Smart City IoT Gets Revamped with Bluetooth LE Beacons

Smart city IoT is a big point of discussion for folks across the board and around the world. Environmentalists are hoping for better efficiency and less waste. Everyday people would love futuristic and easier ways to get around and use their city. Politicians and businesses alike are looking for ways to save funds and make new possibilities available.

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Several cities have the beginnings of a smart system in place, and many more are looking into their options. Of course, the bulk of these solutions have not yet been finessed or even created.
Some of the most popular smart city IoT solutions include:

  • smart lights
  • smart grids
  • automated traffic lights and parking
  • data-driven transportation
  • sensor-equipped… everything

You may have noticed that there’s one key ingredient here. No amount of high-tech lights or digitized wares will do any good if they can’t communicate on their own. The digital and physical worlds must be bridged; when you trigger a sensor, the digitally-powered response should be quick. All these things require automation.
In order for smart cities to work, we’ll need to get the highly sought after “seamlessness” down just right. Our gadgets and Things must be able to communicate. They must be able to generate data that is automatically managed, utilized, and spit back into the real world.
Why do we need Bluetooth?
Automation will require a lot of work from developers, but it will also require the right technologies. It will require an ecosystem. That’s where Bluetooth comes in.
There are already over 8.2 billion Bluetooth-equipped devices in the world—and that number doesn’t include just tablets and smart phones. Over 90% of cars released in 2016 were expected to have the technology. It was also predicted that 4.7 million Bluetooth LE-enabled consumer medical devices would ship in 2016.

Bluetooth beacons and smart city IoT

Standardization between devices will paramount to making this happen. Not every device will speak the exact same language, but there will be a need to send that data from one place to another—constantly.
Because of Bluetooth’s incredible penetration rates, high efficiency and the increased capabilities of Bluetooth 5, it is the standard that will connect the millions of Things in our future smart cities.


Sensors and sensor data

A data-driven smart city needs not just data like “this customer is shopping in this mall.” It needs to know how many people are in given spaces at any given time of day. For example, a city uses an app and digital signage to direct traffic. However, they also want to leverage data on current traffic flows to get drivers onto less used roads. They may even need to alert drivers to an accident or other problem. This is where beacons can help.

  • Traffic: Presence data and sensor data can support a system that drives traffic through less-congested areas.

You’re driving your kids to school. Of course, so is everyone else. What you don’t know is that your exit is blocked due to an accident. Before you reach it, a notification pops up on your child’s phone: the are is blocked off. Proximity-aware notifications make sure you get this info and can make adjustments. Smart cities can also use beacons to make public transport better, making excess vehicles traffic less common. Finally, some cities are experimenting with beacons on subway cars to help the flow of passengers and direct riders to cars with more space.

  • Smart offices: In offices, sensors can recognize when a room is empty or full and change the energy settings accordingly.

It’s hot in here. Rather, you know you feel uncomfortable and aren’t able to work. Smarter office settings can find the best atmospheric settings and keep you comfortable (and productive) so you don’t have to worry. The key here is that beacons and data can help make this automatic and tailored to your optimal conditions–whether you explicitly know what they are or not. Not to mention, all of this automation can be leveraged to save energy at every turn.

  • Security: Beacons can help police and emergency personnel understand or pinpoint a user in need.

You’re walking down a boardwalk as it’s getting dark and you see something that makes you concerned. Should you call this in to the authorities, the nearby beacons can help them understand exactly where you are. Perhaps you keep walking, only to receive a proximity-based notification. Suspicious activity has been reported near you, and all phones in the nearby vicinity receive an automated update. Need to make an emergency call? The beacons can also help with proximity data to describe areas devoid of street signs or markers.

  • Advertising: Beacons can even offer engagement and marketing where commercial and physical advertising in banned.

Proximity-based marketing is one of the most popular uses for beacon technology. In many cities, there are spaces where advertising is either banned or simply impossible. Instead of leaving blind spots, stores can turn to beacons to deliver messages to their users and customers. More importantly, proximity means they can deliver messages that are more personalized, relevant, and timely than a persistent, physical sign.

  • Tourism: tourists without access to WiFi or data can use Bluetooth and beacons to find their way or receive important information.

It’s not easy finding your way around a city as a tourist. That’s why beacons are reaching users that need information and may not have access to data. Instead of wasting paper for flyers and brochures or having a mishmash of data scattered about town, beacons can deliver the right information at the right time and place. For example, your friend has recommended a certain restaurant to you in a new city. As you wander, you realize that you’re not in the right area. A beacon, however, helps you access a map that tells you where the restaurant is and how to get there. It can even help you find the right bus, pay, and notifies you when to get off.
In short, anything a smart city can do just gets better with beacons. Bluetooth acts as a great foundation to connect several different industries and use cases and create a single smart system.

Want to learn more about BLE Beacons? Make sure to check our Beacon Buyer’s Guide.