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Get smart: The coming of age of the smart city

Published: December 4th, 2017 By: Suzanne Robicheau

Amazon AWS

What’s New in Amazon’s AI Toolkit? Meet Lex, Polly and Rekognition

Lex
Lex is a fully managed service that uses voice and text to build conversational interfaces that mimic the way humans think and communicate. Powered by the same conversational engine as Amazon’s Alexa, it reduces the multi-platform development effort and allows developers to build and deploy conversational bots on mobile platforms. Common uses include building an automated customer support agent that answers questions; building custom bots that connect to enterprise data resources, and controlling connected devices.

Polly
Want to turn text into high quality spoken output? Look no further than Amazon’s Polly, a service that enables existing applications to speak and creates opportunities for a range of speech-enabled products, such as automobiles, appliances, and mobile apps. Choose from dozens of lifelike voices in multiple languages. Simply send text to the Amazon Polly API and Amazon Polly will convert it to speech and send an audio stream that you can either play immediately or save for future use in an audio file. Developers are able to use standardized Speech Synthesis Markup Language (SSML) to customize pronunciation and control speech variables such as volume and pitch.

Rekognition
Amazon Rekognition is an artificial intelligence designed for deep, learning-based image recognition. Based on the same technology developed by Amazon to analyze billions of images each day for Prime Photos, Rekognition uses a probability-based model to detect and identify objects, scenes and faces in images. Why scroll through endless photos looking for shots of people, places and things when Rekognition can detect them in a matter of minutes and present you with numerical proof of the probability of accuracy.


Managing IoT Connections with Amazon Web Services


Not interested in managing a complex infrastructure of connected devices? The following services make it easy to build IoT applications that gather, process, analyze, and act on data.

AWS IoT 1-Click
Developers will appreciate the way AWS IoT 1-Click makes it easy for cloud-connected, single-purpose devices like buttons, badge readers, and motion sensors to trigger a variety of Lambda functions, including requests for technical support, reordering goods and services, and locking or unlocking windows and doors. Simply download the 1-Click mobile app from Google Play or the Apple App Store, select from a list of pre-configured devices, choose the desired function, and deploy with one click. The AWS IoT 1-Click mobile app will track the utilization of deployed devices, including status reports and information on low batteries.

IoT Device Management
Onboarding, organizing, monitoring, and remotely managing IoT devices at scale is easy with AWS IoT Device Management service. Use IoT Device Management to register devices individually or in bulk, upload and view device information, organize inventory of devices, and manage permissions to ensure security. Track, operate, and manage devices deployed across many locations.  Trouble shoot in real time based on attributes such as device ID and type.

IoT Device Defender
Defender is an appropriate name for a fully managed service that helps secure a fleet of IoT devices and continuously monitors policies to keep information secure.

AWS IoT Device Defender audits devices against best practices to identify gaps in security. By monitoring incoming device data and metrics, it detects anomalies that could indicate a breach in security and publishes security alerts to the AWS IoT Console, Amazon CloudWatch, and Amazon SNS. Suggested use cases include the connected home, health and fitness, oil and gas, and retail.

 

Helping Kitchener, Ontario evolve as a Smart City is Karl Allen-Muncey’s idea of a dream job.

“City staff is passionate about it and there’s a culture of innovation that is driven by the mayor, councilors, and others at the top of the city’s management hierarchy,” says Allen-Muncey, Director of Kitchener’s new Municipal Innovation Lab. “It’s an exciting proposition to be able to facilitate conversation and apply technology to assist in creating positive outcomes.”

Smart water meters and LED streetlights
Working in the city’s Communitech hub – the largest technology incubator in the Kitchener-Waterloo area – Allen-Muncey tackles projects ranging from smart parking and smart water metre reading to an e-billing service for property taxes and utilities. Customers receive bills by email and use an online portal to track their utility consumption, view their account, and access customer service.


“Kitchener is one of the first municipalities in Canada to open a lab dedicated to exploring how the Internet of Things can solve civic challenges,” he says. “We are excited about hosting a variety of Smart City features that leverage technology to improve community communication tools and enable transparency in technology planning, environmental energy management, and water management.”

