Dec 4, 2019

Smart cities are fueled by optical design

Category: Product News
Smart Cities

There are 27 top smart cities globally including Boston, New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Jose, and Portland (University of Glasgow), and according to BCC Research, there will be a major increase in investment in smart cities in North America in the coming years. Optical design is the backbone of these smart cities, from sensors that track traffic patterns or monitor energy usage to lidar for self-driving cars that interact with city infrastructure. Following is a look at the optics behind smart cities. 

What is a smart city?

Driven by public and private companies, as well as federal, state, and local governments, smart cities are urban areas that use the Internet of Things (IoT) sensors and technology as infrastructure to collect and share data to increase efficiency and improve quality of life. Already, people have smart homes: they can use a phone app to turn off their lights or see what their pets are doing while they’re at work. Smart cities take “smart” to a larger scale. In a smart city, garbage receptacles let the city know when they’re full and ready to be picked up and stop lights “talk to” driverless taxis to alert the vehicles to a signal change. In a smart city, data drives decision making so increased safety, better transportation, and energy efficiencies are possible. 

The optics of smart cities

Sensors are the lifeblood of smart cities. According to The Role of Advanced Sensing in Smart Cities, “From smart design of buildings, which capture rain water for later use, to intelligent control systems, which can monitor infrastructures autonomously, the possible improvements enabled by sensing technologies are immense.” 

IoT pioneer Libelium shares the following sensor applications for a smarter world: 

  • Smart parking: monitoring of parking spaces availability in a city

  • Structural health: monitoring of vibrations and material conditions in buildings, bridges, and historical monuments

  • Noise urban maps: sound monitoring in bar areas and centric zones in real time

  • Smartphone detection: detect iPhone and Android devices and in general any device which works with WiFi or Bluetooth interfaces

  • Eletromagnetic field levels: measurement of the energy radiated by cell stations and and WiFi routers

  • Traffic congestion: monitoring of vehicles and pedestrian levels to optimize driving and walking routes

  • Smart lighting: intelligent and weather adaptive lighting in street lights

  • Waste management: detection of garbage levels in containers to optimize the trash collection routes

  • Smart roads: intelligent highways with warning messages and diversions according to climate conditions and unexpected events like accidents or traffic jams

The potential is vast for smart technologies fueled by sensors to propel smart cities forward. And OpticStudio can help simplify smart sensor design. 

Sensor design in OpticStudio

OpticStudio is two software packages in one: an optical design package and an illumination design package. The optical package allows fast and efficient design of imaging systems, including camera lenses and complex freeform systems. The illumination package accurately simulates light sources, including camera flashes and infrared lasers. Both packages are seamlessly integrated into one, intuitive user interface.

This means that OpticStudio can be used to design all optical components in active and passive sensor systems. Active sensors include a light source to illuminate an area of interest and measure the reflected signal, while passive sensors measure energy from other light sources, like the sun, or ambient lighting. Both can be used in IoT applications.

Read more about smarter sensor design for the IoT with OpticStudio>

Since according to some estimates, 60 percent of the world’s population will be city dwellers by 2050, cities must become smarter if they’re going to keep up with added traffic, pollution, and expense that the boom in population will bring. In turn, there’s great opportunity for optical designers working on sensors for smart city applications.