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How the Internet of Things Will Change Urban Areas Forever

By DeVry University


According to the UN, over half the world’s population lives in urban areas, and that is projected to grow two-thirds by 2050.

In 2014, there were 28 megacities with more than 10 million people worldwide. By 2030, that is projected to grow to 41 million. As John Wilmoth, director of UN DESA’s population division, explains, “Managing urban areas has become one of the most important development challenges of the 21st century.”

It isn’t just city planning that will need to evolve. Cities can’t grow without jobs to support its citizens. What industries will emerge? And what skills will be needed?

To many experts, the answer is tech and innovation. And many of the skills needed will be related to coding and development.

In the past few years, the Internet of Things (IoT) has become one of the most widely-discussed concepts. Built on a network of sensors and internet-connected devices, the IoT is changing nearly every industry.

Now the IoT is looking at revolutionizing how we live. Governments around the world plan to put about $41 trillion over the next 20 years toward improving efficiencies and streamlining services through urban infrastructures, as long as the world has tech-skilled workers to meet IoT demands.

The gap between the skills necessary to accommodate this growth, and the available workforce, could be “opportunity knocking” for those looking to enter the workforce or change career focus.

Welcome to Beacon City

The IoT can change the world into an interactive network dedicated to improvement and efficiency. Once static objects can become dynamic components capable of change at a moment’s notice. Developers can create software capable of analyzing data gathered from traffic patterns, and automated systems can deliver results based on those analyses. These sense-and-respond abilities mean that proactive systems can emerge.

Smart traffic lights are aiming to improve traffic flow. Bellevue, a growing city east of Seattle, has deployed a working, sensor-driven intersection signal system, reducing the cost and hassle of commuting. These lights vary their cycles based on traffic flow, reducing travel time by 43 percent, saving drivers $9 to $12 million annually according to Bellevue officials.

Parking space sensors might sound trivial but the impacts are substantial. In 2013, Frost & Sullivan predicted that the parking industry in both North America and Europe would see investments ranging from $200 to $250 million through 2018. In 2016, the parking industry is worth an estimated $9 billion[1]. Off-street parking can be improved with space sensors that work in conjunction with digital signage pointing drivers to open spaces[2].

Planes, Trains and Automobiles

Not only are cities impacted by the IoT—vehicles are changing too. What used to take a mechanic to manufacture and repair will now take computer scientists, coders and developers.

Smart cars have already been in headlines. Gartner estimates 250 million connected vehicles on the roadways by 2020. Smart cars can interact with users’ smartphones to get information such as appointments, and use that information to propose new routes. Autopilot abilities can allow the computer to take the wheel. As more smart cars hit the road, they will join a network that makes decisions based on the movement of each component, meaning cars can drive in patterns that optimize flow. These “smart patterns” will work in conjunction with sensors on traffic lights to reduce the 90 billion hours spent in traffic annually[1], and the 220 million metrics of carbon emission and $1 trillion in fuel costs and lost productivity[2].

Smart commercial trucks may dominate the roadways soon. Otto, a division of Uber made up of ex-Google coders and developers, is focusing on bringing the self-driving truck to the forefront of the transportation industry. With regulations on the consecutive hours a driver can log due to exhaustion, the trucking industry, worth $726 billion in revenue in 2015 and accounting for 81 percent of all freight transport[3], is looking at a productivity leap.

While the possibilities are predicted to improve lives, the IoT has obstacles to overcome. Tech pros with cybersecurity knowledge will be needed to ensure the interface is secure, while big data analysts will be needed to make sense of the information. The amount of tech jobs that will require IoT-specific and coding knowledge is immense.

Brought to you by DeVry University. In 1931, Herman DeVry founded a university that embraced technology. Today, we are putting technology at the core of our business, tech and healthcare programs, to help prepare our students to solve tomorrow’s problems.