By 2020 there will be an estimated 212 billion IoT objects connected to the internet. An IoT object is any device with an on/off switch connected to the internet. We are currently sharing a series of blog posts to help you navigate what IoT means for your home, business, and city. Previously in our series, we discussed what IoT is, its implications for your home, for small business, and in our latest installment, we are tackling how IoT will affect our cities.

Cities across the world are using IoT devices and sensors to improve the quality of life of their residents. Many of these innovations coincide with Smart City initiatives. For instance, in Vienna, the capital of Austria, officials installed Wi-Fi extenders in traffic lights to ensure residents could access the internet throughout the city. In Chicago and Amsterdam, waste officials reduced the amount of consistently overflowing trash-bins and wasted time of workers going to quarter-full trash bins by including sensors to monitor dumpsters.

Closer to the Hill Country, San Antonio has invested heavily in Smart City and IoT initiatives.  In 2016 San Antonio rolled out stand-alone kiosks stations in H-E-B stores where residents can address traffic citations as well as video-conference with judges regarding their case. Moreover, San Antonio deployed $8 Million in 2017 to push forward their Smart City projects.

Each example provided highlights a glaring fact – Smart City initiatives happen in big cities, not in rural communities. One major reason is telecom companies historically and today focus predominantly on serving large cities. As a result, big cities can more easily leverage previous infrastructure investments alongside being the first to benefit from cutting-edge improvements.

The imbalance of high speed internet access exacerbates the urban/rural divide and puts small towns and their businesses at a disadvantage when it comes to accessing the benefits of IoT. Consequently, across the U.S. underserved communities desiring the advantages of advances in IoT technology have banded together and addressed them communally.

In fact, businesses in Winthrop, a town of 1,400 in Minnesota, were tired of terrible network connection affecting productivity. As a result, they gathered a cohort of 25 similarly-sized municipal allies to develop RS Fiber. The co-op is owned by local customers who have access to high-speed broadband internet and have voting rights in rates and operational decisions.

As well, Chattanooga, Tennessee, a city of about 100,000 people, had an electric co-op that wanted to use IoT sensors to improve the efficiency and consistency of their service. Large internet providers would not help, and so they installed fiber optics to connect their IoT, which then enabled them to open their fiber optics as a public utility. Chattanooga now has the fastest internet in the U.S. for $70/month. Due to this innovation, Chattanooga is dubbed “Gig City”, VW chose to open a new factory there in 2011, and the downtown area is a hub for tech startups.

Interestingly, Pedernales Electric Cooperative is in the initial stages of studying the feasibility of implementing a smart-grid with IoT sensors similar to the one pioneered by EPB in Chattanooga. Furthermore, according to their most recent Strategic Plan, P.E.C. in Initiative 10 is also considering leveraging their grid updates to provide affordable data access services to cooperative members. Initiative 10 is in the beginning stages, and if it were to progress into reality, it would be a multi-faceted boon for businesses and homes alike to have access to a high-speed broadband network.

As the name HCTS implies, we are an innovative technology company nestled in the heart of the beautiful Texas Hill Country. We are in business to ensure that your company and home can benefit from all the advantages that technology provides. While we feel blessed to work and reside in this area, we also know that the location and terrain sometimes create difficult issues in the area of technology. Schedule a consultation, and we will work with you to ensure all your networking needs are met so that you can fully benefit from every technological advance.