How the Internet of Things Makes Smart Cities a Reality

March 4, 2020 - 7 minutes read

Every day, millions of new devices connect to the Internet. This movement is due in no small part to the proliferation of smartphones. Today, these mobile computers allow us to communicate with a wide range of sensors and smart devices present in our environment.

Take car care, for instance. By downloading a diagnostic tool app and connecting your phone to your car, you can scan and receive codes to elucidate any issues with your automobile. This is but one of many examples of how smartphones and the development of the Internet of Things (IoT) are transforming interactions.

In the near future, computer systems will be able to connect with IoT-enabled devices and sensors in a way that enables easier, more seamless management of metropolitan areas. This will give way to the rise of smart cities.

What’s a Smart City?

Simply put, a smart city is a municipality that strives to enhance inhabitant quality of life and operational efficiency through the internalization of smart technology. Sectors like energy transmission and storage, public transit, sanitation, waste management, and water infrastructure can all benefit.

San Francisco, Denver, Pittsburgh, Tokyo, and Toronto are all examples of cities currently leveraging smart technology.

Wait, What’s IoT, again?

Remember those millions of devices we mentioned earlier? Well, IoT is the connected network these sensors and devices form to collect, transmit, and act upon data.

Practically anything can become IoT-enabled; just connect it to the Internet! For example, there are now light bulbs that you can control through phone apps. This makes them IoT-enabled devices. Expanding this example to include thousands of light bulbs allows you to see the connection between IoT and smart cities.

By using IoT sensors, we can improve our control over city infrastructures, like street lights or transit systems.

The Essential Components of a Smart City

Here are the most important components of a smart city.

Smart Infrastructure

A smart city’s primary characteristic is a smart infrastructure. Think of this component as the backbone that all other elements depend on. A smart city infrastructure must be optimized for performance. This means maximizing operational efficiency while reducing waste and energy consumption.

An energy-efficient infrastructure, in turn, fosters an environmentally-friendly environment. For a great example, let’s revisit our light bulb scenario. Instead of controlling this device through your phone, imagine if a street light only turned on when it senses movement. This would drastically reduce its energy usage.

Smart Traffic Management

We can all agree that nobody likes sitting in traffic. Fortunately, smart cities are here to optimize traffic control. With integrated IoT sensors, smart cities can see and analyze traffic flow updates in real time. With these insights, the smart city can then adjust traffic lights in a crowded area to ease car congestion.

Smart Parking

Don’t you just love the impromptu game of finding a parking spot in a city? Who doesn’t like going around the same few blocks several times, finally finding a parking spot, getting out of your car, and then seeing that you can only park there from 3 pm to 5 pm on Mondays? Just kidding; as with traffic, nobody enjoys this.

By installing IoT sensors in parking areas, we’ll be able to know exactly when a driver leaves a particular parking spot. This information can then be sent to the smartphones of drivers in the area looking for a vacant opening,

Smart Air Management

IoT sensors will give cities unprecedented capabilities to detect and analyze air pollution. In turn, this will give emission forecasts for the coming days unparalleled accuracy.

Smart Waste Management

IoT could drastically transform the waste management industry. By installing sensors on waste containers, garbage collectors would only have to stop by if a container is full. This would eliminate many inefficiencies in the industry and reduce operational costs.

IoT Is Fueling the Future of Smart Cities

With the potential to eliminate traffic, save energy, and improve waste management, IoT is catalyzing the realization of smart cities around the globe. In fact, smart city capabilities seem to be growing right alongside the number of IoT devices. By 2025, Gartner expects the number of connected devices to reach 30 billion.

But you don’t have to wait until then to see IoT’s potential in action. Today, IoT sensors are now found in most vehicles and equipment. Whether the goal is to prevent crime or manage parking lots, these devices are already assisting enterprise-level organizations in developing more robust systems.

And in smart cities around the world, you can already find energy-efficient intelligent buildings, smart grids and lighting systems to conserve energy, and even road infrastructure which adapts to everchanging traffic situations. These solutions will only become better with more time and data.

Over the next two decades, city governments across the globe plan to collectively invest over $41 trillion to upgrade their existing infrastructures for IoT. This is a necessity in order to keep up with the future of this technology. While it may seem like a steep cost, the benefits it unlocks will quickly make it worth every penny.

What do you think the future of IoT and smart cities looks like? What developments do you want to see sooner rather than later? As always, let us know your thoughts in the comments below!

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