Robert Russell is Chief Technology Officer at Senseye, an easy-to-use, online service that takes data from equipment, sensors and the environment to provide predictions and forecasts that keep businesses one step ahead. Connect with him on Linkedin here. The Internet of Things (IoT) as a concept is interesting, fun and exciting, but there needs to be a shift from talking about it in terms of the latest connected device, which really is no more than something that uses the internet to talk to a dedicated app in most cases. This is not really IoT as the boundaries are fixed and there is little that can be done to enhance the user experience via the possibilities of interconnectivity.

For IoT to make the difference we speculate in the Smart Cities space, mind sets need to change and organisational boundaries to become a thing of the past. We have grown to think in terms of verticals and horizontals when it comes to sectors (verticals) and technologies (horizontals). However IoT applications (and I don't mean the the little apps we find on our phones), need to be able to cross these verticals to derive meaning and provide services that are beyond the contained thinking within culture, business and government. There are opportunities to solve health care issues, by better management of transportation through environmental improvements. However the reverse is true that using health sector and other government data can solve the transport problem. We see policy moving in this direction with new super hospitals being deliberately built with less parking and staff encouraged to use public transport. But this is a crude blunt instrument that can have unexpected effects as can be seen from this report.

So policy is shifting in the right direction at least with the planning departments and city councils, however longer term sustainable solutions have to be sought. This comes from really understanding the situation in the city in real-time, with data being processes and actioned in an integrated manner that it truly IoT. In a Smart city the most prevalent verticals are: Health, Social, Transport, Education, Housing, Energy, Water, Law-enforcement, Retail and Tourism. The opportunity with IoT is to link these sectors, (while ensuring security and remaining within data privacy regulations) and find the efficiencies and benefits to society that both make financial saving and improve the quality of life of the city users. Just imagine the impact of being able to manipulate the non-essential vehicle patterns for health, social and law-enforcement and the impact this could have on congestion problems. Planning the transportation of patients or the shift changes of police can considerably reduce traffic during rush hour.

My view is that these sort of problems require a cross-vertical approach that solves problems for specific verticals through the exploitation of data across verticals. At a technical level, this means products must be able to work across many verticals - but not in the way that current horizontal products operate as a degree of domain understanding (for each vertical!) must be inherent in the product. This means that the product needs to be architectural designed so that domain specific rules can be added with limited effort - as diving deep into each vertical is just not cost effective.

Other areas that will benefit are the interconnects between transportation demands, tourism and retail. Forecasting transportation demands in the city form tourism at a micro level utilising demographic information. Ensuring the smooth flow and maximising the information that is targeted to the visitor about services and retail will maximise the revenues of the city and ensuring the best possible experience for the visitor. These are just some use cases and I am sure you can think if much better ones than I have while writing this. Defining the use cases is not the problem though they will naturally emerge through innovation. The main enabler is the ability for data to cross the vertical barriers. Smart Cities need to be thought of as a connected organism and IoT will enable the organic connectivity through the city like a central nervous system.

From the discussions I've had and the events and media that I keep abreast of, I'm optimistic that the thought leaders within cities are emerging and are developing the right visions for their city leaders.

Rob Russell will be speaking at the 3rd annual RE•WORK Connected City Summit in London on 16-17 March 2016. Early Bird tickets are available until 22 January, for more information visit the event page here. Would you like to be our next guest author? Find out how here!

This is a guest blog and may not represent the views of RE•WORK. As a result some opinions may even go against the views of RE•WORK but are posted in order to encourage debate and well-rounded knowledge sharing, and to allow alternate views to be presented to our community.