly and consistently.

The Intel gateway has also met YouBike’s security needs, enabling them to remotely control essential systems and functions, as well as systems updates. Since the company’s system needs to be able to operate 24 hours, non-stop, having the best real-time control, both in security and remote data update, is a vital component to their continued success.

Learn more about how Intel IoT solutions can help customers interested in smartening up their transportation strategies. 

CityBeacon Kiosks Connect Cities, Citizens and Businesses

Create: 04/19/2017 - 15:52
CityBeacon IoT portal

Photo: CityBeacon


More than one-half of the world’s population today lives in urban areas, and that number is predicted to swell even further in the next decade. The stress that rising urban populations put on core city services such as transit, connectivity, air quality and public security means that city planners are constantly looking for new, automated ways to manage inner city density and growth.

One new solution that is taking aim on improving the quality of life for bustling cities is CityBeacon. With offices in Belgium, the Netherlands and Menlo Park, CA, the company has developed a platform—a towering kiosk—that it describes as “deepening the engagement between cities, local businesses and its citizens.” The fully equipped technology kiosk bridges the gap between the digital and the physical worlds and uses a set of IoT technologies to facilitate community interaction and communications as well as provide surveillance and safety.

The CityBeacon kiosk contains a diverse set of features and functions, including:

  • Video surveillance and security. CityBeacon has an integrated camera, so city officials can monitor public spaces. Smart lighting in the camera can adjust to current day/night lighting conditions to save energy.
  • Broadcast local or citywide announcements. The beacon contains speakers and a 55-inch screen that can broadcast public service announcements through individual beacons or in connected groups of beacons. It can also display video or image-based promotions from businesses.
  • Emergency services. The beacons have built-in microphones that can work with the camera and enable VoIP communication with emergency services.
  • Powered by Intel. The beacons use Intel® processors, including IoT, networking and SSD storage. Intel Xeon® processors allow CityBeacon to provide cloud-based data analytics.
  • Environmental and audience analytics. Sensors on the beacon collect data, including air quality readings, UV-levels and audience analytics.
  • Connectivity options. Free Gigabit Wi-Fi on the beacons lets the public chat, share and like with a secure connection, while small cell 4G antennas improve mobile network coverage and help offline telco subscriber traffic. This connectivity function is particularly useful for tourists, as they can connect to the Internet in a secured manner and make use of the integrated camera and microphones to make VoIP calls without incurring costly roaming charges.
  • Information station. The beacons have 32-inch touch displays that allow people to discover points of interest and entertainment along with local services and products. The information and maps are customizable and configurable with city/district branding. A mobile app can also connect users to CityBeacon data.
  • Mobile payments. NFC, RFID and iBeacon/Eddystone enables support for payment technologies. The payment system can be used for local services, including parking and special events.

Intel IoT portal

Photo: Intel

30 Beacons Power Up in the Netherlands
One of the first CityBeacon projects is now underway in Europe, in the Dutch city of Eindhoven, the fifth largest city in the Netherlands. With a population of 200,000, the municipality is in the process of rolling out a total of 30 CityBeacon kiosks. Launched in October 2016, the smart city project was the culmination of a three-year collaboration between multiple partners including CityBeacon, Eurofiber, Intel, Brocade/Ruckus and the city.

Multiple revenue-generation opportunities are associated with this CityBeacon project, explains Dion Ubert, Strategic Business Development Manager for Intel, in a statement. "Initially, the kiosks are leased to the Eindhoven government for a period of 10 years. Network operators can also have their small cells integrated into the kiosks benefitting footprint, co-location space and offloading onto fiber. Finally, there is the ability to use the digital screens for advertising and information purposes, such as city marketing."

Running the Windows 10 IoT operating system, the Eindoven CityBeacons are powered by 6th Generation Intel® Core™ i5 Processors and Intel® SSDs. These kiosks crunch data for analytics purposes through the Microsoft Azure cloud platform. An SDK allows local and city developers to create specific apps for this project.

Learn more about smart CityBeacons in use in Eindhoven, find out about the product specs and how to partner, or follow the company on Twitter @citybeacons.

The State of Security in the Connected Car

Create: 04/05/2017 - 22:00

The newest cars on the road are equipped with automated safety features that help protect drivers and passengers, heads-up displays that make it easy to read instruments, and in-vehicle infotainment that makes the trip more enjoyable. As vehicles become more connected, security is of greater concern, as vehicles are an attractive target for hackers. 

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Smart, Dancing, Bag-Carrying Robots Help Airport Travelers

Create: 03/21/2017 - 17:33
IoT robot in airlines

Photo: HMSHost


Travelers needing assistance, food or just a diversion at the Oakland International Airport need to look no further than the newest IoT helpmate, Pepper the robot. Passengers can meet and greet Pepper in front of the Pyramid Ale Taproom in Terminal 2 of the Oakland Airport. Pepper is beneficial for both travelers and the restaurant’s owners—he increases visibility of Pyramid Ale Taproom and menu options while concurrently tailoring food and drink suggestions to better customers’ overall dining experience. At the same time, Pepper is helping travelers find their way around the airport with the interactive map (which identifies gates, baggage claim and closest bathrooms) that is located on Pepper’s touchscreen chest.

