Feature: Page (1) of 1 - 11/29/16

How Sensor Technology is Making Smart Cities

By David Ryan for America's Backbone Weekly

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In the last few years, breakthroughs in remote sensing technology have led to incredible advances in municipal infrastructure and management. Remote sensors, placed in everything from garbage bins to buses, collect detailed information that allow for the precise and efficient allocation of resources. Our cities are getting smarter. Here are some areas in which new technologies are changing the game.

Garbage Collection

Our garbage bins are getting smarter. Yes, you heard that correctly. Remote sensors, embedded in waste disposal units, monitor the level of trash and relay the information to headquarters. This allows city managers to plan collection routes more efficiently. Instead of sending garbage trucks to every bin in the city, they only send them to bins that are full, saving both labor and fuel costs. Big Belly, from Needham, Massachusetts, is an example of a smart-bin manufacturer. Their bins not only monitor waste levels, but compact loose trash when it reaches certain levels so that bins are truly full when they're ready for pick up. Big Belly's garbage bins run from $4000-$5000 each.


Remote sensors are revolutionizing public transport. GPS tracking devices in buses, streetcars and trains provide real-time location data, which is relayed to mobile device apps. These apps keep commuters aware of exact arrival times, meaning they don't have to waste time at transit stops wondering when the next bus or train is coming. For instance, Cincy EZRide, in Cincinnati, Ohio, is a free smartphone app that lets passengers know exactly when buses are coming, and allows them to pay for their fare on their Smartphones, saving them the hassle of lining up at a ticket kiosk.

Parks and Recreation

Remote sensors are even making their presence felt in America's parks. Smart benches are providing city managers with insightful data that can lead to informed decisions. Soofa, a company from Boston, has created solar-powered benches that can detect Wi-Fi enabled devices within a 100-meter range, providing valuable information on the volume of foot traffic and park use. Soofa sensors also record data on air quality, noise level and temperature. As bonus, the benches provide Wi-Fi to park visitors and have USB charging ports so people can recharge their mobile devices. Prices can be negotiated with the company.

Fleet Management

Municipal fleet management is yet another area benefiting from remote sensor tech. In Pittsburgh, Carnegie Mellon University installed remote sensors in the city's traffic signal system. These sensors identify public transit and freight vehicles and allow them to move through traffic lights more quickly. This is expected to reduce time spent idling by 40%, which will save money on fuel and help prevent pollution. It is also expected to reduce travel time by 25%. Another example of innovation can be found in Austin, Texas, where accident-detecting road sensors have been installed. These sensors let emergency departments know the moment an accident occurs, and lets city managers control traffic lights around the accident, allowing for better emergency vehicle response time.


There are a lot of remarkable breakthroughs taking place in America's cities, and it's all thanks to remote sensing technology which records and sends data to city managers, allowing them to make informed, data-driven decisions. With projected breakthroughs like driverless transit around the corner, it's exciting to imagine what the future will hold.

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David Ryan has many years of experience as a freelance writer and is active covering science and technology stories in the United States. He also enjoys writing short stories and traveling. 

Related Keywords:Communications,WiFi,Smart Phone,Business Issues,Management,

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