IoT For Smart Cities: Are We There Yet?
The concept of smart cities is nothing new but it’s been the last several years since we started seeing its full realization. As the Internet of Things has become more of a commodity than an innovation, cities across the world have become more tech-focused. As a result, we are already seeing such examples as Dubai, Oslo, New York, or Amsterdam using IoT technology to benefit its residents.
While the smart city concept has not yet been realized to a 100%, there is already some significant progress to observe. So why is the government interested in smart cities at all and why does IoT implementation matter? Here is what we have to say.
What makes a city smart?
First, let’s define what a smart city exactly is. While there is no universal definition, we can say that a smart city is an urban area that uses technology to collect the data and uses this data to provide a better quality of government services and improve the welfare of its residents. Let’s look at an example to make things clearer.
Say, there is a city equipped with sensors to enable smart lighting. By collecting data with sensors, operators can better understand when lights can be dimmed, when there is a need for them to be brighter (based on occupancy and weather conditions), and what are the best hours to turn them on and off. In this way, the government can significantly reduce street lighting costs by adjusting the lighting to the current conditions. And that’s just one example of using technology within a smart city concept.
If you need examples of real cities that already took a step towards being IoT-smart, they are:
- Tokyo, Japan,
- Dubai, United Arab Emirates,
- Oslo, Norway,
- Melbourne, Australia,
- Reykjavik, Iceland,
- Toronto, Canada.
And many others, actually. And now that we are clear on what a smart city is, we need to look at the cornerstone that forms a smart city - the Internet of Things.
IoT for smart cities: how do they work together?
Let’s quickly recap everything we know so far about the Internet of Things in order to understand why it fits the smart city concept so well.
The Internet of Things is an interconnected system of devices that communicate with each other via embedded sensors. The main idea behind this technology is to collect the data in real-time, send it to the server, and use this data to gain valuable insights. An example is a wearable device that collects your health data and sends it to an app which, in turn, is able to predict your condition and provide useful recommendations.
Now, let’s get back to the smart city. The most common use cases of using IoT for smart city are:
- Sensors: lighting, humidity, temperature, motion;
- Video surveillance: monitoring of street occupancy and traffic and enhanced safety in terms of reduced street crimes.
We will look at the examples in more detail below and for now, let’s look at the reasons why smart cities should be implemented more actively and why they will become common in the nearest future.
The reasons smart cities are important
If everything seems to be functioning just fine, the question is: why do governments really need to bother with implementing an IoT system into their cities? Here are the biggest reasons:
- Contribution to environmental sustainability: by better management of energy consumption due to constant monitoring, it becomes possible to significantly reduce emissions;
- Better traffic management: intelligent monitoring helps improve traffic flow, street occupancy, and hence level of residential satisfaction with the traffic functioning.
- Better infrastructure: one of the main use cases for IoT is predictive maintenance which helps timely identify any malfunctions and needs for repair.
- Reduction of governmental spending: due to constant monitoring of water, energy, lighting, and waste, the city government can allocate resources more wisely and thus adjust spending in a more efficient manner.
As you see, the use of IoT for smart city brings several tangible and significant results that directly impact the welfare of residents. And while it’s challenging to implement an IoT system on all levels, cities can already take minor steps towards becoming smarter.
The cornerstones of a smart city
Finally, it’s time to talk about the main cornerstones that form a smart city. We can define three main areas: public utilities, transportation, and residential services.
Public utilities cover a wide range of services provided to city residents, from lighting to waste collection. But to remain within the IoT area, there are five main categories:
- Lighting: as already mentioned, IoT allows smarter control of street lighting depending on weather conditions and street occupancy. This, in turn, leads to a reduction of lighting costs and the adoption of lighting to the real needs of citizens.
- Household energy consumption: includes water, electricity, and gas. Same as with lighting, constant monitoring allows for better energy distribution and may help decrease the bills.
- Waste collection and disposal: sensors can indicate when waste bins are full so community services can more accurately manage the vehicle load and arrive only when containers are full.
- Infrastructure monitoring and maintenance: IoT offers such options as preventative maintenance, predictive maintenance, and instant notifications for community services to timely react to any malfunctions in the water supply or heating network.
- Internet access in public areas: another important aspect of a smart city is access to the Internet in major residential areas.
In terms of smart city, transportation covers both traffic and management of municipal vehicle fleets. In addition to the abovementioned fleet management and fuel consumption, here are other IoT use cases related to public transportation:
- Dynamic traffic modeling: helps prevent congestion and ensures a sufficient level of traffic load.
- Management of municipal vehicles: one of the most critical issues for a city government is the efficient management of municipal vehicle fleets. With sensors and video surveillance, it becomes much easier to come up with optimal routes, provide preventative maintenance, and manage fuel consumption.
- Management of parking spaces: contributes to better road traffic capacity.
- Connected public transport: by enhancing public transport with Internet access and tracking device, it becomes possible to decrease the waiting time for the passengers and increase the level of satisfaction among citizens.
- Automatic surveillance: helps track not only the overall traffic movement but timely detect any violations and issues, allowing community services to react immediately.
As if the abovementioned points are not good enough, there is one more segment of smart city that needs to be mentioned. Residential services encompass the overall care that the government is ready to provide to the citizens and it includes:
Emergency services: IoT enables emergency teams to timely react to signals received from sensors and thus improve the quality of services.
Public security: IoT can enhance public safety with face recognition and video surveillance technologies, thus reducing the number of street crimes.
SoftTeco’s contribution to smart cities development
Throughout our experience in the IT industry, we’ve come across several projects that fit within the smart city concept. Since all these projects were based on IoT technology, every time it was an exciting challenge for us and we can gladly state that we delivered the expected results and made a contribution to the smart city development.
C2 Smart Light
C2 Smart Light is a project that we worked on together with our Finnish client. The client offers smart lighting control solutions to be used in a city (i.e. city councils, stadiums) and requested SoftTeco to update the existing system and add new features to it.
The final result is an IoT municipal street light management software. The solution allows operators to remotely turn the lights on and off, control the dimming level, monitor the status of lights in terms of predictive maintenance, and make automatic adjustments of the light intensity based on the current weather conditions. In this way, C2 Smart Light helps its users better manage energy consumption and reduce costs of public illumination.
Another interesting project that we worked on is CarSleep, which allows users to search for parking spaces and pay for them via their mobile devices. The application has a built-in map and uses GPS to help find the nearest available parking lot. As well, the app has a built-in payment system so users don’t have to search for a meter or kiosk but they can purchase a subscription instead. In this way, CarSleep falls within the residential services category and fits well within the smart city idea.
Irina is a professional copywriter with over 7 years of experience in this domain. She loves creating compelling and informative copy that provides readers with all the needed information. Irina is also a frequent contributor to different blogs and websites across different domains.View all articles by this author.