All of a sudden it seems that everyone is interested in 'Smart Cities'. Publishers are creating periodicals dedicated to them (our favorite is Smart Cities Dive); in 2016 the venture capital community invested $2.7 billion in the sector; and now business accelerators (DreamIt and Urban-X, to name two) are incubating companies dedicated to the space. This is because, for the first time in the history of the planet, more than 50% of the world's population is currently living in urban areas (80% in the US). Projected to rise to 66% by 2050, this is unsustainable without a complete overhaul of existing infrastructure and services. No wonder that leading investors are focusing on the 'Smart Cities' opportunity.
RFID tracking will serve as its foundation.
Wikipedia defines a Smart City as "...an urban development vision to integrate information and communication technology (ICT) and Internet of things (IoT) technology in a secure fashion to manage a city's assets." Here is how RFID tracking of our infrastructure will play a central role:
1. Asset inventory
In order to manage assets, one must first know what and where they are. With product tracking, each panel in a bridge or tunnel is serialized by embedding an RFID tag at the time of manufacture. The serial number on the tag is used to reference the particular panel when logging or searching for product information. For instance, if an inspector notices that a bridge panel is deteriorating more rapidly than expected, the tag can be scanned and the product records for the panel can be seen. The DOT can find the manufacturer of the panel and other pertinent information... as detailed as the concrete batch from which the panel was made. They can then search for all other panels made from the same batch and identify their locations on the bridge with the GPS tracking feature of the system.
2. Asset recycling
One of the primary tenets of the 'Smart City' is improvement of sustainability through practices that target zero waste as their objective. In June 2017 the New York chapter of American Institute of Architects convened a conference about achieving zero waste in construction and demolition. Smart Cities Dive reported that one of the three primary outcomes was a recommendation calling for creation of 'product passports', essentially a product record that can be accessed to determine whether an existing product can be recycled for use in new construction. The timeline history of each product available from RFID tracking is ideally suited for this. These systems are web-hosted, providing instant, password-protected access to any user.
3. Infrastructure IoT
The ultimate vision for the 'Smart City' is one in which the internet is as much a part of its infrastructure as its roads, bridges and tunnels. More than providing a communications venue for people, the internet of the 'Smart City' will serve as the backbone for information transfer between 'things'. This is often referred to as the 'Internet of Things', through which sensors will communicate information that initiates a human or machine response. (See our web report: The Promise of Smart Infrastructure.)
The web-hosted platform that contains product records will be extended to serve as the platform for exchanging and hosting sensor records. Out-sized vibration levels resulting from a barge bumping into a bridge will be recorded by sensors embedded in its stanchions and this information will be 'posted' to the web-hosted account. The system will initiate a notice to the DOT informing them that a bridge inspection should be undertaken immediately instead of its scheduled time nine months later. 'Smart Bridges' of this sort will save lives and money.
'Smart Cities' will come to pass in the course of addressing our $4.6 trillion infrastructure investment need over the next ten years. Futurists and investors already see the opportunity. Precast and prestressed concrete manufacturers that recognize it early will be big winners too.
Our purpose at Idencia is to offer precast RFID tracking solutions that improve productivity throughout the value chain. Our subscription offering applies to products from the time of manufacture through end-of-life. As a cloud-hosted product tracking system that is seamless between manufacturers, contractors and asset managers, Idencia adds information value to all, eliminates redundancy and saves time. If you would like to learn more, click below.