M2M points way to smarter cities

October 2015

MICKAEL GHOSSEIN* explains how planning along with technology is making cities smarter and how the Gulf can take advantage as a greenfield territory.

M2M or machine-to-machine (or IOT – Internet of Things) is the key technology that will make cities smarter and improve the quality of life for city dwellers, including those in the GCC.

It’s not just the technology but the way you plan and use it that makes it exciting. City planners are having to think more holistically to make sure that everything joins up, through interoperability of the technology that delivers the smart services.

It makes sense that cars should talk to roads, and parking spaces; that utilities are linked to the overall environment, from smart water management to clean air monitoring; and that the humble domestic trash bin can connect to the waste management service provider. This seems like the smart thing to do – but perhaps not the easiest thing.

M2M technology is designed to communicate autonomously, using sensors, making cities smarter and the Middle East has a great advantage with the ‘greenfield’ opportunities that are presented here.

With transportation, M2M technology can sense real-time traffic information and feedback to a central point can help others adapt to changing traffic flows, in real time. Sensors can also monitor road temperature, noise and light, and vehicles, including real-time traffic movement. Traffic jams and accidents become visible in real time. Reduction in congestion, emissions and noise would certainly improve the quality of life.

Parking using sensors to detect free spaces and relay the information to drivers, will also help cities reduce congestion (and increase parking revenues). The Spanish city of Barcelona is using either sound level monitoring or road surface temperature detection to tell whether a car is parked at the spot. The information is made available via a parking app on mobile phones.

Water wastage is a major challenge for modern cities and water metering is vital for effective conservation; M2M can help. Water metering can monitor and reduce household water usage, and provide water companies with valuable information about consumption. A joint venture (JV) company called m2mocity has already installed 1.2 million smart water meters in France.

Some city authorities are measuring air quality and relaying the information to a central point with an online data feed in real time so that residents can view air quality data using a mobile application.

It’s not smart or cost-effective to empty a half-full bin. By using wireless sensors placed under the lids of recycling bins, information about its contents can be relayed wirelessly to a central analytics system. Back-end software uses historical data to predict when the containers will be full, and schedules pick-ups dynamically based on the information.

Sensors are changing everything and transforming devices into smart equipment. Networks and the ability to manage the data that delivers digital and mobile services lie at the heart of the digital transformation of cities. M2M is instrumental in this transformation. The capability to connect equipment, devices, facilities – and people – within cities and manage them remotely from a single platform opens up huge potential for new services.


* Mickael Ghossein is senior vice-president – Middle East, North Africa and Turkey at Orange Business Services, a global telecommunications operator and IT services company.

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