Pepper was designed, created and programmed by Softbank Robotics of Tokyo, and it intentionally ensured that Pepper can successfully gauge a range of human emotions. He’s able to pick up on surprise, anger, joy and sadness. Pepper can also interpret a human’s voice tone, smile or frown as well as non-verbal language, such as the angle a person’s head is tilted, in addition to other types of body language. With all this information in mind, Pepper can determine if a person is in a positive or negative mood and respond accordingly.

Travelers will quickly notice Pepper’s human-like qualities, as well as structural and technical characteristics that include:

●     High-definition vision. He has a 3D camera for surveying surroundings and two high-resolution cameras.

●     Autonomy and movement. The robot has 360-degree movement, a maximum speed of 3km/h, 20-plus engines (back, arm and leg pieces), and a lithium-ion battery, which keeps Pepper awake for up to 12 hours at a time.

●     Wi-Fi connection. With a built-in, personal Wi-Fi network, Pepper can always access the Internet for information, music and maps.

●     Network of sensors. Pepper has a fleet of IoT sensors: two ultrasound transmitters and receivers, six laser sensors and three obstacle detectors located inside  his legs; battery sensor that indicates power level and temperature; and tactile sensors inside his hands for games and other types of social interaction.

●     Balance and control. The ability to detect obstacles and people are part of his built-in anti-collision system. Pepper can maintain balance even if someone tries to knock him over.

Greeters and Baggage Handlers

Pepper isn’t the only airport robot available for assistance. San Jose International Airport has been home to Norma, Amelia and Piper since fall 2016. This robotic crew was built by Future Robot, headquartered in South Korea. The robots are stationed on geo-fence mats at three gates and have large, 32-inch touchscreen tablets running Windows. Travelers can take photos such as selfies with the robot that can be sent via email or displayed on the screens that serve as the robots’ faces. The robots can also bust a move and play background music for a mini dance party with airport travelers.

airport IoT robots

Photo: Mineta San Jose International Airport

The San Jose crew is accessible for individuals who speak many different languages, as the robots can provide them information in French, English, German, Spanish and Japanese. While the robots don’t get a paycheck, they don’t work for free. The $120,000 robot program is paid for by several of the airport’s concessionaires, including the Hudson News Group, Pacific Gateway Concessions and HMSHost.

According to San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo, “Our robots offer travelers who are arriving and departing through Silicon Valley's airport with an iconic experience reflecting our region’s unique culture of innovation.”

Leo airport robots SITI

Photo: SITA

Robots are also going beyond dancing and assistance and doing some heavy lifting. At the airport in Geneva, air transport IT and communications company SITA is testing Leo, a fully autonomous, self-propelling baggage robot. Leo has the capacity to check in, print bag tags and transport up to two suitcases with a maximum weight of 32 kilograms. It also has an obstacle avoidance capability and can navigate in a high-traffic environment, such as the airport’s baggage check area and drop-off curbs.

Get Ready for Takeoff in Robotics

For solution providers, learn about Pepper and participate in robotic development with Softbank Robotics. See the tech specs and sensors used in the San Jose Airport’s crew from Future Robots, or watch Leo, SITA’s baggage robot in action as he checks in and delivers a bag.

San Diego Deploys World’s Largest Smart City IoT Platform

Create: 02/27/2017 - 16:24
San Diego smart city

Photo: Current, powered by GE

San Diego’s motto of “America’s Finest City” is soon to get a V2 upgrade to American’s Smartest City. In partnership with Current, a Boston-based firm powered by GE, the City of San Diego announced plans to invest $30 million to deploy the world’s largest IoT sensor platform. Installation is slated to begin in July 2017.

According to a statement from Mayor Kevin Faulconer, San Diego plans to transform its street lighting in a connected digital infrastructure, allowing the city to collect real-time sensor data across the city. That data will be used to develop a myriad of energy, safety and transportation-related applications that will benefit the entire community of 1.39 million residents.

“This new technology will give the city and developers the opportunity to make our neighborhoods safer and smarter,” says Faulconer.

IoT Lights Up the Gaslamp District

Current, which specializes in creating intelligent environments for commercial buildings and industrial facilities, is focused on extending digital capabilities across cities via the lighting infrastructure. In the initial phase, the company’s CityIQ sensor nodes will be installed on 3,200 San Diego street light poles. The city plans to expand the IoT installation to include another 3,000 sensor points later this year.

In addition to the smart sensors, San Diego plans to upgrade 25 percent of its outdoor lights, including those in its historic Gaslamp district downtown. Current will upgrade 14,000 city light fixtures to its Evolve™ LED luminaires. According to early estimates, the fixtures will save San Diego $2.4 million per year in energy costs. Each fixture is equipped with an advance controls system, LightGrid™, which allows city managers to dim, brighten and check maintenance on the lights remotely through a single dashboard.

