The role of IoT technology in building smart cities

The role of IoT technology in building smart cities

It may be unnoticeable to an uninterested audience, but professionals can see that IoT solutions services are becoming more and more in demand. The internet of things is applied in almost every field. We even use them in our everyday life without understanding that we actually carry IoT devices with us, such as smartwatches and fitness trackers. They are really small and convenient.

But what about something bigger? For example, to use the internet of things for smart cities. This is already possible and has been successfully accomplished. Let’s see how smart cities will soon become our everyday reality.

What’s a smart city?

To put it simply, a smart city is a city that has implemented and has been adopting IoT technology to improve the quality of life there. Specifically, such technologies include IoT sensors located throughout the whole area. These sensors continuously gather data on everything that’s going on in the city and let authorities react wisely to some cumbersome processes with data-driven strategies for improvements.

Some cities have already taken the title of smart cities, for example, Singapore, Zurich, Dubai, and Oslo. And the number is increasing. It was forecasted that there will be more than 26 smart cities in the world by 2025. The smart city market will reach a revenue of 241.02 billion dollars by 2025. Impressive figures indeed, but how does the smart city work?

Let’s look into some simple examples.

Imagine an ordinary traffic light that has a small sensor inside it that gathers data. It can be real-time information about current traffic conditions. Having this data on the screen, operators can control the work of traffic lights to resolve serious traffic jams. 

Let’s also imagine a sensor that can monitor the condition of bridges used inside the city. If there are any issues recognized by the system on the basis of fresh data from sensors, local authorities can initiate a maintenance session to prevent any accidents or, what’s worse, the bridge collapsing.

These are only a few advantages of smart technologies employed in cities. We will definitely disclose more of them. Now, let’s check out what’s happening under the hood.

How is IoT technology used in smart cities?

As it can be seen from the section title, a smart city exists thanks to IoT technology, specifically, smart sensors that gather information. After this, data is sent to the processing center and then to a cloud-based (at best) IoT platform. Such platforms often include a set of tools for analyzing data from sensors and are an essential element of smart city infrastructure.

The amount of data from IoT sensors is huge, even if we are talking about one facility. Here we have the whole city. Considering the fact that big cities have the priority and finances to adopt such technologies, the area for locating these sensors is pretty large, as is the amount of data. We are talking about enormous real-time data flows. It’s impossible to quickly process it manually. So the implementation of IoT technology on such a scale isn’t possible without exploiting IoT data platforms with advanced analytical tools if you want to work with clean data without delays. 

Another aspect to discuss is what type of data IoT smart city applications can gather in the city and why it can be useful for this city’s population: 

  • Public transportation. A lot of cities have adopted this concept: GPS or GPRS devices used in public transport help keep track of their route and notify people of delays or any incidents that led to delays. Moreover, such sensors help drivers keep track of time and reduce waiting time at bus stops. This way, you get smart and transparent public transportation.  
  • Traffic monitoring. As we have already mentioned, sensors inside the pavement, traffic lights, and streetlights can help to resolve issues with traffic jams. Advanced traffic management systems process information that sensors transmit and analyze it. There are also such smart parking solutions thanks to which people see available parking space. 
  • Streetlights. Streetlights are multifunctional. They can be used as a WiFi hotspot that connects the whole network of sensors around the city, an EV charging station, and many more. The other advantage of streetlights is that operators can control energy consumption. Streetlights can automatically switch off if there is nobody around or switch on if a sensor detects an approaching person or vehicle or gets data about them from other streetlights.  
  • Air quality monitoring. Air quality sensors help monitor the air quality, identify any contaminants in it, and alert local authorities to this problem. This is especially useful for cities with many plants and where petrol and diesel vehicles prevail. 
  • CCTV cameras. The usefulness of CCTV cameras in the city is obvious. They help to solve (and sometimes prevent) crimes, identify the reasons and responsible ones for various accidents, and, in general, monitor the situation in the city. 

This is how a smart city can operate. However, it’s not enough to place sensors somewhere throughout the city. So far, the concept of a smart city has broadened to the point where everything in the smart city can be smart: houses, plants, services, and so on. Let’s talk more about this. 

A smart city ecosystem

It would be strange if a smart city existed without other smart elements inside it. Luckily, a lot of facilities and establishments have been using IoT technology for years to improve the quality of people’s lives. Let’s be more precise:

  • Smart homes. Smart homes aren’t new to us. There are a lot of houses where everything can be controlled via a smartphone. Smart home appliances, as well as systems (heating, water, security, electricity), transmit data that you can access via your smartphone or tablet. SmartThings from Samsung or HomeKit from Apple are examples of applications that help control everything with a few clicks. 
  • Smart industries. Industries actively use IoT technology, trying to get the best out of it. A lot of plants from various industries utilize such devices to control the equipment, their quality of work, and the conditions at the plant itself. With data from sensors, management can also conduct an in-depth analysis of plant operation and make data-driven decisions regarding its improvements. 
  • Smart city management. In short, smart city management is more about how smartly local authorities use the information provided by sensors. Most of the time, IoT platforms help to bring attention to poorly operated parts of the city or things that need immediate improvements. This refers to anything: the serviceability of a city’s equipment, effective waste disposal, or on-time service provision. 

Smart cities are definitely the future. Following the example of cities that are already digitizing their inner life, we will be able to live in a better functioning, safer, and more pleasant place. 

We’ll witness an increase in the number of smart cities in the future. It’s not likely that we will immediately recognize this shift, as it requires a lot of time, effort, and financial resources. Still, countries and local authorities readily approve of such projects. Who knows, maybe your city is the next one to take this title.


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