We hear about Smart City initiatives from large cities: the parking spot finders in San Francisco, the pothole detectors in Boston and smart trash cans in Philadelphia.
So at first glance, New Bedford, Massachusetts is not an obvious place to locate an IoT Lab. Down the street from the Whaling Museum, in the shadow of closed textile mills, INEX IoT IMPACT LABS seems out of place in a town first settled in 1652.
But often you can move faster in a smaller city. As global trends have big cities getting bigger, many smaller cities see their key industries and job sources shrinking. This leads to population reduction, economic decline and proportionate reductions in city budgets – but not reductions in the needs from citizens for high quality, efficient city services. Sometimes this leads to city leaders and local businesses becoming quite open to experimenting with ways technology can enable solutions to the deep issues facing a community. Connected solutions now often categorized as Internet of Things (IoT) are not new, but the costs of these technologies have come down. This makes IoT accessible to cities like New Bedford, and an enabler to increased efficiency and competitiveness.
INEX LABS works with sponsors like Dell, IoT technology developers, regional businesses and public agencies to help field-test, document and commercialize the most efficient and effective approaches to IoT market development, enterprise value creation and community impact. A workshop this month by LABS brought Boston and Singapore together to pilot smart cities, transportation and natural resource management together.
Key potential projects that surfaced:
• New Bedford still relies on fishing. This industry is now highly regulated with the health of the industry hanging on the working estimate of the number of fish in the water. Current methods involve sending down cameras and analyzing (i.e. counting) the creatures, which is easier for the stationary scallops, but more challenging for the mobile fish. “We need facial recognition for fish,” shared one of the community leaders.
• Reports and stories point to the increased rate of cancer for firefighters. How can increased use of sensors be used in the field, to check for unsafe levels of toxins released from a fire, and give better guidance to when it is safe to take off the mask? And then how can all this technology be properly maintained and calibrated within a stretched budget?
• Small agriculture is still alive on the South Coast, but maintaining cash flow during a long New England winter is challenging. One farm has found success with greenhouses growing high value crops such as microgreens, but these delicate plants need tight control of light and temperature and water to thrive.
The technology behind these projects would all need compute solutions closer to the edge of the network…whether that edge is an ocean, a first responder site, or a farm. It would need to integrate IT into operational technology (OT) with expertise from traditional IT providers, but also domain knowledge from those in the field. How do you distinguish one fish from another? How do you keep first responders safe? What is needed to produce microgreens at commercial scale in January?
INEX LABS is working to deliver solutions to help communities like New Bedford become not just smarter, but economically and physically healthier. These learnings help companies like Dell add to their database of use cases and proven architectures to support other customers.
To learn more, please follow Dell IoT at LinkedIn and @DellOEM.
Kirsten Billhardt is the Marketing Director for the Internet of Things at Dell.
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