How America is structuring its smart countryside projects

The emphasis of a "smart future" appears to be on urban cities. But can technology make the countryside smarter?
30 May 2018

Solar panels can help us go a long way in our endeavor to build a smart countryside. Source: AFP

When you envisage the “smart future” what do you see?

Maybe it’s a gleaming interconnected technopolis where autonomous cars roam the streets, flying taxies are flying overhead, and drones are whizzing lunch packages to the doors of office blocks.

This may seem like a scene out of a science fiction movie you watched as a child, but the truth is… this is the future.

While the talks of smart cities and connected urban landscapes are common, less focus is on the more rural localities of the world.

How can technology create a smarter countryside? Can our farms really be “smart”?

The countryside is typically associated with its divide from urbanization and technological advancements. In fact, many studies highlight the benefits of exposure to green spaces and nature on our health and well-being.

Almost 60 million Americans (20 percent of the US population) live outside of urban areas. Those who do inhabit cities often have a strong dependence on the work of those in rural communities for food and other materials.

Yet, only 39 percent of Americans who live in rural environments have access to broadband internet, let alone the emerging tech that is to power the cities of the future.

With its outdated infrastructure, sparse population, lack of IT education, and very limited private investment, there appears to be a huge danger of American rural environments being left behind in the journey to a smart future.

But this doesn’t have to be the case. Here are three ways that smart tech can improve countryside-living.

Waste control

Can smart tech really help conserve National Parks? Source: Shutterstock

Findings from a report from the Lake District National Park Authority highlight the benefits of implementing smart tech in rural areas.

It emphasizes that innovation and the Internet of Things will be the key to protecting the world’s National Park landscape, reducing costs and enhancing visitors’ experience.

An example of this is the placing of sensors on bins which can alert national park authorities when they are full.

This initiative will reduce the problem of litter, helping to conserve the landscape. As National Parks get more and more visitors, the issue becomes more and more important.

Car-sharing apps

Car-sharing apps will help decrease carbon emissions and the overpopulation of cars at National Parks. Source: Shutterstock

On top of providing a solution to conserving national parks, smart tech could also help reduce the number of cars that visit the parks every day.

According to planners and managers of national parks, there is a considerable need to encourage car sharing in the community. Not only will this decrease carbon emissions, but it will also address the problem of “visual pollution”.

This refers to a large number of cars populating natural environments, taking away from the natural aesthetics of the sites, which has been shown to be an important factor in attracting visitors.

Smart agriculture

How can smart tech be utilized in agriculture? Source: Shutterstock

Not only can smart tech improve visitor attractions such as National Parks in rural areas, but it can also transform agriculture.

Despite the traditional nature of farming, innovative technologies are beginning to accelerate many processes involved in the landscape.

For instance, many IoT devices – including digital sensors, chips, and monitoring equipment – are enabling farmers to improve efficiency and increase their crop yields.

Among the examples of use cases in agriculture is the use of digital sensors to monitor soil and water conditions and the tracking of cattle to monitor its health.

The data that can be collected by connected IoT devices can be a powerful weapon to farmers, helping them minimize costs and maximize crop yields. In an age where the farming industry is becoming increasingly competitive, smart tech can provide more opportunities and better solutions.