Before the advent of sensor technology, collecting data was an expensive manual process. Trained people would need to go into the environment and record their observations before bringing them back to a central processing facility. Then their findings would need to be uploaded into a central repository. Not only was this very time consuming, by the very nature of how data was collected and then moved to a central processing facility, it may also have been already out of date.

The advantage of sensor technology is that devices can communicate new information in real time to either feed into a wider information store thereby adding to a data-set, or they can inform people that attention is needed in a particular location.

Local Authorities such as Dublin County Council (DCC) are making use of sensor technology in a number of ways. One use of sensors are the Big Belly Bins. When they are 60% full they contact a central base by email. This means DCC can target the emptying of these bins which saves money. DCC can also get real time information about the busy times for these bins and this can help decision making regarding where there are more or fewer needed in a particular place. DCC are also putting sensors in normal bins so they can communicate when they are full. The problem here is battery life but this is improving.

Another DCC sensor technology innovation is the smart light pilot scheme. The sensors were built into bicycle lights that are aware of their location. In addition the sensors were also able to detect motion data. Based on location, the lights were able to shine brighter at dangerous junctions. They were also able to record and transmit information about the road surface, the preferred routes that cyclists take, accidents and near miss events.

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