The term “smart cities” may bring to mind sci-fi metropolises, perhaps along the lines of the cityscapes in Star Wars. But smart cities may look more like what we’re used to than you’d expect.
Qualcomm’s approach to smart-city development includes repurposing existing city infrastructure, and transitioning from single-purpose devices to multi-purpose devices for efficiency. And we’ve started the ball rolling with affordable solutions that work with familiar city objects, such as trash cans and payphones, rather than replacing the infrastructure wholesale to build sci-fi dreamlands.
Here are just a few projects fueled by Qualcomm technology.
BigBelly replaces plain old bins with the highest-tech trash cans you’ve ever thrown a banana peel into. For one thing, the multi-purpose cans can sense when they need to be emptied or when they start to smell. (“Maybe Oscar won’t be so grouchy,” quipped The Washington Times.) Bigbelly cans use a Qualcomm Technologies 3G modem with GPS to send the data to a monitoring center. Also, urban intelligence sensors attached to the receptacle can collect information about the surrounding city, such as foot traffic and pollution levels.
You might have thrown trash into a BigBelly can already: They’re installed in 1,500 cities, including New York City and Philadelphia. Some of the solar-powered, self-compacting waste stations can hitch up to Wi-Fi too, so anyone in proximity can surf the Web or get their study on.
Another project, IPS Group smart parking meters, targets city transportation. Equipped with Qualcomm 3G modules, these meters accept payments via coins, credit cards, NFC smartphone payments, or pay-by-phone, so you won’t be scrambling for quarters once you’ve finally found a parking spot. Some meters also feature vehicle detection sensors that can broadcast spot availability information to city apps so that drivers don’t have to circle to find a spot. You can find the solar-powered smart meters in six cities, including San Diego, California and Columbus, OH.
Qualcomm works with cities to help them understand the importance of ensuring that city infrastructure is interoperable across departments and provides multipurpose, secure intelligent connectivity. The upcoming launch of LinkNYC, in which old phone booths are reborn as gigabit Wi-Fi stations. City dwellers can also charge their phones at these refurbished booths using Qualcomm Quick Charge 2.0, which charges phones 75 percent faster than traditional charging; browse digital public libraries; or use the payphones to call in emergencies. (Other cities are transforming the outdated hubs into art exhibits and information booths.) Over the coming years, these “Links” will be implemented in all five of New York City’s boroughs.
If you can fit trash cans and payphones with Wi-Fi and cellular connectivity, it’s possible with other items. Smart Wires PowerLine Guardian’s that dynamically monitor and manage the flow of power are one more example Imagine any city object fitted with connectivity tech to produce a checkerboard of devices delivering free, ubiquitous Wi-Fi to the city, including underserved city communities.
Smart cities need to address numerous challenges, including providing connectivity for everyone, reducing pollution in a time when fossil fuels still reign supreme, managing resources—such as electricity and water—better, and improving public safety. These goals increasingly crucial, as up to 70 percent of the world’s population are expected to live in urban areas by 2020.
Qualcomm is constantly innovating with intelligent connectivity solutions to make sure devices, like the ones described above, can work together flawlessly. Learn more about Qualcomm’s blueprint for smart cities here.