Smart City – LoRaWAN as an opportunity for municipal utilities

Energy & Environment

In the last decades, we have experienced the rapid development of digital technologies. Products and solutions based on these technologies are becoming increasingly important. Parallel to this development, urbanization is a continuing trend. Many people are attracted to cities, which at the same time causes logistical and infrastructural challenges for the cities. Separated living, working, and leisure areas lead to a high volume of traffic and pollute cities. In addition to high emissions with polluted air, traffic jams and noise have a negative impact on life in the cities. Smart City solutions aim to avoid these. They want to make cities more liveable.

What is meant by a “Smart City”?

The aim of Smart City solutions is to make life more pleasant and enjoyable for the inhabitants of cities. Cities are to become cleaner and more people-friendly, while simultaneously increasing the quality of life. But how can this be achieved? The answer is by applying the latest digital technologies that enable smart connectivity. This primarily includes the so-called Internet of Things – IoT. This is based on a sensor-supported data network that can be used to collect and evaluate data. For this, it requires the establishment of appropriate communication infrastructure.

This is where modern communication technologies such as LoRaWAN technology come into play. LoRaWAN stands for Low Power Wide Area Network. This technology is a wireless, battery-powered radio technology with a long-range and high penetration. It enables cities to build their own license-free IoT network. By adding sensors to urban infrastructures such as power lines, roads, lanterns, buildings, and facilities, data can be collected and transmitted wirelessly via gateways to network servers. The incoming data can then be processed and finally analyzed. Thus, an evaluation for specific purposes and applications in areas of daily life can be carried out.

Which applications do Smart City solutions allow?

A variety of Smart City applications can be realized by building a radio-based IoT communication network using LoRaWan technology. The use cases range from local, sustainable energy supply and intelligently controlled waste management to intelligently controlled street lighting, parking space management, building management, or facility monitoring. For example, LoRaWAN data can also be used for intelligent control of public transport. Processes can be managed more efficiently by collecting and evaluating data. This in turn supports process optimization for utility companies, such as municipal utilities or transport companies, and helps to reduce costs.

Smart City applications as a new business area for utilities?

For the utilities, this means two things: On the one hand, they can open up new business areas and establish services by building up such an infrastructure. On the other hand, they contribute to solving key challenges facing cities. By building the necessary infrastructure for IoT applications, they can help rid cities of air pollution, particulate matter, traffic jams, noise, etc. Utilities can position themselves as modern infrastructure providers and citizen-friendly companies.

However, the development of new digital business areas requires companies to be willing to innovate and to enter these new areas. Likewise, it requires intensive involvement with one’s business processes, and the development of technical and digital skills, for example in the areas of IoT and LoRaWAN. In addition, moving towards new digital business models requires a willingness to invest.

What conclusions can be drawn?

Are utility companies, such as municipal utilities and transport companies, prepared to take this path? This would offer them the opportunity to position themselves not only as modern infrastructure providers. By setting up digital communications infrastructures, they enable other companies to develop new services and business areas and thus realign their value creation. For citizens, they pave the way to a smart, citizen-friendly, and liveable city.

Innoloft is currently implementing projects in Aachen and Oberhausen and helping to establish the Smart City as a new business model.

Contact person:

Marcel Nebeling
Head of Innovation Management

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