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Smart systems and technologies to build smarter cities

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The concept of smart cities began in the 1990s with the advent of the internet, but it did not reach much traction until 2010 as technology advanced to better conform to how people lived. Let’s look at the definition of a “smart city” and how this affects patent trends, today. 

A smart city can be defined as an urban area surrounded by smart sensors and devices designed to enhance the lives of its residents and the environment. The city needs to manage the resources in an urban landscape in a sustainable way.    

The Internet of Things (IoT) acts as the backbone infrastructure for the smart city concept. IoT may be defined as a network of devices and sensors that communicate with each other to perform assigned tasks, with no or minimal human intervention. The smart city concept provides a platform that integrates IoT and communication technology to optimize the efficiency of city operations and services, to share information with the public, and to ensure the welfare of citizens. 

As IoT technology becomes more common in everyday objects that people use, and as various IoT sensors communicate with one another, it creates a vast amount of data. 

Data is the new oil but, unlike oil, it is renewable and cheaply available. Gone are the days when urban infrastructure merely comprised physical assets. The focus has now shifted to embracing data and new technologies to take important business decisions. Smart cities will benefit hugely from 5G’s low latency, and the ability to quickly transfer data from sensors to monitoring locations in real-time. 

A smart city starts with a smart building. To make a building smart, systems such as lighting, power, water, heating, and fire alarms, etc. are connected to sensors. A building automation system takes automated decisions such as when to turn on the air-conditioning system for a building zone or how to distribute electrical loads based on well-defined priorities. 

Automated and connected vehicle technologies are an excellent example of the kind of innovation that smart cities can deploy, and the automobile industry has invested heavily in these new technologies. Connected vehicles enable city planners to enhance vehicle safety and to improve vehicle commute times. 

Other modern technologies such as machine learning (ML), artificial intelligence (AI), and blockchain promise a swift and efficient development of smart cities.   

Patent Trends in IoT 

So, what does this mean for intellectual property?  

Patent filing activity in the ‘IoT-based Smart Cities’ domain began in the early 21st century. However, there was a significant increase from 2015 onwards with patent filings reaching an all-time high in 2019. 

Asia leads in smart cities patent filing and China holds a significant advantage in the world of smart cities, thanks to its strong presence in the LTE, 5G, and IoT technology domains.  

Looking at particular companies, Samsung already holds more smart-city patents/published applications than any other market player and is investing in R&D activities that will help smart cities use utilize AI, IoT, and 5G. 

Many patents/published applications by Samsung and Huawei reveal exactly how these companies are deploying Information and Communications Technology (ICT) infrastructure in smart city solutions. A key theme is the significant innovation in applying technologies such as 5G, AI, ML and IoT in the smart city domain. The same can be said regarding patent filings by other major technology companies such as ZTE Corporation and Intel.  

Discover more in-depth insights into IoT patent filing trends and key players in the domain in our white paper: Smart Cities: Asia Leads the IoT Patent Land Grab

Patent preparation and filing requires technical and legal expertise and consultancy on patent portfolio analytics and management to increase the value of a company’s patent portfolio and align it with the overall business goals. UnitedLex helps patent owners and corporates increase revenue opportunities and accelerate outcomes. Visit our Intellectual Properties section to find out more.