How IoT is Creating Better Public Safety
All over the world, billions of devices are in constant communication, exchanging information online without human input. This is the world of the Internet of Things, or IoT, where “smart” digital systems work together to transform the way we live, work and play. Now, IoT is also playing a key role in keeping people and their communities safer than ever, with a combination of “smart” city infrastructures, cloud platforms and personal digital devices that help cities prevent emergencies and deal with them more efficiently when they do occur.
What is the Internet of Things?
By 2025, the Internet of Things will connect more than 40 billion smart devices capable of generating nearly 80 zettabytes (1 zettabyte = 1 sextillion bytes) of data. The IoT is a combination of technologies – many digital devices capable of connecting wirelessly, cloud platforms that make data accessible from anywhere, and artificial intelligence applications that can learn to make decisions and take action independent of human input. In the world of IoT, any device can be “smart.” That includes things like cars, kitchen appliances, thermostats, and smart pills that monitor the body’s internal signals when swallowed.
Entire cities can be smart, too. Interconnected, citywide digital ecosystems can use the input communicated by remote sensors and other devices to manage utilities, traffic lights and other key parts of a city’s infrastructure. And a growing number of cities are using those systems, along with personal devices like smartphones, to improve public safety in some surprising ways.
Public Safety in the Age of IoT
The constantly accessible nature of the Internet of Things has numerous applications for making cities safer and their citizens more comfortable. A combination of on-site sensors and cloud-stored data can deliver essential information virtually instantly, which can speed responses during emergency situations and give residents essential information on keeping safe. Likewise, smart city grids that monitor essential systems can detect issues such as malfunctions and overloads without the need for human monitoring.
Efficient Emergency Response
When first responders are dispatched to the scene of a fire, accident or other crisis, they need as much information as possible to prepare for what lies ahead and to ensure the safety of everyone involved. Smart sensors can be embedded in emergency gear and uniforms to capture information such as a visual record of events at the scene, and to alert responders to threats or risks in the surrounding area.
Likewise, first responders to the scene of an accident can use information from traffic sensors and cameras to prepare for the circumstances they might encounter, and to document events both before and after their arrival. Sensors on emergency gear can transmit detailed biometrics that could save the life of a firefighter in a burning building, and emergency medical teams could immediately get vital health information that could save the life of someone in crisis.
Smart Traffic Management
Traffic management is a key use of IoT technologies for public safety, particularly in larger cities. Smart traffic grids using sensors placed at intersections and other points on key arterials can monitor the flow of traffic and trigger interventions to stop gridlock and synchronize stop lights.
With new innovations in machine learning, these city infrastructures are becoming better able to identify potentially dangerous traffic situations and implement interventions without human input, such as slowing traffic or closing down lanes in construction zones or adjusting traffic lights to move traffic more quickly through congested areas. City traffic management tools can also work with smart cars equipped with sensors for detecting the location and movement of surrounding cars, or anticipating a pedestrian crossing a street.
Public Health and Safety Alerts
The Internet of Things is also making it easier for cities and communities to keep people safe during emergencies such as storms, earthquakes and local emergencies such as fires or floods. Smart city infrastructures can send messages to everyone who has a smartphone or other connected device, or post essential safety information on publicly accessible billboards and other kinds of signage at common gathering spots such as bus stations or stores. With cloud based data management, all essential information is available to anyone, at any time, so citizens can check on local conditions in real time or get the latest updates from emergency services.
Law Enforcement and Police Response
Police body cams and other on-site recording devices are already in use to capture law enforcement responses to dangerous situations. But on-body sensors and other recording devices can capture even more essential information, such as an officer’s movement to pull out a gun. Embedded sensors might even record an officer’s heart rate or blood pressure to establish factors that affect the outcome of an incident. Local sensors, such as traffic monitors, could also alert police to threats outside their field of vision or hearing. And at every moment, everyone responding to an incident would have access to data from a variety of sources in order to make split-second decisions as well as to reconstruct events at a later time.
Sanitation, Infrastructure and City Maintenance
Smart infrastructures supported by the Internet of Things can also alert officials to things like damaged roads and bridges, sewage plant leaks and other issues that affect public safety. Because IoT technologies can respond independently to the information they receive, these systems can initiate repairs, contact human operators for more help, and share crucial data with responders and repair crews. Smart city systems can also monitor and manage energy use so that systems don’t become overloaded during peak times, and ensure that essential city services such as waste management run on schedule.
With interconnected systems and devices operating on both citywide and community levels, IoT technologies can keep cities safer and improve residents’ quality of life. And as the Internet of Things continues to expand, these innovative digital tools and platforms promise to make cities run better and keep communities safer than ever.
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