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Smart cities take centre stage at IoT event

Sarah Putt, Contributor. 03 October 2019, 8:50 pm

Three months and three meetings - that's how long it should take to create a minimum viable product, according to Andy Grant from ASG Technologies. He was speaking at the IoT Alliance conference in Auckland, where public infrastructure deployments were a common theme among the case studies presented.

Grant's point is that the technology is evolving so fast you can't afford to waste too much time before you get "something in the customer's hands that they can tangibly start using". He is keen on collaboration and explained how ASG Technologies is in partnership with Panasonic Japan, Spark and Microsoft global.

Vikram Kumar, founder of KotahiNet, outlined the company's iterative approach to creating an IoT solution for Transpower that monitors power lines. The problem that KotahiNet set out to solve is that Transpower has to ensure its lines don't sag too far towards the ground and become a safety hazard. Traditionally, monitoring is done by a person checking the lines manually, but with KotahiNet's solution, the IoT sensors relay data back to Transpower at regular intervals. Usually this is every two hours to conserve battery power, but it increases to every 10 minutes if the ambient temperature rises above 11.5 degrees because heat increases the likelihood of the lines sagging to unsafe levels.

Kumar says that for most customers, IoT solutions are seen as a way to reduce operational cost and are expected to deliver an ROI. In his view the most valuable aspect is the real time data that provides organisations not only with the ability to achieve remote monitoring and save themselves the cost of a truck-roll, but to use historical and real time data to create predictive models that further increase efficiency and innovation. According to Kumar, IoT is today at a similar stage to when the internet first arrived, and people struggled to see what it would mean beyond email.

Adam O'Connor from NB Smart Cities presented a case study on the deployment of LED lighting for the South Waikato District Council, which encompasses three main towns - Tirau, Putaruru and Tokoroa. The deployment uses open network standard technology and post installation outcomes include street light mainstenance costs reduced by 70-80%, energy consumptiion dropped by 50%, Co2 emissions reduced by 61.81 tonnes per year and light levels increased by 50% across the network.

O'Connor says the light fittings are future-proofed because they are designed to accommodate other technologies such as WiFi and CCTV. Good news for other councils looking to deploy a similar network is that, according to O'Connor, the NZ Transport Authority will fund 85% of the cost.

Ilya Vensky, co-founder of O2O2, explained how the company's face wear device, which is designed to protect people from outdoor pollution, is really an IoT solution. The device is constantly monitoring air quality and providing users with real-time data that is useful in a variety of sectors including sport, health and the military. It's a design-led product and has premiered in this year's fashion weeks at Seoul and New York.  

The company is part of BMW's elite smart city programme, and Vensky pointed out that the traditional carmaker views its purpose as being less about manufacturing automobiles and more about selling global mobility solutions.

The value of partnerships was made clear by a number of speakers, including Matt Hector-Taylor from IoT Ventures, who presented on its BeSure service. BeSure is an IoT solution designed in collaboration with a number of healthcare organisations, that helps older people and those with disabilities to live independently in their own homes. In Hector-Taylor's example, sensors were placed in rooms throughout the house and monitored everything from the person's movement, to the levels of heating.

This was the second IoT Alliance event, and while last year it was focussed on start-ups, this year it was more about smart cities and manufacturing. This reflects not only how IoT technology is evoloving in New Zealand, but also the fact that large organisations and businesses are beginning to understand its value, a point picked up by the first panel chair Jannat Maqbool who is from Ecosystm and is part of the Smart Hamilton team. She asked the 100+ audience if they would consider themselves technologists or businesspeople, and the mix was about half and half.  



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