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City of Things use cases

Some examples of how technology is improving life in the city

Flooding: predicting flood levels

How can we mitigate the effects of flash-flooding by informing both the fire service and local residents in good time?

Floods don’t happen just like that. They’re the result of heavy rainfall (torrential downpours or heavy rain over an extended period), overfull storm drains, peaks in water usage, river tides, etc. All of these variables are straightforward enough to measure and often reasonably easy to predict. But adding them all up is a much more complex exercise that is often only possible when the water is already pouring into basements in the at-risk areas. Things could be done better in a smart city.

The Flooding project combines real-time information from sensors in drains and streams, using information from radar images and other useful weather-related input. This information can then be translated into usable information. For instance, the fire brigade knows where best to deploy its manpower, what precautions need to be taken and whether neighboring brigades and resources will have to be brought in. Residents can also be properly informed, with warnings telling them exactly when the risk times will be and what action they need to take. The managers of the drainage system can also be quicker in locating where problems are likely to occur in the network, which goes hand in hand with proactive maintenance, etc.

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Smart lighting: home automation in the city

The age of city lighting being either on or off is coming to an end. Variation is the new normal.

We do, of course, light the public squares in our city so that they can be places to meet and have fun in the evenings. But that doesn’t mean to say that we have to leave all of the lights on at full power all of the time. Not only does it cause unwanted light pollution, but it also uses energy needlessly.

Right now, imec City of Things is testing an ecosystem of smart lighting on Sint-Andriesplein in the Antwerp Smart Zone. There, the basketball court is only lit when cameras and noise sensors register that a game is actually going on. The lights on the edge of the court get brighter when rain sensors indicate that visibility is not so good. And if a local resident wants to cross the square after dark, smart cameras detect the movement and make sure that additional lights come on. That way the lights are put to optimum use for the people who use the square.

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