I’m an anthropologist by training and technologist by profession, so the continued evolution of how people live within cities and engage with technology fascinates me. To say technology shapes our daily lives would be an understatement. Today, machines have the ability to communicate with each other, which enables technological solutions that make our urban lives smarter, more efficient and more sustainable.

Smart cities are cities that use information communications technology (ICT) to ensure real-time connectivity for automated city functions. Machine-to-machine technologies (M2M) are those sensors and devices that harness the power of real-time communication. If you use a GPS device for directions or have a smart utility meter installed on your house, you’ve already experienced the power of M2M.

Other commonplace applications for M2M include traffic signals that alert city employees the second a bulb goes out, fitness devices that record biometric data, and home security systems. Down the line, we’ll have even more M2M technologies such as driverless cars and energy micro-generation systems that click on and off automatically as a home, neighborhood, or school’s real-time energy demand changes.

Rebuilding city infrastructures

These technologies exist today or are on the horizon, ready to make our cities healthier, safer, more environmentally-friendly and more robust economically. Those changes are good for all of us.

Recently, I had the opportunity to participate in a discussion with BlueGreen Alliance (BGA), Carbon War Room (CWR), and my AT&T colleagues on the role M2M technology plays in building smart cities of the future. BGA sees a natural link between enhanced broadband networks, M2M technologies, and the goals of its Repair America campaign, which aims to address climate change risks and help cities with failing infrastructures while rebuilding America’s economy. As such, it recently hosted a Capitol Hill briefing with Senator Klobuchar’s office on M2M technology and smart cities. Lessons learned from these recent discussions?

  • M2M technologies will be a nearly $1 trillion industry by 2020
  • Transportation presents the greatest opportunity for M2M adoption.
  • Research from CWR and sponsored by AT&T estimates that M2M can decrease energy usage in the energy sector by 2.0 Gt of CO2e, the transportation sector by 1.9 Gt of CO2e and the built environment by 1.6 Gt of CO2e by 2020.
M2M powers sustainability

Greenhouse gas emission reductions are just one example of the potential environmental benefits of M2M technology. My colleague Dan Miller, who works with utilities to adopt M2M solutions, explained the network functions that enable M2M solutions. Because M2M technology demands nearly instantaneous communications between multiple devices, it relies on advanced high-speed broadband networks.

At AT&T, we’re investing in modern IP-network technology, which in-turn enables a more sustainable future. We currently enable 19 million smart meters and countless other M2M solutions that are part of the ever-growing Internet of things. We’re working toward a more sustainable future, and smarter cities, a goal we share with BGA and CWR.

How are you using M2M solutions? Let us know in the comments below or on Twitter by tweeting us at @susandiegelman, @BGAlliance and @cwarroom.