Let’s get smart ...
Another festive season is behind us. Were you “nice” enough last year to be rewarded with the gift you had hoped for? Consumer electronics, such as smartphones, smart TVs and smart home devices were on the top of many people’s wish lists, and they continue to be in very high demand.
These “smart” devices, collectively now referred to as “Internet of Things”, are all the rage, as they offer many benefits. One can monitor their health with a smartphone and the appropriate app, as an example, or track their dog with a smart tag, or manage their fitness plan with a smart watch. These days it seems like I look at my watch more for my steps count rather than finding out the time.
Smart devices can also make the chores and functioning of a home more automated. A smart vacuum cleaner can automatically clean floors, which allows the homeowner to allocate more time on pressing matters. A smart security system can integrate with a mobile app that allows for the remote control and video monitoring of the home, even when the occupants are not on the island.
There is an endless array of smart apparatus and applications. The term “smart” is the acronym for self-monitoring, analysis and reporting technology. Smart devices have gained popularity because they have become more intelligent and can help people with important areas of need such as healthcare, security and efficiency.
The smart devices that Bermuda residents tend to purchase are mostly off the shelf, such as an Amazon Echo Dot or a Fitbit watch, and can be purchased at an electronics consumer retail store. There is inadequate development of smart products designed or modified for Bermuda’s needs.
Here are two smart products that should become standard on the island, as they would help residents to manage two essential resources — electricity and water. I know it is technically possible to implement these smart solutions, but either there is a lack of promotion or the price points are too high.
Smart home energy monitor
Before the cost of oil increasing, mainly because of the war in Ukraine, Bermuda’s electricity rates were already on the high side. Homes on the island have traditionally installed water-heater timers and have recently taken advantage of the Government’s LED bulb initiative to help reduce their bills. With Bermuda’s high cost of living, most people are looking for any way to save on their monthly expenses, and a smart home energy monitor could be part of the solution.
A smart home energy monitor can provide details on how much power is being used daily in the home and let the homeowner know which appliances are using the most energy, thereby allowing for ways to save. Does running a split air-conditioning unit on economy all day to keep an apartment cool use more power than running it on auto mode after work? How about choosing between economy or regular when you wash clothes, although the former mode cycle often lasts much longer? An energy monitor could answer those questions and would help to conserve and realise much needed savings.
Smart home water monitor
Can you imagine not knowing how much petrol you have left in your car. Luckily, there is that trusty instrument called a fuel gauge that indicates the amount of fuel there is in the tank. Although this simple but effective solution has been around since the early 20th century, Bermuda has not standardised something similar for its water tanks.
Let us think about it: in order for a homeowner to figure out how much water is in their tank, they must first go outside and start weightlifting to get the tank top off. Then, more than likely, they would have to get down on their knees and try to calculate how much water they have. Bermuda’s population is ageing, and we need to be smarter.
The design of Bermuda roofs was pioneering, solving the problem of not having access to any bodies of fresh water such as a river or a lake. Today, alternative materials to our natural limestone are also being used to build the island’s ingenious solution. However, we must continue to develop and innovate as success does not stand still.
Every Bermuda home should have a smart home water monitor that could integrate with an app and be capable of instantly displaying how much water is in their tank and show the amount of weekly rainfall and drawdown. This may not appear to be an issue today because of the amount of rainfall we have had, but we will have plenty of dry spells in the future. Another feature could be showing the health of the water in the tank to ensure it is adequate for drinking.
Smart technology is not only beneficial for personal use and for our homes, but it can also add value to the island’s infrastructure, as it can improve operational efficiency and the quality of government services. To take advantage of these benefits, Bermuda should strive to become a “smart island”.
The term “smart island” is derived from a smart city, which generally is a municipality or urban area that uses smart technologies. Bermuda should use its superpower and utilise smart technology throughout the island by making the country safer, and driving economic growth by increasing productivity and reducing costs.
Here are a couple of smart ways Bermuda can begin its journey into becoming a smart island, which would ultimately provide a better quality of life for all residents.
Smart waste management system
A smart waste management system could revolutionise the collection of waste in Bermuda by replacing the traditional method of using predefined routes and a fixed collection schedule. Most countries use this type of model, but the process is now old and inefficient.
By using smart technology, waste bins are capable of being monitored and can alert the waste management company when they are ready to be emptied. With the ability to monitor, Seoul in South Korea reduced its collection costs by 83 per cent and eliminated waste overflow at the same time. San Francisco reduced its overflow waste by 80 per cent and street-cleaning requests by 66 per cent.
The Netherlands has taken its waste management to another level and is one Bermuda should look at to emulate. It has shifted from a pick-up to a drop-off system by deploying underground trash bins. Residents would dispose of their trash bags at any time during the week in a neighbourhood bin, which is only a walk away. The volume capability of these bins is 5,000 litres (1,320 gallons). They can be fitted with key access cards and are capable of being wi-fi enabled, which alerts the central station when they are full.
Bermuda could get rid of its dedicated weekly garbage days by adopting a similar system. It would make our garbage collection more efficient, as only one worker is required to operate the waste management truck, while presenting a cleaner environment. This type of solution solves the problem of trash being put out days early by some neighbours and prevents birds or other pests from making a mess of things when there is a delay in waste collection.
The smart features of the underground trash bins provide a multitude of options of how the Government could manage the service. Such as restricting access to the bins by parish or by a specific location. A quota of bags of trash per week per household could be enforced and any overages could be charged.
A smart waste management system would be suitable for estates, condominiums, the City of Hamilton, or any location where trash can be consolidated and a truck has access to without hazardously interfering with traffic. The island’s tight spaces and hill terrain would present a challenge, but this is where we would have to put on our thinking and creative caps. Be sure to have a look at the video provided.
Smart speed cameras
Speed cameras have been talked about and talked about. There are multiple reports that outline how speed cameras deployed in countries overseas reduce crashes and reckless driving, and how they can save lives. There needs to be a sustained approach to changing the culture of speed on the island and smart speed cameras can be the foundation of the solution.
The Bermuda Police recently received a budget boost to recruit more officers. A question to ask is, could any of the services the police provide be supplanted by technology, such as speed cameras, for officers to focus on other duties such as serious crime investigations?
What started out as geek gadgets has evolved into an important part of our everyday life. Smart devices are now part of the mainstream, although I am sure some of you are tired of hearing the name “Siri” or “Alexa” being called at home. If you do not know who they are, just ask any young family member.
Bermuda needs to embrace technology, get smarter and become a smart island. There are a plethora of devices that have been created for personal use and for the home, and smart technologies are helping countries to maximise their resources and increase efficiencies.
A smart island would have the ability to create a safer, more efficient, and healthier environment for the betterment of all residents.
• Malcolm Raynor has worked in the telecommunications industry in Bermuda for more than 30 years. Benefiting from Cable & Wireless’s internal training and education programmes held in Bermuda, Barbados, St Lucia (The University of the West Indies) and Britain, he rose to the level as senior vice-president. An independent thinker possessing a moderate ideology, his opinions are influenced by principle, data and trends