Sunday, March 27, 2016

IOT and Robotics in Smart Cities

Some weeks ago I taught a class about Internet of Things and Robotics in the Smart Cities at the worldwide known IE Business School of Madrid, where I am Associate Professor. Here I share some of the information I showed in the class.

Smart Cities

In 1900, 13% of the world population lived in cities. In 2050, 70% will live in cities as per the prediction from United Nations. This represent a growth of seven cities as New York added to our planet every year.

With this prediction, it is easy to imagine that unless things change, it will be difficult to manage such population growth. In order to solve this potential problem, the concept of Smart City came to us.

As clearly explained in Wikipedia: A smart city is an urban development vision to integrate multiple information and communication technology (ICT) solutions in a secure fashion to manage a city’s assets – the city’s assets include, but not limited to, local departments information systems, schools, libraries, transportation systems, hospitals, power plants, water supply networks, waste management, law enforcement, and other community services. The goal of building a smart city is to improve quality of life by using technology to improve the efficiency of services and meet residents’ needs. The information and communication technology involved allows city officials to interact directly with the community and the city infrastructure and to monitor what is happening in the city, how the city is evolving, and how to enable a better quality of life. Through the use of sensors integrated with real-time monitoring systems, data are collected from citizens and objects - then processed and analysed. The information and knowledge gathered are keys to tackling inefficiency.

In order to make this change possible, The Internet of Things (IOT) came to the scene. 

IOT for Smart Cities

The Internet of Things (IoT) is the network of physical objects—devices, vehicles, buildings and other items—embedded with electronics, software, sensors, and network connectivity that enables these objects to collect and exchange data. The IoT allows objects to be sensed and controlled remotely across existing network infrastructure, creating opportunities for more direct integration of the physical world into computer-based systems, and resulting in improved efficiency, accuracy and economic benefit; when IoT is augmented with sensors and actuators, the technology becomes an instance of the more general class of cyber-physical systems, which also encompasses technologies such as smart grids, smart homes, intelligent transportation and smart cities. Each thing is uniquely identifiable through its embedded computing system but is able to interoperate within the existing Internet infrastructure. 

There are several predictions for the future of IOT: Gartner estimate that the IoT will consist of almost 26 billion objects by 2020. Abi Research estimate 30 billion, while CISCO estimate 50 billion. Also Business Insider estimates us$1,7 trillion accumulated sales, with 35% CAGR by 2020. It is easy to understand why there are so important companies involved in the IOT sector as Cisco, IBM, GE, AT&T, Telefónica, Amazon (AWS), Microsoft (Azure), Google (Nest), Intel, Qualcomm, Oracle or Libelium.

Along with Internet of Things, robotics could make a better life for humans in cities.

Robotics for Smart Cities

As well as in the previous two cases, the robotics business prediction is very promising. In the following graph, from the International Federation of Robotics and Boston Consulting Group (source) it is shown the market growth un billions of us$ for the main four sorts of robots:
  • Military: Including UAV, UGV, UUV and task robots widely used for military applications.
  • Industrial: Including applications for welding, assemble and material handling.
  • Commercial: Including applications such as medical and surgical robots, agricultural robots, maintenance and construction robots.
  • Personal: With applications as entertainment, cleaning, education and security robot.

The Industrial robots have revolutionized the production in our world. Almost any physical product used in a smart city has been produced by a set of robots or an automated manufacturing centre, as is the case of cars, electronic circuits, sensors, appliances, etc.

The commercial and Personal robots are more human related. The robots in these two categories interact with humans in more or less intensity to make their work. Some of them for professional work and other for more home based works.

There is no doubt we are moving to a world were robots, and internet of things will help more than ever to get smarter cities that could support the growth of our humanity.

Written by: Alejandro Alonso-Puig. HISPAROB Robotics Platform Vicepresident, IXION Industry & Aerospace MR Systems Manager and Quark Robotics Partner.