More than IoT: How to Build a Smart City

This interview with Hardik Bhatt, Leader of Smart Cities & Mobility Business at Amazon Web Services, is an excerpt from our recent guide, Your FAQ to IoT in Government.

IoT has become synonymous to a smart city. But as any city that has deployed IoT can attest, becoming a smart city requires more than that.

“When you think of smart cities, you think about sensors, but technology is only a third of what makes a smart city,” said Hardik Bhatt, Leader of Smart Cities and Mobility Business at Amazon Web Services (AWS). In addition to connected devices and data, Bhatt explained in a recent interview that communities must also focus on people and processes to build a successful smart city. AWS provides the cloud infrastructure and services and collaborates with a robust partner community to give customers access to solutions from both big technology providers and small startups.

Consider a common component of smart cities – ACES. The number of autonomous, connected, electric and shared (ACES) vehicles is rapidly growing in urban areas, with many cities heavily investing in solutions to increase ride sharing, streamline traffic patterns, and improve transportation.

A city needs the infrastructure to support ACES – like charging stations for electric cars or traffic signals that can communicate with connected vehicles. That requires careful planning, as well as solutions to integrate different technologies into a comprehensive system. And that planning involves many stakeholders including other municipalities and/or states, as connected roadways extend beyond one city’s borders.

Additionally, the data created by these connected roadways and vehicles must be collected somewhere, and likely shared across government departments in order to keep traffic running smoothly. Departments will need to analyze that data to make real-time and future decisions about traffic and infrastructure.

In this scenario, sensors placed on these vehicles are a critical component of a smart city, but they are only one piece. For cities to become “smart,” they must create a holistic architecture that enables them to connect the technologies, processes, and people of IoT.

That’s why many municipalities leverage cloud computing. Cloud provides a scalable infrastructure that can easily connect to disparate devices, including smart technologies. Cloud allows ingestion of various data sources from city-owned or managed on-premises, SaaS systems, or from third-party systems. Once information is ingested, it can be correlated and analyzed in the cloud. Plus, that data can be securely shared with others as needed.

“Cities need to start thinking about outcomes, about what they are going do with their data from smart devices,” Bhatt said. “Cloud provides a secure way to manage that data and use analytics.”

Kansas City, Missouri provides an example of cloud in action. Along the two-mile corridor of the Kansas City Streetcar, a $15 million public-private partnership has supported deployment of 325 Wi-Fi access points, 178 smart streetlights and 25 video kiosks, as well as pavement sensors, video cameras, and other devices. But what makes this investment more than a group of sensors is that all of their data is collected, correlated, and analyzed through a holistic cloud infrastructure.

Kansas City uses an integrated suite of AWS services and applications to make sure sensor data is used to its fullest extent. The city uses Amazon Kinesis to process more than one million real-time events per day from devices. That data is then queried and analyzed automatically by AWS Lambda, and when necessary, stored along with long-term city and regional data on Amazon Redshift. This is done by the third-party urban analytics and intelligence platform built by Xaqt, an AWS partner, and integrated with the AWS cloud to provide deeper insights into actionable data.

Using all of these IoT solutions together in the cloud, Kansas City can make accurate predictions about traffic infrastructure and patterns that save money while improving safety and convenience for its citizens.

And Kansas City is just one example. Virginia Beach is using a combination of sensors and cloud-sourced data for their early flood warning system. The state of Georgia, city of Las Vegas, and state of Utah are using Alexa skills to provide better customer engagement, and Louisville, Kentucky is using open-source traffic analysis tools built on AWS to make informed traffic flow decisions.

As more government organizations adopt and deploy connected devices, sensors, analytics, and machine learning in a strategic manner, they’ll also inevitably have to consider how their internal systems and services support that goal. Only with the cloud can agencies connect, analyze, and share their sensor-generated data and excel with IoT.

To learn more about the use of IoT in the public sector, check out our recent guide, Your FAQ to IoT in Government.

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