Editorial

How local councils can benefit from IoT

Nick Sacke, head of IoT solutions at Comms365, outlines some of the key hurdles local authorities are facing, and how IoT can be rolled out and scaled to overcome and exceed such challenges

Posted 1 July 2021 by Christine Horton


From targets to better social care, rebuild waste management and to decrease greenhouse gas emissions, local authorities face increasing pressures from the government on a variety of initiatives – all with tight budgets. Over the last year, we have seen rising levels of interest from local governments in IoT technology solution deployments to support them in achieving their social goals and budgets.

Collecting Waste

Across the United Kingdom, we are still producing an extravagant amount of waste. The traditional processes for picking up refuse from public places and homes are not efficient enough. But how can technology help overcome this challenge?

By implementing sensor technology in bins, it can not only indicate how full it is, but help to form a data profile to create a systematic route to collect waste from the right bins, at the right time. Such sensors can also spot burning items in the container, and other potential issues, such as fly tipping, the bin tipping over or being misplaced.

Also, IoT can benefit third party contractors by providing insight into how much waste they will be collecting. By doing this, it has the potential to alter payment models for contractors that are paid by weight, which can help the businesses to predict revenue.

Air Quality

As we drive towards a greener future, and with strict rules and legislations coming into force around air quality, local authorities need to be more involved and proactive regarding the health of the public. By monitoring environmental factors such as chemical pollutants, pollution levels and CO2 concentrations in working and public spaces, environmental tracking will become a huge part of both our indoor and outdoor future.

Empowering Caregivers

One of the key challenges within healthcare and assisted living is to be able to deliver at scale health and social care for both a vulnerable and ageing population. Technology can assist with this by automating the mapping of activities into an individual profile. By having a regular understanding of what a person’s day-to-day life is like, this information can be shared and analysed with the care organisation and local authority.

This insight helps professionals to detect any changes in behaviour that may indicate problems as and when they arise, thus, enabling scale to operations by intervening earlier, allowing expansion of existing resources and with a targeted focus. For example, if sensors detect a person hasn’t got out of bed for a while after they usually would, a carer can be sent to visit them. Without that timely intervention, the individual’s health could have deteriorated. By flagging any issues earlier and averting the escalation of problems while the individual is at home, the need for them to go to the hospital for check-ups or treatment is mitigated in turn, reducing pressure on public health resources.

Using Data for Better Parking

Local authorities are pushing to encourage the public back to the high street, particularly when it comes to the fact that there are 50,000 fewer shops on the UK high street. However, to entice shoppers back to physical stores, finding a parking space should be an easy experience.

But this is not necessarily the case, as motorists spend approximately two months of their lifetime searching for a parking spot. But what if this could be reduced with IoT? What if your mobile device could alert you in real-time where a parking space was available? And then, what if you could book this space, or sign up to a subscription model to park on a weekly or monthly basis? Data collection, and using this information in a better and informed way is crucial in this success, and will help to increase customer satisfaction.

Conclusion

As technology frequently evolves, IoT is advancing to meet ever more rigorous issues and requirements. There has not only been an increase in interest and the deployment of these solutions, but the technology itself is becoming more straightforward to use and maintain, flexible and cost-effective.

But as well as becoming more efficient, operational models and processes need to become streamlined, adaptable and more automated. When an upgrade or fix is needed, councils don’t want to have to rip and replace it – only a part. Now that the value of technology is being understood, it is now a priority to make the design and deployment of technology even more user-friendly. The leading principle for deploying IoT as an enabler of these more efficient processes is simplicity and invisibility to the user, to ensure any possible barriers to adoption are eliminated.

 Nick Sacke is head of IoT solutions at Comms365