As part of the Digital Kitchener strategy, the city has already introduced a citywide conversion to LED street lighting with a narrowband adaptive control network. In addition to brightening and dimming as needed, Kitchener’s new high-tech streetlights will improve navigation for emergency services, make gas meter data available in real-time, and monitor sound pressure levels across the city.


Transforming transportation

Real-time data capture is also allowing Miovision, a Canadian technology company, to help cities improve transportation capacity, safety, cost-effectiveness, and performance. Using Amazon Web Services (AWS) to capture data from thousands of connected devices at traffic intersections around the world, Miovision empowers more than 17,000 municipalities in 50 countries to transform transportation. In one example, a municipality in Canada receives real-time alerts when there are significant changes in traffic flow. Transit and emergency medical personnel monitor these alerts for serious slowdowns, verify road conditions using streaming video, and instantly deploy the services required.

For years, the traffic-management industry was based on proprietary vendor stacks, which not only made it hard for cities to innovate, but also wasted money,” says Miovision’s managing director, Dave Bullock. “We made the decision to build everything on open standards and APIs. Amazon API Gateway provides a beautiful way to deliver our entire range of services over open APIs and it’s one of the most popular and powerful parts of our platform.”

Global phenomena

With governments around the world looking to IoT applications to improve the lives of their constituents, the Smart City concept is now a global phenomenon. A 2016 report by Juniper Research, (Worldwide Smart Cities: Energy, Transport & Lighting 2016-2021) links the evolution of Smart Cities to pressures created by increasing urban populations, estimating that smart traffic management and smart parking initiatives will save 4.2 billion man-hours annually by 2021. Smart LED street lighting is also predicted to increase dramatically by 2021,with sensors on streetlights to allow municipal Wi-Fi.

Lighting was also a source of discussion in IDC FutureScape: Worldwide Smart Cities 2017 Predictions. Based on their collective understanding of major urban transitions and the impact on strategic planning, the IDC Smart City team estimated that Global LED Street Light Conversions would number 180 Million by 2019, with spending pegged at $80 Billion. According to the IDC forecast, light infrastructure will become the key Smart City platform for connected IoT Devices.

Smartphone traffic will soon exceed PC traffic

As the Kitchener example illustrates, complex systems of smart connected products are revolutionizing the way cities work. Thanks to increased processing speeds, smaller, more reliable devices and anywhere/anytime connectivity, consumers are using smartphones, smart TVs, streaming devices, wearables, tablets, and computers to collect and exchange data with a network of physical objects, including vehicles, machines, appliances, toys, cameras, medical devices and mechanical systems.

The 2017 Cisco Mobile Visual Networking Index (VNI) estimates that by 2021 there will be about 25 million global 5G-capable devices and connections. Another VNI prediction sees broadband speeds almost doubling by 2021, with Smartphone traffic exceeding PC traffic and accounting for 33% of total IP traffic. Incredibly, the expectation is that by 2021, there will be three times as many devices connected to IP networks as people on the planet.

Among those in the know, there are great expectations for the next 5 years, including smart meters, connected and autonomous cars, package tracking, healthcare delivery services, and video surveillance. At the civic level, this could mean faster, better responses to issues of safety and security, reduced traffic congestion, reduced emissions, improved water quality, heightened food security, telemedicine, and immersive video and gaming.


Connect with an AWS Cloud Consultant


A 2015 report by global management consulting firm McKinsey Global Institute, The Internet of Things: Mapping the value beyond the hype, finds that the hype around the economic potential of the Internet of Things may, in fact, be understated. After in-depth analysis, the report estimates that the IoT has a potential economic impact of $3.9 trillion to $11.1 trillion a year by 2025.
As our network of devices continues to grow, the term IoT is fast being replaced by the Internet of Everything (IoE), a new way of describing the Internet’s integral role in daily life. Navigating the interconnected world will require innovative thinking, agility, and a clear understanding of the value equation.

This is one in a series of four What’s Possible articles looking at the challenges and opportunities on the road to 2025