Smart Cities: How IoT Can Help Cities Defend Against Pandemics

The novel coronavirus has disrupted our way of life, and it has many governments and officials wondering if they’re pandemic response was ready for a viral threat of this magnitude. 

Some countries and cities have responded quicker than others, and technologically advanced societies have shown the power of data-tracking and other smart technology in unfolding situations where real-time information is essential. 

Smart cities, or cities that use IoT sensors and other smart technology in urban planning, have used data-tracking software, autonomous delivery, geolocation, and/or drone surveillance to speed up its response to the COVID-19 threat. 

Expect to see more smart city technology used in the future, as city leaders and urban planners lean on technology more and more to make informed decisions during the crisis. 

Below, we discuss ways smart cities can defend against future pandemics, and how some smart cities are currently fighting to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus. 

Geolocation

Technology companies such as Apple, Facebook, and Google are already selling geolocation data to third-party sites, as our smartphones track our movements and use data analysis to predict future human behavior. 

City leaders and urban planners can use geolocation to predict areas and times of day with lots of foot traffic, to make speedier decisions around closures and curfew restrictions. 

Processes such as establishing senior hours, and closing public areas such as parks and libraries, could all benefit from geolocation data analysis. New York City, a coronavirus epicenter, waited too long to close down certain public areas, and slowing the spread became nearly impossible. 

Autonomous Delivery

Expect to see more and more “contactless delivery” even after the coronavirus threat clears as public opinión around human-to-human contact will inevitably shift. While delivery apps and online payment services make contactless delivery possible today, the best way to ensure a contactless transaction is to utilize autonomous delivery. 

Driverless cars, trucks, and ships, and delivery drones are all future technologies currently in test pilot that will undoubtedly become mainstream in the next few years. These delivery methods also make contactless freight shipments and deliveries possible by eliminating the delivery driver from the equation. 

City leaders and urban planners who set up a system to control autonomous deliveries during a crisis can make decisions around the delivery of medical supplies, foods, and other goods. They can then prioritize deliveries based on need and track virus hotspots to know when autonomous delivery in certain areas is essential. 

Disease Tracking

The coronavirus has shown us how important time is to the pandemic response. Instant data and communication make information readily available to us now more than ever, so investing in disease-tracking technology can help predict virus outbreaks sooner than ever before. 

BlueDot, a Canadian disease-tracking software that was founded after the Ebola outbreak, alerted its users to a cluster of unusual pneumonia cases in Wuhan 10 days before the World Health Organization (WHO) made any public statement about the virus. 

Software companies track disease and viral outbreaks using artificial intelligence and big data to track clusters in real-time. 

Drone Surveillance

One controversial technology that can be used in smart city pandemic response is drone surveillance. While some may worry about turning into a “police state” with drone security, the technology can help alleviate pressure on law enforcement. 

Rather than sending out a policeman to enforce curfews and shelter-in-place orders, cities can instead send out surveillance drones. In response to coronavirus curfews, Spain is already using drones to scold citizens who go outside

China has taken drone surveillance a step further and outfitted some drone cameras with facial recognition software and thermal cameras. While the accuracy of these features remains to be debated, the idea is that the government can track citizens and their body temperatures through these smart cameras to see whether infected persons are spreading the virus in their community. 

As technology continues to evolve, so will our cities. Expect to see more smart city technology implemented in pandemic response in the future, whether to transport goods, predict behavior, collect data, and/or survey citizens. 

Smart cities have additional benefits outside of disaster response. The technology can also help cities conserve energy and reduce traffic congestion. To learn more about how smart cities work, check out the visual from The Zebra below!

Author bio: Karlyn is a writer who specializes in the technology and insurance spaces. She believes the best ingredients for success are passion and purpose.

Thanks to The Zebra with this graphic.

What is a Smart City?

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