By Jeff McCann, Dell EMC

 Driving Along in Your Car

Do you find the commute to work or to the shops a challenge?

Research shows that you are not alone – the average commuter wastes an incredible 42 hours in traffic congestion every year and spends an additional 17 hours just looking for parking? Apart from fuel emissions and the sheer waste of time and energy, just think of the collective frustration and raised blood pressure levels! We have all been there, stuck in a jam or circling around looking for that elusive space.

Wind of Change

Moving to the weather, we seem to be experiencing an increase in major storms of late with hurricane force winds and flooding. Who can forget Storms Irma, Harvey, Ophelia, and Brian to name but a few? We are still in mop-up mode in Ireland, never mind the far more serious consequences, suffered by communities as far afield as Florida, Texas, Puerto Rico and Cuba.

Technology and the Power of Partnership

I know that these are all very different issues but all have the capacity to affect our lives to a greater or lesser degree as well as wasting time, energy, resources and money. Can technology and the Internet of Things help? Can industry, academia and local Government work for mutual benefit and help improve the local community for citizens?

For me, the answer to both questions is a resounding yes. Real-time data with an instant feedback loop allows us to keep our finger on the pulse. I believe that IoT technology can help make our lives easier, allow planners design better services, save money, reduce risks and protect the environment.

Optimising Traffic Flow

Here’s how. For example, one of the best ways to reduce traffic jams is to collect, store and analyse data in real time from road sensors, traffic lights, GPS on vehicles, Wi-Fi networks and CCTV to better understand traffic flows. By combining this data with road closures and maintenance schedules, the local authorities can design traffic models and get real-time insights about traffic performance, conditions and incidents to help optimize traffic flow.

Simplifying Parking

Did you know that around 30 percent of the cars circling a city at any given time are drivers looking for parking? If we could reduce the time it takes people to find a parking space by even a fraction, the reduction in emissions and the difference in our carbon footprint – never mind, our frustration levels– would be significant. The solution is simple – an IoT-enabled smart parking application. So how would this work? Picture parking occupancy sensors communicating with a gateway, where data would be analysed in real time and then sent via an app on your sat nav or smart phone, indicating the number of available spaces and the best route to get there.

Reducing the Danger of Flooding

Meanwhile, experts say that flood risk could be significantly reduced by integrating real-time, wireless sensors with models of the flood plain or drainage area. Real-time measurements could then be used to allow real-time adjustments to be made to water networks to reduce the danger of flooding as well as sending early alerts to citizens and communities, who might be impacted by rising water levels.

Smart Use of Limited Resources

We all know that the civic authorities have limited resources and budgets. To avoid needless work, could we perhaps send waste management crews out on a just-in-time basis to empty street bins just before they reached full capacity instead of doing it on a routine basis when bins may be either empty or over flowing? What about saving energy through lighting, which automatically dims and brightens, depending on the presence of pedestrians? Could CCTV technology automatically alert the emergency services to accidents?

Research Delivered Through Partnership

All these questions deserve answers. This explains why we have recently teamed up with Lero, the Irish Software Research Center, to jointly sponsor a two-year post-doctoral research study into the Internet of Things in Connected Cities. Based at our IoT Lab at Limerick, the researcher will explore how sensors and IoT technology can best be deployed in areas such as pedestrian footfall, efficient traffic management, smart parking, smart lighting, waste management, safety, security, flood detection, plus improved soil and water quality.

Improving Planning and the Citizen Experience

Led by Professor Brian Donnellan, Chairperson of the All Ireland Smart Cities Forum, Professor of Information Systems Innovation at the School of Business, Maynooth University and Academic Director of the Innovation Value Institute, the research will also examine how Limerick gathers, analyses and uses data, how the civic authorities engage both citizens and commercial entities, and how insights generated from the data can be used to design better services, improve planning and the overall citizen experience. Limerick City and County Council is fully supportive and believes that the research will foster IoT use cases that can be piloted in the local community.

Outcomes Will Help Urban Centers Around the World

While the initial study will concentrate on Limerick, Ireland’s third largest city, we believe that the outcomes of this research can be applied to other urban centers in Ireland and indeed around the world. For example, we will be sharing data with the All Ireland Smart Cities Forum, a cross border initiative, made up of local government officials, representing Cork, Dublin, Limerick, Galway, Waterford, Belfast and Derry, which explores common challenges related to implementing connected city policies and projects.

I am excited about the potential for this project. Community benefits aside, this research is likely to influence the content of university courses while insights gained will undoubtedly shape the design of future products and services.

Jeff McCann, Dell EMC Bio:

A leading technologist with over 25-years industry experience, Jeff the global lead for IoT strategy within the Dell EMC Customer Solution Centers.

A post-graduate of the University of Limerick and the University of Ulster, Jeff has advanced experience in IT data centre support, IT engineering and project management with a personal interest in IoT security and IT forensic analysis.

The goals of the global network of labs are built on Dell EMC’s commitment to continue building an open standards based IoT ecosystem: The IoT lab is currently focused on two main areas, these are:

  • For end-user customers, the lab team is responsible for assisting with the design and testing of solutions suitable for specific business requirements
  • For partners, through the Dell EMC IoT Partner programme, the lab provides access to a reliable product portfolio, including purpose-built, intelligent-edge gateways, security and manageability tools, data centre and cloud infrastructure with the goal of building market ready solutions

In addition to his role as a director of the IoT Labs, Jeff mentors Irish & United Kingdom based start-up companies as part of the Dell EMC Entrepreneur in Residence and E-Sparks programmes.  Outside of Dell, Jeff is an adjunct lecturer in the Internet of Things & connected devices at the University of Limerick, and vice chairman for the IBEC IoT Working Group, enabling Irish companies to benefit from the Internet of Things, and developing an eco-system of IoT solutions across Ireland and abroad.  In the past, Jeff has also served on the Boards of ISSA and ISACA Irish chapters in a variety of roles.

Jeff’s specialised areas of research include smart cities and fog computing, and is currently working on a number of projects in both the construction and manufacturing industries.


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