How IoT-Based Devices Are Helping Cities Grow Smarter

The modern world points towards the creation of a smart city where computer systems can connect to IoT-enabled devices and sensors to get valuable information and data that can be used to manage cities efficiently.

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A city skyline and a garbage collection vehicle
Illustration: © IoT For All

Every second, millions of new devices are connecting to the internet. The increase in the availability of the smartphone is contributing in no small measure to the development of smart cities.

Smart City IoT Applications

Today, your smartphone can communicate, interact, and link with a vast range of smart devices and sensors that are present in our environment.

For example, in today’s world, with the help of a professional diagnostic tool on your phone,  you can connect your phone to your car to scan and get diagnostic codes, which you can use to diagnose the check-engine light that appears on your dashboard.

This is just one of the numerous examples of smartphone interaction with devices enabled by the Internet of Things (IoT).

There are other examples, such as connecting your smartphone device to your washing machine to see water usage and electricity consumption.

All this points towards the creation of a smart city where computer systems can connect to IoT-enabled smart devices and sensors to get valuable information and data that can be used to manage cities efficiently.

Definition of a Smart City

A smart city can be defined as an innovative city or municipality that seeks to enhance the quality of life of its inhabitants by internalizing smart technology. A smart city seeks to improve the operational efficiency and quality of urban services to reduce waste through the use of information and communication technology (ICT).

Smart technology for smart cities can be implemented in sectors such as power supply, public transportation systems, sanitation, solid waste management, etc.

What Is IoT?

The Internet of Things can be seen as a network of billions of devices and sensors that are capable of connecting to the internet to collect data and to share information.

Interestingly, anything can become IoT-enabled if it can be connected to the internet. For instance, if a light bulb can be switched on and off with an application from your phone, that light bulb has become an IoT-enabled device.

The relationship between IoT and smart cities stems from the notion that city infrastructures, such as street lights and transportation systems, can be filled with sensors so they can be better controlled to fulfill human desires.

Components of a Smart City

Smart Infrastructure

 A smart city is characterized by smart infrastructure that is optimized for performance while reducing waste and saving on energy consumption at the same time. The whole idea of a smart city when it comes to infrastructure is to have an energy-efficient infrastructure and one that is also environmentally friendly through the use of intelligent technology.

For instance, a street light that only lights up when it senses movement or when someone walks under it is a way of reducing energy consumption in a smart city.

Smart City Air Management

Another attribute of a smart city is its ability to analyze air pollution data and to make certain emission forecasts for the coming days with a certain degree of accuracy. The City Air Management Tool is a cloud-based software that was designed to collect and analyze air pollution data and to make emissions forecasts.

Smart Traffic Management

This deals with the smart city’s ability to optimize traffic control. A smart city needs to put technological parameters in place for an intelligent traffic control solution.

For instance, in smart cities, certain integrated sensors have been programmed to send real-time traffic flow updates to a designated platform. The platform then undertakes a critical analysis of the data and then, in a matter of seconds, automatically adjusts traffic lights within the city to ease traffic conditions.

Smart Parking

Another remarkable attribute of a smart city is intelligent parking solutions. Sensors are installed in parking areas, and these sensors keep a record of when a driver leaves a particular parking lot. These sensors also inform drivers of areas where free parking spaces are available. This information is sent to the smartphone of the driver.

Smart Waste Management

This aims to address environmental issues associated with inefficient waste management and also to improve on the efficiency of waste collection and to reduce operational costs associated with waste management.

For example, sensors are installed on waste containers, and once the waste gets full to a certain level, those in charge of waste management receive a message through their smartphone, and a truck driver comes to empty a full waste container. They do not have to come when the container has not reached a full level.

How IoT Is Enhancing the Development of Smart Cities

IoT is helping to enhance the transformation of municipalities into “smart cities” all over the world with its enormous potential. The positive results include enhanced traffic management, increased safety, reduced levels of pollution, low energy consumption, and better quality of life for inhabitants.

With the emergence of IoT, the long-conceived dream of building smart cities is being realized.

The advancement in information technology and the increase in the number of devices that can connect to the internet has contributed in no small measure to the development of smart cities. In 2017, research conducted by Gartner, a renowned analyst, revealed that over 8.4 billion devices would be connected to the internet all over the world, and the number of connected devices could rise to 30 billion, by 2025.

This gradual increase in connected devices and development in IT has the potential to make the realization of the dream of building smart cities more real than ever imagined a few years ago.

Nowadays, we find sensors installed in most vehicles; most of the equipment we use today have built-in sensors.

Furthermore, data generated from IoT-enabled devices is already helping large organizations in developing intelligent business systems that are used to prevent crime and to manage car parks. Even fast translation services like The Word Point are not left out of the changes brought about by the IoT, as they’ll need to upgrade on prompt service delivery across multiple devices.

Better yet, city governments in smart America are looking to invest over $41 trillion in the next two decades to upgrade and position their existing infrastructure, so that it can benefit from IoT.

Here are some highlights of the changes that are witnessed in smart cities today:

  • Smart roads that can adjust to changing traffic situations.
  • Intelligent buildings that are energy efficient.
  • Smart lighting with street lights that can adapt to changes within its immediate environment.
  • Smart collection, monitoring, and management of waste.
  • Smart energy-efficient grids for low power consumption.

As information technology and IoT continue to grow and develop, it has become necessary for many cities and municipalities to upgrade their existing infrastructure to make them IoT-enabled (capable of connecting to computers and of being controlled by computer systems).

Experts in smart city initiatives are already dreaming of self-driving cars capable of taking users to their destination and then self-driving themselves to the parking lot, and informing the owners when they are safely parked.

While this sounds so good, a lot of changes still need to be made. First off, the road configuration needs to be altered or rearranged to foster better interconnectivity.

The good news is that the actualization of smart cities is more visible today than ever imagined thanks to the enormous growth recorded in information technology.