Data Makes Cities Smarter

When it comes to data, a smart city undeniably makes life easier for its inhabitants and administration. A huge range of services are improved by data, whether it is waste disposal, winter services, irrigation or looking for parking spaces.

Data Makes Cities Smarter

Image Credit: Unsplash

The pioneering municipality of Herrenberg is one such city that uses data to perform many of its tasks more efficiently than before. The data, among other things, was used to provide an intelligent winter road clearance service based on sensors from Lufft.

Things in the present can look dated pretty quickly – particularly when it comes to the future of how smart cities could function in a few years. Herrenberg’s city center can evoke a bygone era, with the neat half-timbered houses it boasts.

However, this future-facing 30,000-inhabitant community - picturesque old town and all -  is becoming a pioneer for other smart cities nationwide.

The Internet of Things

In a smart city, there are many possible applications of data that bridge the gap between sci-fi and reality; for instance, parking space sensors that can highlight empty spaces to drivers, as well as intelligent garbage containers that can automatically send an emptying request when a certain level is reached.

To allow inanimate features of a city, like streets, flower beds and garbage cans, among other things, to provide information about their condition, they need to be connected to a radio network and, of course, be equipped with sensors.

Low-radiation communication networks, or so-called Low Power Wide Area Networks (LPWAN) are the medium by which communication in this Internet of Things (IoT) takes place.

The performance of LPWAN is very low in contrast to WLAN or mobile telephones; after all, it only has to transmit small amounts of data instead of pictures or videos.

Investment Costs Reduced by License-Free Frequencies

Data transfer is performed in Herrenberg via the Long Range Wide Area Network (LoRaWAN). This form of LPWAN is particularly well-suited for these types of smart city applications.

The municipality has set up a comprehensive data architecture with very low investment costs, thanks to the fact that it uses license-free frequencies in the ISM band (Industrial, Scientific, and Medical Band – 863 to 870 MHz).

There are essentially two sections to this data architecture: sensors and data receivers (so-called gateways) which communicate via LoRaWAN. To guarantee good network coverage, the gateways are distributed over the city area at as high a location as possible.

A city like Herrenberg, with its 30,000 inhabitants, is able to manage that with just over 12 gateways, and only two of the receivers were used in 2018. They are connected through the medium of the Internet to servers, from which computers can retrieve the data for various uses.

A Wealth of Data for Everyone

The thrilling thing about this kind of infrastructure is that it is open to everyone:  individuals can use it and - if necessary - expand it themselves.

This approach fits perfectly with the spirit of the “join-in city,” as Herrenberg has proclaimed itself. For security, the data is transmitted in encrypted form which means that it can only be viewed by the respective user.

Mhascaro uses the transmitted data from the sensors and has, in cooperation with the Office for Environment, Technology, Green, developed a novel platform for sensor monitoring. Its employees can monitor all sensors in a clear, user-friendly way as well as identify and read out histories and measured values.

Individual alarm e-mails can be sent, which can, for instance, appear in the employee’s mailbox at a certain level.

The automated winter service is a promising pilot project in Herrenberg. Real-time data is provided by road sensors and weather stations, which offer a level of clarity akin to a view of the road from a window.

This is naturally a significant boost for winter road clearance staff, who undertake an enormous amount of work each year from November to March.

Even in milder winters with little snow, risks like black ice or slippery frost remain. Naturally, therefore, the more the winter road clearance service knows about road conditions, the better – and safer.

Data Makes Cities Smarter

Image Credit: mhascaro GmbH

Data Makes Cities Smarter

Image Credit: mhascaro GmbH

Data Makes Cities Smarter

Image Credit: mhascaro GmbH

Learning from the Past

Currently, there are two Lufft IRS31Pros installed in Herrenberg’s streets – with a third to follow soon. Information is provided on wind speed, direction, precipitation, solar radiation, humidity, temperature and pressure by the Lufft WS10, WS600 and WS800 weather stations.

Mhascaro developed the integration into the LoRaWAN network in close cooperation with Lufft, which has been in use since 2018. Measuring instruments can give us a firm grasp of current and past data. But what about the future?

Instead of a crystal ball, this is where artificial intelligence comes into play. Together with the clearing logs of the winter road clearance service, historical weather data provides a valuable treasure trove of data from which an algorithm, i.e., a computer program, is able to recognize recurring patterns.

There may, for instance, be a correlation between humidity and temperature because dangerous slipperiness can form even without the help of precipitation.

Safe Driving in Winter

Though the algorithm has already been fed some information, caution must be exercised: the larger the database, the more precise and universal the predictions.

Herrenberg’s goal, therefore, is to include the wider communities from all over Baden-Württemberg in the project. If this is achieved, it will increase the pool of those who benefit dramatically - allowing everyone to benefit from the winter road clearance service, rendering traffic safer in the wetter and winter months.

Technology like this is not solely in operation in Herrenberg and the surrounding area but has been implemented in many other cities that share Herrenberg’s dream: to use AI to make their operations more intelligent and ultimately to become smart cities.

This information has been sourced, reviewed and adapted from materials provided by OTT HydroMet.

For more information on this source, please visit OTT HydroMet.

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