How Dublin Became a Smart City, Part One

This series examines how wooing major technology firms and supporting academic researchers is helping to transform the Irish capital.
By Mary Catherine O'Connor

A Park, Better Transit, and Smarter Garbage Collection
Last year, the newly opened Croke Park, a sports and entertainment complex in Dublin, was dubbed the world's first Internet of Things stadium. But, in fact, it might be more accurately called a smart-city testbed. In many ways, a large stadium such as Croke is like a miniature city, complete with its own transportation, energy, communications, food and waste-management systems, so Intel integrated its IoT gateways and other IoT-focused products and services into the stadium in order to support pilot programs.

Intel partnered with Dublin City University's Information Technology and Digital Society research and enterprise hub to facilitate a range of technology platforms at the park. These included a network of rain gauge and sewage infrastructure sensors that, along with data from weather stations, are used to forecast and detect flooding risks around the park. A crowd-management system utilizes motion sensors to track the sizes and motion patterns of fans moving through the stadium, and this data helps the park to manage queues, as well as share demand forecasts with transportation services outside the park. Moisture and light sensors, along with internet-connected cameras, monitor the health of the turf inside the park, which hosts soccer and hurling matches.

Smart Dublin's Jamie Cudden
The city of Dublin has also integrated a web-based public transit tracking system that feeds real-time arrival data into digital signs at bus stops and smartphone apps. In addition, Smart Dublin has recently held a contest to crowdsource a means for promoting more cycling in that city, in a way that provides residents with a safe, encouraging environment. "We're seeing massive growth in cycling in Dublin," Cudden states, "but [this demographic] is dominated by males in Lyrca shorts." Instead, the city wants to encourage cycling across genders, ages, professions and fitness levels, in order for bikes to have a more material impact on traffic congestion, the overall health of the city's environment and the health of commuters.

But a major disincentive to cycling is theft. Each year, 20,000 bicycles are stolen in Dublin, and studies have shown that 60 percent of cyclists who have lost bikes to thieves reduce the frequency with which they ride in the future. So in addition to cycling infrastructure improvements, the city is seeking a technological solution to deter thievery.

"We received proposals from 25 startups," Cudden says. Some of these proposed using low-power wide-area networks (such as LoRa or Sigfox) to mount low-cost, tamper-resistant sensors onto bikes to deter theft and make those that are stolen easier to track down. Others suggested using Bluetooth technology in various ways, such as creating a connection between a bicycle and its owner's phone, which would trigger an alarm if the bike moved outside of a set geofence around the owner.

Dublin and nearby cities are also interested in integrating IoT technology into their waste-collection systems, and the suburb of Donleary has installed 400 internet-connected, solar-powered trash cans on its streets, made by Bigbelly. A cellular module inside each can issues an alert to the trash-collection agency whenever a can is full, and the integrated compactor means it can hold more garbage than a conventional can.

Cudden says Dublin is also interested in integrating technology into its trash-collection system, but would like to integrate a wider variety of sensors at the collection points, which could collect information regarding the flow of pedestrian traffic, or perhaps environmental factors, such as air quality or sound.

Part two of this series will discuss how research at Irish universities is being transferred and launched into smart-city projects, with help from city governments and other local and national organizations.

Check out Part Two Here

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