Intel, San Jose Leverage Internet of Things in Smart City Project

The chip maker and city are running a six-month pilot program that addresses traffic, air pollution and water quality in San Jose.

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Intel is working with San Jose, Calif., officials on a pilot program designed to use technology to help improve the operations of the Silicon Valley city and the lives of the people who live and work there.

The smart city project, announced June 11, is part of the White House SmartAmerica Challenge program announced in December 2013 to encourage private and public entities to explore ways the Internet of things (IoT) can be used to benefit the economy and society. The six-month Intel-San Jose project is among those being showcased at the SmartAmerica Expo in Washington D.C., June 11.

Intel has a similar program under way in Ireland, but the partnership with San Jose represents the chip maker's initial effort in the United States. Tom Steenman, vice president for Intel's Internet of Things Group, said during a conference call with journalists and analysts that the expectation is that Intel can leverage what it learns in San Jose to create frameworks that can be leveraged in other communities.

In San Jose, city officials are installing a network of sensors as part of the city's larger seven-year-old "San Jose Green Vision" sustainability project aimed at generating economic growth while protecting the environment. The sensors will collect data on a range of areas in the city, from air pollution to noise to traffic flow, with the information being analyzed to enable city officials to develop ways to improve San Jose's environment and livability, according to Vijay Sammeta, the city's CIO.

The effort is "not just a vision, but a demand" if officials are to meet the needs of San Jose and its residents in everything from transportation and environmental sustainability to health care and energy efficiency, Sammeta said during the conference call.

The city has created a sensor demonstration platform that uses Intel's Gateway Solutions for the Internet of things that is powered by an Intel Quark chip and includes sensors from other vendors. Each gateway includes the Intelligent Device Platform software from Wind River and security features from McAfee; both vendors are Intel businesses. All of that is connected to an Intel Hadoop distribution in the cloud, according to Intel officials.

Data can be collected and analyzed, and decisions can quickly be made based on the results, Steenman said.

"The Internet of things … is going to be of tremendous benefit to cities," he said.

The IoT is expected to have a significant financial impact in the industry. Cisco Systems CEO John Chambers has said the benefits to businesses and government agencies worldwide could total $19 trillion by the end of the decade, and Intel officials said worldwide investment could hit $41 trillion over the next 20 years.

Intel is one of a growing number of IT vendors—such as IBM and Cisco Systems—that are using technologies and the cloud to create solutions designed to help cities manage their environments, infrastructures and resident services at a time when populations continue to grow.

By 2025, 37 cities will have populations of more than 10 million, and cities today already consume two-thirds of the world's energy and other resources, according to Intel. In the United States, traffic congestion costs 4.2 billion hours and $87 billion in fuel and lost productivity, according to IBM numbers.

San Jose will feel the impact of growth over the next three decades, Sammeta said. During that time, the population is expected to grow by 40 percent, to 1.4 million people. He said one goal was to give residents information about their city in hopes that they will respond. For example, on days when air pollution is particularly bad, they could bike to work or take public transportation to reduce emissions into the atmosphere.