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What makes a smart community?

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Population centers of tomorrow will be smarter, safer and more efficient — thanks to the Internet of Things.


As the ranks of urban dwellers balloon, communities will face no shortage of challenges — from natural disasters and congestion to pollution and resource management. An increasingly important set of tools in their arsenal, however, harnesses the Internet of Things, or IoT. These solutions will be instrumental in helping planners and public officials adapt, optimize and revolutionize the communities they serve.

This isn’t a silver-bullet proposition. Rather, a smart community is built from a series of interconnections — where a vast network of IoT sensors and cameras can analyze the cityscape and feed back to officials in real time.

“We want to know what a city’s precise needs are; we’re not looking for problems,” Kim English, Solutions Architect Business Development at Verizon, says. “We have this technology, and it’s a matter of applying it in a way in which everyone sees a benefit.”

We have this technology, and it’s a matter of applying it in a way in which everyone sees a benefit. 

Kim English, Solutions Architect Business Development at Verizon


Verizon currently has IoT pilot and full-scale programs running in over 50 locations around the globe, including Boston, Kansas City, Mo., and Sacramento, Calif. These cities are incubating the ideas that will shape the smart communities of tomorrow.

Here are 4 ways IoT technologies will speed that transformation.

1. By reducing congestion: No one likes a traffic jam, but by deploying IoT sensors in intersections and embedding them directly in pavement, planners can have a more informed understanding of road usage.

“We’re using sensors that are deployed in the pavement and cameras that are deployed on traffic lights,” Sean Harrington, Verizon’s VP of City Solutions, says. “Together, these systems help detect people and vehicles that are on roads, and relay that anonymous, aggregated data to help optimize the flow of traffic around cities.”

Meanwhile, Traffic Data Services (TDS) transforms cellular data into a tool for smarter traffic management. By collecting anonymized, aggregate data from across the Verizon 4G LTE network, this solution provides planners with uncommonly granular insight into traffic patterns and flows. TDS dwarfs the capabilities of traditional GPS and also shows the entry and exit points of a given vehicle through an intersection.

2. By getting smart about lighting: Cities can now install LED lights equipped with IoT sensors that allow agencies to turn on or dim light beams when needed. The benefit is twofold: Agencies can save money on unnecessary energy costs by remotely changing lighting levels — a solution that can bring up to 80% energy savings over traditional systems — while simultaneously improving visibility in areas that need it most.

Highway at night

3. By spreading hyper-localized knowledge: Digital kiosks let passersby look up transit options, use interactive maps and stay informed of safety hazards in the area. And the kiosks’ free Wi-Fi gives residents easy access to the internet. The kiosks are a boon for locals in search of information about their community (or a bus stop) and tourists keen to find a good burger in the neighborhood.

4. By making safer streets a reality: Verizon’s Intelligent Video solution can assist planners in gathering, transmitting and storing high-quality visual images. An end-to-end, managed service cellular solution, Intelligent Video is focused on monitoring in remote locations, helping decision-makers spot unusual or abnormal behaviors and shorten response times.

In partnership with the City of Boston, Verizon has also strategically assisted in gathering data at a busy intersection to better understand how drivers interact with cyclists and pedestrians. That anonymized data will help planners assess how to better design safer streets.

Smart Signal implementation: The potential impact

According to the Federal Highway Administration, improved traffic signal timing across the country could yield up to:
Fewer traffic delays
Less travel time
Fuel savings
Fewer emissions

Working toward safer, smoother city mobility

“Could a network of wirelessly connected cameras and sensors, combined with sophisticated algorithms that analyze how people are behaving on the road, make these junctions less hazardous?” MIT Technology Review asks. Verizon is committed to helping find the answer.

“It will help improve overall safety on the roads,” Harrington says of IoT solutions. “We’re leveraging data to better time the signal lights, which can improve both pedestrian and driver safety.”

These systems help detect people and vehicles that are on roads, and relay that anonymous, aggregate data to help optimize the flow of traffic around cities. 

Sean Harrington, VP of City Solutions at Verizon

Traffic light

A smart community is constantly evolving. And all with one purpose: to serve the people who live within it.

“We are actually building technologies that are going to make a difference in the world,” English explains. “Our sensors can monitor air quality. They can determine how much water your crops might need. These are the kind of things that will have a powerful impact on people’s day-to-day lives — and the future of our planet.”

How can sensors embedded in roads help save the Earth? Find out how. 

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