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DSS Europe: IoT and AI are transforming smart cities

The smart city concept has been totally changed by the advent of the Internet of Things and artificial intelligence, attendees at the Digital Signage Summit Europe 2017 were told.

Smart cities were a key area of focus at the event, which took place on 5 and 6 July at the International Congress Center Munich.

The comments about the IoT and AI came during a keynote by Florian Rotberg (pictured), managing director of invidis consulting, entitled ‘The Essence of Smart Cities – Sharing is Caring’.

“The main enabler of smart cities is the IoT – everything is connected, we get live data from everywhere, it’s very essential,” said Rotberg. He showed an example of a smart street lighting deployment that not only features electric vehicle charging but also uses radar detection of traffic flows to adjust lighting levels.

Artificial intelligence is being increasingly used in smart cities in a predictive role, he said. Examples include matching the supply of parking spaces with the demand, and also understanding longer-term trends, such as the changes in demand for different modes of transport in a city as different generations move in and out.

Rotberg highlighted three cities that have each embraced the smart city concept in their own ways. In Dubai, the emphasis is on sharing data about all aspects of life in the emirate; some is shared between government departments, some is provided as an open resource for businesses, and some is shared directly with the public. In Singapore, where over 80% of the population lives in public housing, homes are equipped with sensors measuring electricity and water consumption, and waste generation; this data feeds into a giant 3D model of the city, which can be used in simulations of events such as fires or hurricanes.

Europe’s first smart city is Santander, which began its project five years ago. It has installed a number of sensors which register parked cars, noise and air quality – the data populates an app that is available to the public.

Noting that many Europeans are resistant to widespread CCTV, Rotberg said: “It’s important to focus not just on what’s possible, but what’s culturally acceptable – that’s where the limits are.”

An illustration of how smart cities and DOOH can work hand in hand was given by Madina Tenizova of Billboard Video Group. Her presentation covered a 60-screen network of roadside ‘media boards’ in the city of Almaty in Kazakhstan. This is a self-learning system that records traffic flows and, using real-time video analytics a cloud server and SpinetiX media players, displays traffic advice to drivers. Advertisement material is also displayed, with the lengths of slots increased as traffic slows.

The network is also able to trigger content based on external events – such as advertisements for weatherproof phones during periods of rain, or airline advertisements synchronised to flight information.

One display technology that may well find a home in smart cities is e-paper – the subject of a presentation by Jaka Stele, COO of Visionect. Familiar to anyone who has ever used a Kindle, e-paper is highly suited to multiple deployments across cities for information such as timetables, said Stele. Because it only consumes power when the displayed information changes, it can be deployed off the mains grid, using either solar or battery power. “E-paper can be 100 times more efficient than LED or LCD screens if the image doesn’t change much,” he said. Because the surface is non-reflective, it’s also readable in direct sunlight.

Visionect is aware of over 150 outdoor pilots of e-paper between 2008 and 2005, of which only 7% went on to volume deployments. However, the technology has improved significantly over the past 18 months, he said – displays are becoming more affordable and larger, with wider operating temperature ranges, and they are getting better at displaying colours.

Visionect, he added, has had more success to date with e-paper in indoor digital signage projects than outdoor ones. “The business case may be clearer for outdoor projects but the complexities are greater,” he commented.

Digital Signage Summit Europe is co-produced by invidis consulting and Integrated Systems Events.