Just as our homes become smarter with more and more connected devices, so do our cities. And while congestion and data storage aren’t big problems for our homes, smart cities involving thousands or tens of thousands of sensors and associated data, have problems now and in the future.
This is the picture painted by German non-profit MXC Foundation, which is aiming to drive innovation in a way that benefits cities, along with incentivizing grassroots efforts by citizens, and not corporations.
MXC's hope is to drive better use of resources by cities, connect sensors on smarter networks, drive participation, and create ways to share data from the coming flood of internet of things (IoT) devices that can be used for the greater good.
Connected devices: when (too) many devices create opportunities
Cisco predicts that there will be more than 500 billion connected devices in the world by 2030. These are both in the home, where our fridge will send us text messages that you’re out of milk, and installed by cities to use data and technology to create better efficiencies, improve sustainability, and enhance the lives of citizens and visitors.
MXC’s aim in this process is offering a way for wireless communication infrastructure to cope with future demands. While the likes of 4G/5G and Wi-Fi offer superb connectivity for high-powered devices, these networks aren’t available to low-power devices. Power demands for connecting to mobile 4G/5G aren’t viable for battery-powered/small solar-powered devices. In addition, only small quantities of data are sent and received, making those bandwidths entirely overkill for most IoT devices.
In a connected city where IoT devices will exist in numerous places to better offer data-based insights - such as a garbage bin with a sensor that relays back to HQ that it is overflowing - high-power connections aren’t feasible.
MXC's proposal to reduce power demands is the use of LPWAN (Low Power Wide Area Network) communications technology. In contrast with WiFi, for example, this network can handle even enormously large numbers of IoT devices.
MXC also offers a data-handling innovation to better deal with problems that can occur when too many devices attempt to communicate at the same time. MXC call it MXProtocol, which aims to eliminate problems of data collision caused by congested networks. This is done via smart contracts, using blockchain technology, but the focus is more on the entire solution than as a blockchain project.
A (data) sharing economy
The MXProtocol is also built to share. MXC aim to use this protocol to offer a platform for people to share their data. Importantly, this unique data may be sold - potentially creating revenue, and incentivising people to add more connected devices and their data, building a resources for smart cities from the ground up.
For example, even a connected temperature sensor in a city will offer some value for hyperlocal data in studies of heat island phenomenon. The theory is that any data being read and captured now, but not shared, can be placed on MXC's Interchain Data Market
Aaron Wagener, co-founder and COO at the MXC Foundation, emphasised MXC's societal benefits in emailed comments.
"MXC was founded as a non-profit organisation, ensuring data and device network infrastructure is built to benefit society," said Wagener. "We operate in the belief that people who source their data have the inherent right to own it. If data is the future, it is a future that must belong to the people."
Importantly, MXC doesn’t seek to benefit from sales, offering a platform to start a data economy without seeking profit. The company raised 35 million USD in May, 2018, to advance these goals in IoT and smart cities, with manufacturers already including MX Protocol compatible LPWAN technology in their devices.
Proof that this is a good idea comes from other competitors in the space. Moeco, a for-profit company aiming at similar goals, is also based in Berlin, and raised 5m USD in 2017.