The City of Charlotte plans to launch a new data portal in a couple of weeks, part of its branding itself as a “Smart City,” disclosed Corporate IT Program Manager Twyla Deese McDermott at the Trends 2014 Internet of Things (IoT) event in the Queen City Thursday morning. Charlotte also decided this week to create a smart city IoT program.

“We view the Internet of Things from a smart city perspective,” she told the 150 or so attendees during a panel discussion during the second half of the event. The idea of the new portal is to “Connect citizens to our service offerings,” she said.

Even more directly related to the Internet of Things, in the building where the event was held, the University of North Carolina at Charlotte’s Center City facility uptown, a kiosk downstairs “Measures the energy use in the building,” she said. Elsewhere around town,

“Big belly trash disposal units send a signal when they’re near capacity so the service department knows to come and empty them.”

Also, the city has bike lanes with pavement markings that signal lights to change when cyclists pull up.

“Just this week,” she said, the city decided to pull together all the relevant departments and players into a smart city IoT program.” Branding Charlotte as a smart city will help it with its economic development efforts, she said. “We see this as support for our high growth entrepreneurship strategy. We’re building a culture of innovation.”

On the same panel, Seth Siegel, vice president of the Americas, Cisco Consulting Services, said that “Unlocking the IoT will result in $19 trillion in new economic opportunities over the next ten years, or about $1.9 trillion a year.

“I love big numbers,” Siegel said, “but where do they come from?” He pointed to the savings gained in running a building “If you know how your employees move through it during the day.” It can, he said, improve community policing by letting them know where street lights are out, or tell a manufacturer who imports things exactly when a container leaves a ship, moves through customs and heads toward the warehouse.

It means, he said, “More efficient services and will create new revenues that couldn’t exist unless things are connected. There is a lot of economic justification and Cisco sees it as a problem solver.”

Eric J. Christian, vice president and chief technology officer for the Carolinas Healthcare Systems, said, “We mostly focus on how IoT improves care through the ability to have data analytics from more sources than were typically available.” Electronic records, for instance, help eliminate mistakes made when most were kept on paper.

Also, he said, “In the past, most of medical equipment in the healthcare system depended upon human interaction. A doctor or nurse had to look at the data and make a judgment call. Not so with electronic data coming from heart, blood pressure monitors and other IoT equipment. But another major use in healthcare, he added, “Is on the prevention disease, a focus on preventing illness and healthier patients.” That’s aided by healthcare wearables that monitor vital signs.

Now, you can even monitor the health of a sick relative remotely and even tell if they’re taking their medicines based on when bottles are opened and closed.

Victor Jablokov, founder and CEO of hardware firm Wallflower, based in Cambridge, MA, and a former Charlotte resident who founded cloud-based speech to text firm Yap there, which sold to Amazon in 2011, pointed out, “We’re seeing a big push on the consumer side to create more devices and get them to market. Wallflower makes a device that will alert you if you leave the house with your stove still on – the number one cause of house fires.”

Siegel said that one thing making consumer apps of IoT more acceptable is that we’re generally more comfortable with devices reporting information about us. “Ten years ago,” he asked, “would you have been comfortable with a device that knows when you leave home and where you go? People have gotten more comfortable sharing data.”

Will Winn, principal at SmartCore, founded to help early adopters in the smart building space, referred to the theory that a business has to jump a chasm to be successful. IoT, he said, “Is just at the beginning of that ramp and a ton of things will fall into the chasm. “But the framework that has been built, the World Wide Web, enables people to create a business at low cost. From farming to healthcare, smart cities and retailing, “There is no end in sight” for IoT opportunities,” he said. “From an economic standpoint, gaining access to data is good.”

Moderator Ted Claypoole, a partner with Womble Carlyle Sandridge and Rice noted that there is a generational difference in how people think about sharing private information. “What a teenager thinks of in terms of privacy is what they keep from you, their parents.” He added that people are not aware of just how much information some IoT devices provide. Monitoring power use via a smart grid can tell not just how much power your using, but also, what you’re using it for. “Police for years have used your power use to tell if you’re growing drugs in your house,” for instance. “Not thinking about how the data being collected can be used is a failure of imagination,” he said.

The question is, Yablokov said, “Is, in the grand scheme of things in your life, what do you really care about sharing?”

Christian summed up a great deal of panel discussion when he said the key to making IoT opportunities work is to “Focus on solutions that deliver measurable, sustainable value, lowering your costs or getting better data that leads to better outcomes. For consumers, you save them time, help them connect to family, or enhance collaboration so that it’s value-based.”

The IoT event was sponsored by BIG (Business Innovation and Growth); Connected Nation; CRTEC, and UNC Charlotte’s College of Computing and Informatics.