Current, powered by GE

Photo: Current, powered by GE

Citywide Intelligent Network

Current is working with AT&T, CivicSmart Intel, Proximetry and ShotSpotter to deploy the intelligent network across San Diego. The sensors will be powered by the AT&T LTE network. Intel® IoT technology will be inside the nodes to help extract metadata. The Intel® Atom® processor E3900 and Wind River software will enable the platform to run intelligent analytics with the light fixture and extract the data.

Other apps to be deployed on the IoT platform will focus on improving citizen safety and the quality of life. ShotSpotter technology, for example, will detect the location of gunshots in real time. CivicSmart will use sensor data to enhance on-street parking availability, and Proximetry, based in San Diego, will manage device applications throughout the network.

Learn More about San Diego’s IoT Deployment

You can see Current’s ecosystem of partners and providers for San Diego and its intelligent infrastructure projects, and download the specs for the LightGrid wireless control system for street lights.

Robotics Do the Heavy Lifting in Automated Car Vending Machine

Create: 02/21/2017 - 18:01
/carvaba smart automation delivery

Photo: Carvana

The process of picking up a new car just became (almost) as easy as purchasing a can of soda. Phoenix-based Carvana, which set out four years ago to disrupt and automate the car-buying process, has opened its newest coin-operated car vending machine tower in Austin, TX. Identical in function to its car vending towers in Houston and Nashville, TN, Carvana’s delivery system is a German-engineered, state-of-the-art, five-story glass tower that uses robotics and moving platforms to deliver cars to buyers, who drop in a large ceremonial coin that triggers the machinery into action.

Carvana’s mission is to allow customers to research and purchase a car online and receive it in person by the next day. Customers also manage the financing and car trade-in processes through Carvana’s online platform and mobile application. Once purchased, the car can be delivered to the customer’s front door, or the customer can choose to utilize one of Carvana’s car vending machines to retrieve the vehicle.

Since the launch of its technology-driven model, Carvana has been successful primarily because of its inherent efficiency and cost-saving incentives for both the customer and automobile manufacturers. According to Carvana CEO Ernie Garcia, “Our mission is to remove the stress and anxiety from the car-buying experience and make the process fun and exciting.”

One goal of the vending machine distribution is to drastically lower overhead costs. While the Carvana vending machine is expensive to build up front—the one in Austin cost $1.5 million according to the Austin-American Statesman—the company is betting on the fact that the automated towers will become inexpensive as more are rolled out. Garcia says the robotic tower allows Carvana to sell cars for up to $2,000 less than most dealerships, as it can employ fewer on-site staff. Also, Carvana doesn’t store any local inventory and it doesn’t need test-drive space, so its dealership locations require less acreage.

Insert Coin for Automated Delivery

When a customer makes a purchase from the Carvana website, the customer can opt to have it sent to one of the vending machine locations. When the financial transaction is complete, Carvana sends the purchased car from one if its distribution centers (in Atlanta or Dallas) to the designated tower. The five-story Austin and Nashville vending machines can hold up to 20 cars, while the eight-story model in Houston has space for up to 30.

Carvana smart automation delivery

Photo: Carvana

The vending machine has three delivery bays and allows customers to watch the entire vehicle retrieval process as it happens. To pick up, customers enter their name on a tablet in the lobby and drops an oversized coin into the car vending machine’s control panel, which lights up and initiates the apparatus. The vending machine uses robotics to retrieve the car from the tower and places it on a conveyor belt, which moves the car through the tower until it reaches and enters the designated delivery bay. The bay automatically opens, and the customer is invited in to take possession.

If the customer feels that the vehicle isn’t the right fit, Carvana provides them the opportunity to test it for up to one week and return it free of charge with a complete refund. If the customer doesn’t live close to one of the car vending machines, Carvana will provide up to $200 in travel fare for customers to have the tower pick-up experience.

The Rise of Automated Parking Garages

The Carvana’s car vending machine is one of many installments in the expanding automation of the automobile industry. As urban centers continue to face rising population sizes, as well as expanding retail and housing developments, the smart parking and self-driving automobile markets are quickly becoming the new norm.

The logistics and process of Carvana’s vending machine closely mirrors that of Park Plus in Boulder, CO. Park Plus’ mechanical parking process includes car-scanning lasers and a robotic valet system that transports these cars to storage centers that can hold more than four times the amount of cars than that of the average parking garage. That automated system can deliver vehicles within 2 minutes of a retrieval request, as reported in Forbes.

With the rise in automated vehicles sales and smart distribution technology, it is likely that Carvana’s car vending machine is just the first of many innovative projects to decrease the costs and increase the efficiency of the buying process for the automobile industry and its stakeholders.

Watch the Carvana vending machine in action. See the full line of ParkPlus automated robotic parking technology solutions.


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