It is nothing new that roads, traffic lights, buildings and even roadblocks are becoming more and more digital. The City of Aarhus has for several years worked to streamline the municipal activities by using technologies within the Internet of Things (IoT) that allow non-digital objects to interact with one another based on data collection and transmission. The departments in Aarhus Municipality have for a long period of time explored and worked on these technological opportunities, but with the newly established focus on IoT, the City of Aarhus is trying to make the initiative more structured and transversal.

Sustainability and efficiency

Although a focus unit dedicated to IoT has been established, the use of the specific solutions must continue to take place in the individual discipline areas. The Technical Department has for a long time dealt with measurable non-personally identifiable data and with IoT it is possible to work with larger and more accurate data sets – it can be about weather conditions, the indoor climate of buildings or the condition of the roads.

The goal of using IoT in the City of Aarhus is not only increased digitization. It is also about releasing resources and working more sustainably – both environmentally and financially – across the municipality. In this way, well-functioning IoT solutions are a tool for better utilization of municipal and city resources. Within Smart Aarhus, IoT becomes a tool that speaks to the smart city's strategic framework. The digital tools allow municipal authorities to make decisions based on how the city behaves.

Design of IoT solutions

Another area of expertise where the IoT-supported decision-making is expressed is at the Department for Health and Care. Here it is beneficial to monitor the area's most expensive tools to investigate its actual use. At the Children and Youth Department they also work with IoT to measure the indoor climate in the classrooms. Just as it is the idea to bring IoT tools into the school subjects, which is one of many ways to make citizens more aware of the new technology and how it is used. By having a unit dedicated to IoT, it is possible to work with the desire for more citizen involvement, co-creation, and democratization. At the present stage, it is still explored how the use of IoT can involve the citizens and how the City of Aarhus can communicate the use of IoT.

As a basis for the solutions to be implemented, the City of Aarhus has established an IoT transmission layer based on the open standard LoRaWAN. Various sensors can send data over long distances with very low power consumption via our LoRaWAN network. Other types of such networks include 5G and Wi-Fi, and it is always the usage scenario that determines which technologies are used for the specific solution. For example, if you work with measurements in a municipal building where there is already Wi-Fi, Wi-Fi will be the natural solution.

The industry needs to address the challenges

In the rapidly evolving digitalization, the public authorities are enriched with potential ideas that can benefit citizens and businesses. But good intentions are not enough. In order to succeed with the ideas, the right partners and the right framework for the solutions are needed. The fact that Aarhus Municipality works with IoT does not mean that the City of Aarhus must be the product developer as well. The focus is therefore also on the private sector to find the best solutions in the market - for the benefit of the individual company, the municipality, and the citizens. An example is knowledge of road temperatures in relation to road salting. Here, a company's sensors are tested to see how it can help provide measurements on the roads that are accurate enough to meet the municipality's need for more local measurements. With such data, it is expected that road salting can be organized differently, while it today is based on only few measurement stations or data from DMI (Danish Meteorological Institute). By having a contact center for IoT in the City of Aarhus, this relationship to the private sector can be systematized to a greater extent, and it is avoided that the framework for the collaboration becomes a stopping block for the use of well-functioning IoT systems.

This is one of the reasons why the City of Aarhus has dedicated IoT-oriented employees to assist the business areas so that the technologies can be evaluated, and the business case framed. This effort should make it easier to both initiate pilot projects and later to scale the projects and implement them in the daily life in specific subject areas.