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Towards Smart Living Spaces, from Cities to Rural Villages


Snaps #65

The Internet of Things and the Smart City-Centric Paradigm

The move towards smart city projects is often, if not always, motivated by the increasing rate of urbanisation. This, in turn, is justified by the attractiveness that cities play in peoples, imagination and desire. Cities are centres of innovation, inspiration, and opportunities. Additionally, migration flows between countries and in countries from remote areas towards urban areas are strongly reshaping the demographics of the planet, concentrating population in highly-urbanised areas. Technologies can re-design cities in order to support this dramatic demographic change. The Smart city umbrella concept defines this new design process.

The Internet of Things technology paradigm is the necessary backbone underlying developing smart cities. Policy makers and businesses strongly promote this argument, emphatically highlighting the concept of smart cities and the strong role of technologies, and in particular the Internet of Things vision. This approach revolves around an acceptance of the idea that cities are centres of economies, that in order to be so they need intelligence, and that therefore they need people. People have needs and cities, seen as systems of systems, must provide these needs. The concept of the smart city is a way to implement that view.

Looking at Rural Areas as Smart Spaces

But is the rapid pace of urbanization truly inevitable or even desirable? Why not make rural areas more attractive in terms of lifestyle, innovation, and opportunities? Rural and remote areas are spaces with specific features, most of them untapped or underdeveloped because not enough effort has been put into them. The Internet of Things can re-interpret these spaces, transforming them into smart spaces, making them attractive and vital for our economies and societies. Smart rural area pioneers around the globe are showing how this could be achieved.

Smart Farming – A Business Opportunity and an Enabler for Rural Area Development

Agricultural machinery manufacturers such as John Deere, CNH-Global, CLAAS, AGCO and others have been working on precision agriculture for some time. The main objective is increasing food production and reducing energy consumption in harvesting. They are working all around the globe to enable the agriculture sector to fulfil the food needs of an increasing global population that will reach 9bn people in 2050. Their combines and agriculture vehicles are becoming more intelligent, equipped with sensors that acquire data about the fields and the crops. Data then flows to information management systems, also known as farm management information systems, in order to optimize operations. These are truly connected and intelligent combines.

These concepts are moving also into small-sized fields, such as vineyards, where mesh-networks of sensors monitor the grapes, send data to farm management information systems, and enable actions to be taken to optimize production and increase quality. Similarly, this is also happening for livestock and for fish farmers.

Farming, in all its sizes and forms, is embracing the IoT vision in which the farm is a space, a sensed space, where data is used – at the edge or on the cloud – for optimising farming processes and creating new services. These activities then become integrated with the local food industry, which on its side has adopted IoT technologies, too.

The IoT vision can be expanded to many activities in rural areas. Technologies can be used in tourism, in local craftsmen labs, for social services and healthcare, and in the local culture industry. Technologies can connect rural areas with urban areas creating a reciprocal continuum of opportunities. Promoting all of this means involving various sectors, including the strong involvement of various components of the IoT landscape, from mobile network operators to sensing technologies providers to specialised M2M technology providers. If this takes place using open data models, ecosystems of start-ups can also grow in rural areas.

Towards Smart Living Spaces

There are projects around the world that look in this direction. Smart agriculture – or smart farming – in particular is getting a lot of attention. Without food, even smart cities will make no sense. Therefore, major smart farming opportunities exist for IoT players. A more holistic view of rural areas, looking at rural areas in their entirety as an Internet of Things space, is rare (Smart Rural Living Labs is an exception). Smart farming will happen faster if people, particularly the younger generation, become involved. Can farming be seen as an attractive and innovative profession? This can become true if living in the countryside is seen as attractive as living in the city from various perspectives. Therefore, working towards smart rural areas should be as desirable an objective as developing smart cities. Rather than exclusively focusing on smart cities, policymakers and the industry should start talking about a more balanced approach to smart living spaces, one that extends from cities to rural villages.

Beecham Research’s Analysis of Smart Farming and Smart Rural Areas

Since 2011, Beecham Research has looked at M2M technologies in agriculture. This research continues with the strong belief that smart farming, despite its early stage, represents an important opportunity for the IoT industry.

Robin Duke-Woolley
Beecham Research, Ltd.


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