You've probably heard of the Internet of Things - the way in which physical objects, interconnected through a digital network can receive and exchange data - even if you're not quite sure how it works. A new urban mobility programme rolled out in this year in Bogotá is a perfect example of the power of this kind of technology - even if its implementation remains controversial.
With the huge international Habitat III conference coming to a close in Ecuador's capital, Quito, just a few days ago, all eyes have been on South America. And maybe that's where they should be - as the world's most urbanised region, with its huge number of megacities, South American urban spaces are often home to the world's largest social and economic inequities, as well as high rates of violent crime. That, alongside the fact that the region is home to some of the most biodiverse places in the world, and it's clear that it's the perfect platform for innovative, green urban projects. An example of one of these was implemented last year in Colombia's capital, Bogotá, and uses the technology of the Internet of Things to calm and optimise traffic flow.
Bitcarrier: Traffic Monitoring In Bogotá
While Colombia was praised for installing a highly effective bus rapid transit system back in 2000, the city remains congested, and a recent traffic calming system resulted in more affluent citizens buying a second car in order to get around the restriction. Last year the technology company Worldsensing was brought on board to introduce its traffic monitoring programme, Bitcarrier, to the streets of the Colombian capital. Check out the video below for the company's take on their so-called "Citysolver", a system that tracks traffic information and informs road users in real time, allowing them to make informed decisions.
However, the company soon realised that the city's range of mobility tools and applications were all managed independently of each other. In order to create a realtime information solution for the city's mobility department, they would have to integrate the different tools, using an innovative Internet of Things software platform. This allows them to create a more complete picture: sending and receiving data from cameras, traffic lights, bike routes, police officers, etc, all at the same time.
The Internet Of Things: The Pros and Cons of Big Data
Maybe the idea of all this surveillance and information gathering seems like nothing more than a huge invasion of privacy, and possibly a tool for a dangerous level of social control - we've written at length on the advantages, and the possible downsides, of these kind of big data systems. And while the system might improve efficiency in terms of resources, and improve quality of life for many commuters, its focus on the needs of car drivers, rather than other road users, like pedestrians and cyclists, might be not just helping traffic flow, but legtimising car driving in a city already suffering from a car-centric culture.
This project, and many others like it, are just part of the innovations taking place in Latin America's increasingly "smart" cities: projects that aim to make the cities more efficient, sustainable and just. Take a look at our smart cities special to find out more.