Part 2: Connecting to the Internet of Things

From our series on the benefits of broadband for communities!

Municipal
broadband offers much more than simply the opportunity to connect to distant
organizations, or to connect neighbors across town; it offers the possibility
to connect citizens to the town itself, and to towns around, leveraging the
emerging trend of the Internet of Things. Specifically, municipal broadband
construction offers the chance to rethink how town services and infrastructural
components can communicate with town leaders – and with each other.

Consider
the possibility of notifying citizens immediately when water quality changes; monitoring
park usage by offering free wifi and tracking logins; enabling a train signal
to talk to town stoplights to run longer green lights across the tracks when a
train will be blocking the intersection in fewer than fifteen minutes. These
are just a handful of the thousands of new projects towns across the United
States are undertaking, based on the presence of reliable, fast broadband
infrastructure in their localities.

The
Internet of Things promises a better community by enabling city infrastructure
to do more – more self-reporting and status checking, more intelligent
conversation with related services, and more transparency to the population.
Citizens don’t have to wonder any longer where the snowplows are; they can pull
up a live map of where the plows are working, with a schedule of when they’ll
be in a specific area. Traffic lights can dynamically re-time themselves to
accommodate changes in weather in order to minimize drive times and pollution.  Rain sensors can push text messages to
citizens with recommended changes to lawn watering times.

To date, the IoT has been closely associated
with Smart City initiatives in major metropolitan areas, but many of the same
benefits that have been realized in cities like Stockholm, Songdo and Helsinki
can be put to work in municipalities a fraction of their size. In many cases,
the cost/benefit ratio is actually higher for smaller cities; while the IoT can be retrofitted to existing
infrastructure, it’s most efficiently deployed in line with a larger municipal
infrastructure renovation project – which is why it’s become an increasingly
popular project to be implemented with municipal broadband construction. It’s a
chance to ‘start over’ in a truly digital sense and enable powerful new sensor
and communication systems, all powered by a robust new digital backbone.