2016 is already proving to be an interesting year for the Internet of Things (IoT). In smart cities, the most mature area of the IoT, a small set of application vendors are emerging as key players based on their focus on business case and the provision of low risk technology choices. Here are my predictions for the key smart city applications that will lead the charge by the end of 2016.

  1. Smart Street Lighting – this has always been the leading smart city application cited by analysts due to its impressive early growth and clear business case. Smart street lighting is increasing its importance by reusing the lighting column as a communications hub.
  2. Smart Parking – the initial focus of parking was on reducing congestion but this only had a clear business case in a limited number of cities. New advances are emerging that save costs whilst encouraging citizens to change behaviour in order to make city centres an enjoyable place to visit.
  3. Environmental Monitoring – a typical city has a handful of expensive monitoring stations for pollution or weather conditions, most of which cannot be monitored in real time. New systems are emerging that allow cities to monitor the environment with many more sampling points and in real time. This will help pinpoint the source of potential problems that can then be quickly and efficiently dealt with, as well as providing invaluable data for planning.
  4. Information Beacons – enabled by Apple’s iBeacon and Google’s Eddystone, many city assets are now becoming location-aware information portals. New services are emerging that enable consumers to receive real time transport information or special offers from local businesses.
  5. Active Safety – city centres can often be intimidating places especially late at night. New systems are emerging that will react to individuals by increasing light levels or simply to let them know that their presence at a bus stop has been noted.
  6. Smart Journey Planning – we are seeing a growing number of systems that utilise open city data in order to suggest how individuals can best get from A to B. The systems are now becoming more sophisticated, taking into account personal preferences such as cost, safety concerns and CO2 footprint.
  7. Transport Sharing – city bike schemes, whilst great for flat city centres, don’t really work over large areas or in hilly communities. We are seeing the emergence of new bike sharing schemes that allow people to share access to better bikes that are not tied to a few expensive bike stations. 2016 will be a key year for electric cars and we predict that this will be a key enabler for wider adoption of city centre car sharing.
  8. Smart Bin Collection – this application points to a wider set of opportunities in which smart sensing enables cities to analyse and optimise how they deploy services. The sensing side of these applications is often trivial but the real winners are those companies that can provide proven analysis tools to help cities plan individual truck rolls or collection routes.
  9. Social and Health Care Cost Reduction – all of the top 10 applications here enable some element of cost reduction. However, it is in wellbeing that the biggest cost challenges are being met. 2016 will see more joined up thinking between social care and health care providers often being backed up by remote sensing to make sure that the correct interventions are achieved at the optimal time without the expensive costs associated with acute care.
  10. Smart Social Housing – along with healthcare, social housing is one of the largest areas of public sector spending. By bringing low cost monitoring to social housing it is possible to increase the satisfaction that tenants get from their home whilst reducing costs for landlords.

Underpinning these applications, we will also see a clearer model of how different members of the wider IOT eco-system will start to work together. This will partly be driven by the publication of standards which have been in gestation for the last few years. As these standards start to emerge, companies, which have previously had to provide complete solutions will be able to pick parts of the eco-system in which to specialise.

As the underlying eco-system organises itself, the companies that provide applications will be able to focus more on their key value proposition to end customers. Smart city applications will lead the way and form a template for how the rest of the IOT evolves.