Smart Cities

What Are Biosensors and How Are They Being Used in Smart Cities?


What Are Biosensors and How Are They Being Used in Smart Cities?

Information technology is increasingly becoming part of the urban landscape. Smart cities are more efficient than ever and are using high-tech advancements to improve the lives of each citizen. Part of this advancing technology includes biosensors. The following information describes exactly what biosensors are, how they operate, and specific ways they are improving smart cities.


What Are Biosensors?

Biosensors are digital technologies that interact with different aspects of the biological world, such as people, animals, and the environment. They are able to continuously collect and analyze data. Each sensor converts the information it receives into measurable signals. There are several types of biosensors. Some are portable, while others are stationary. The National Institutes of Health explains specific biosensors and their various applications.

According to the United Nations, two out of every three individuals will live in cities by 2050. With more people living in urban areas, biosensors are increasingly necessary to monitor and maintain the quality of different resources. Biosensors can improve food monitoring, disease detection, and the efficiency of city services. With climate change already occurring, biosensors can help by monitoring everything from soil and water quality to humidity, temperature, and toxic impurities in the air. According to the ITU Journal, sensors can assess water quality in regards to biological and chemical status. This includes testing for both bacteria and heavy metals.


How Do Biosensors Operate?

Biosensors operate in a complex infrastructure that includes several levels:

  • Sensory level: The sensory level includes the biosensors, where the initial perception takes place. Sensors perceive air, water, sound, light, and other aspects of the environment. RFID readers and tags are sometimes part of this process.
  • Network level: The network level takes the information from the sensory level. This might include various wireless technologies such as Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, or cellular internet.
  • Processing level: This level includes the organization of information using big data analytics and artificial intelligence.
  • Application level: The application level passes the data through database services and APIs. There are generally three IoT systems where processing of data takes place. These include fog, the cloud, and edge models.

How Do Biosensors Apply to Smart Cities?

Effectively managing growing cities and ensuring that essential functions run as safely and smoothly as possible will likely require the assistance of biosensor technology. There are many types of biosensors. A few include electric, mechanical, electrochemical, thermo, and optical. Each of these types may work in different capacities. A few areas include medical testing, sanitation control, traffic monitoring, smart packaging, and environmental management.

Medical Testing

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The healthcare industry is one of the first to routinely use biosensors. The glucometer is an example of this type of technology. A glucometer monitors blood glucose levels for diabetic individuals. Genosensors are able to detect the sequencing of genetic material. This is a diagnostic tool for detecting genetic diseases. It can even find genetic material in certain bacteria and viruses. There are also biosensors that can detect the COVID-19 virus. Receptors interact with the target analyte. The sensor’s recognition process converts this into a quantitative signal.

Whether an individual is at home or in a healthcare facility, clinicians can use bed monitoring sensors to keep track of vital patient information. Smart meditronics is one type of sensor. Smart meditronics sense each individual’s current condition as well as environmental changes. The system immediately reports this information to the necessary medical personnel. Wearable, ingestible, and implantable bio-devices are also examples of some of the latest and most advanced biosensors in the medical industry. Everything from eyewear and clothing, to patches on the skin are types of wearable biosensors that detect in real-time health-related information.

Sanitation Control

An orderly and efficient method of maintaining sanitation services is vital not only to the aesthetics of a city, but to maintain health. Emerging technology can now detect particular characteristics of garbage and collect instant data on how it might affect human health.

Biomarkers are in development that will quantify the public’s consumption of pesticides and pharmaceuticals. Biosensor abilities will monitor biomolecules, parasites, and other substances in urine extracted from wastewater to detect disease. Biosensors can assess and monitor wastewater for everything from disease in the water, disease in individuals, and even track behaviors such as toilet usage.

Traffic Monitoring

Thermal cameras can detect immediately when a traffic accident occurs and send the information to the proper response teams. This quick reaction to an accident can mean the difference between life and death. A specific type of thermal camera that achieves these results is the FLIR ITS-Series Camera. This camera is immune to issues that hinder other types of basic surveillance cameras. Headlight glare and other types of lighting conditions don’t affect it.

Specific situations these cameras can detect include not only car accidents, but also wrong-way drivers and pedestrians. They can detect people and objects even if it is rainy, foggy, smoky, or dark. This immediate detection can send emergency crews to accidents and dispatch the appropriate personnel before major traffic delays can occur.

Smart Packaging

Smart cities need to use packaging that keeps foods safe during transport and while they’re on supermarket shelves. Sensor networks aid in the quality and security of products that move throughout the supply chain. Perishable foods and those prone to humidity erosion are especially dependent on sensors to relay accurate information to the appropriate sources. Smart packaging uses include not only packaged food, but also raw agricultural products, medical supplies, and cosmetics.

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Environmental Management

Maintaining a healthy and safe environment in a city includes everything from air and water quality to even soil. Many smart cities will likely want to produce their own food, which means gaining the most out of limited amounts of soil and plants. A sufficient amount of nitrogen is necessary to produce chlorophyll, which is essential for plant growth. According to Hindawi, the use of biosensors is a method in which scientists can measure the nitrogen in plants. Biosensors are also in use that detect pollutants and pesticides in soil. The ability to grow as much food as possible in city gardens and greenhouses will contribute to the independence and success of smart cities.

Besides food production, biosensors are now in use for monitoring and maintaining air quality in urban areas. Electrochemical biosensors can detect contaminants in the environment. Depending on the type of transducer, there are different biosensors that a smart city might implement. These include electrochemical biosensors, optical biosensors, calorimetric biosensors, and mass-based biosensors. These devices can detect pollutants and measure the quality of both indoor and outdoor air.

Whether it’s monitoring environmental pollution or maintaining safety in food packaging, biosensors will continue to play an important role. Smart cities will increasingly rely on the advancing technology biosensors provide to keep urban areas safe and productive.


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