Smart Cities

The world’s large cities will pose our greatest challenge—and greatest opportunity—in the next century. Today there are 21 “megacities” with more than 10 million people, and more than 1 million people move to cities every day. 70% of the world’s population expected to live in major cities by 2050. But today, cities waste an estimated $39 billion in water, gas and energy resources. As demands on resources and infrastructure grow, how will cities provide energy, water, transportation and other critical services for so many people?

Smart cities utilize IoT sensors, actuators, and a low-power, wide-area network (LPWAN) to connect components across the city. This connects every layer of a city, from the air to the street to underground. Smart cities can obtain data from everything that is connected and utilize it to improve efficiencies, reduce energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions, lower maintenance costs and improve the quality of lives of citizens.

With an LPWAN city authorities can connect a countless number of battery-powered “things” into a single network, enabling data collection from parking sensors, environmental monitoring equipment, flood detection sensors or smart meters. The data is then fed to centralized intelligent systems which can make recommendations to optimize city service management.

City councils, often strapped for cash, can benefit massively from investing in smart city technologies. Both immediate and long-term cost savings can be realized, allowing increases to their budgets in other crucial areas of work (social welfare, green initiatives, etc.)

The Internet-of-Things (IoT) is being used in smart cities to make them safer, greener and more efficient. Wirelessly-connected sensors measure and monitor everything from air quality to parking stalls and water and gas meters.

Benefits of Smart Cities

Improved Efficiencies, Lower Operating Costs

Having lots of data to analyze shows you where and when resources are required. This improves the efficiency of city operations and services, also reducing energy and water consumption.

Reduced Energy Consumption

Smart street lighting dims lights when not needed. Smart sensors quickly identify leaks in pipes so damaged segments can be fixed quicker. Smart electric grids help better identify times of peak usage and outages.

Reduced CO2 Emissions

Efficiently phasing traffic lights and providing real-time guidance to drivers significantly reduces congestion. Parking space monitoring allows drivers to know where spaces are free, controlling the time spent cruising for parking.

Lower Maintenance Costs

Detecting the volume of waste in trash containers eliminates the risk of overfilling and optimizes the number of garbage trucks required, and the waste collection routes, directly resulting in fewer stops.

Improved Quality of Life

Air quality monitoring allows control and reduction. Intelligent traffic signals optimize traffic flow, relieving congestion during peak travel times. Smart parking cuts down frustration.

Public Safety

Technologies such as license plate recognition, gunshot detectors, connected crime centers, next-generation 911, and body cameras all give law enforcement an edge while on the job. Smart lighting ensures that light sources are always operational, and always lit when needed.

Digital Twins

A digital twin is a connection between the physical model and the corresponding virtual model or virtual counterpart. This connection is established by generating real time data using sensors.

A digital twin with enough data allows for unique insights into the operation of the physical model.

A digital twin offers a powerful way to monitor, control, and manage assets. Digital twins provide a comprehensive digital representation of real-world devices and systems, thus improving their state monitoring and enabling faster responses to external and internal events.

They are expected to become a keystone of every efficient IoT ecosystem.

Some Examples of Smart City Applications

Smart Parking

Part of every city’s strategy for their downtown core involves parking. As we strive to alleviate greenhouse gases by reducing single passenger vehicles, corresponding knowledge about parking utilization becomes critical to improve citizen satisfaction and city planning.

Using non-invasive, low-cost smart parking spot occupancy sensors, connected control systems allow drivers to easily find free parking spots, avoid congestion and reduce fuel consumption and pollution. This also enables parking operators to capture and analyze occupancy data in real-time. 

By enabling smart parking, cities provide themselves with opportunities for revenue generation and increased citizen satisfaction by making parking availability transparent and easily accessible. Operational costs for enforcement are also reduced, along with diminished driving time for manual monitoring and enforcement.

And this IoT solution can be implemented with a fast infrastructure setup without transforming the entire city into a construction site.

Smart Street Lighting

Smart Street Lighting use wireless motion-based sensors and a control system for LED street lights to deliver light on-demand. Lights dim during off-peak hours, and automatically brighten when the presence of vehicles, cyclists or pedestrians is detected. This results in up to 80 per cent energy reduction and further reduces light pollution.

In addition to monitoring for vehicles and pedestrians, the data is logged, which can be analyzed for traffic counts. Quick detection of inconsistencies such as lighting failure, over voltage, and any damage to light poles can alert crews who can respond immediately. Lighting operators can deploy workers only when necessary instead of carrying out routine maintenance checks.

Smart street lighting reduces costs without compromising the safety of streets for pedestrians and drivers.

Many cities first embark on becoming connected through smart streetlights because they offer a quick revenue return for municipalities.

Smart Waste Management

Garbage bins often fill up too soon, because there is not typically  real-time information available on the level of trash. Waste is typically collected on fixed schedule, and the same routes are always used. Those who have filled their garbage cans well before collection day have had to make alternate arrangements to dispose of the excess trash, and garbage trucks will visit properties that have little garbage to collect. This leads to inefficient waste management and unnecessary CO2 emissions and traffic complications.

By placing low-power connected ultrasonic sensors in garbage bins, the level of waste is measured and communicated daily through the LPWAN. The most efficient route and the schedule for the week’s collections can be built automatically based on current and historical data.

In addition the reducing carbon emissions it allows sanitation specialists to work more efficiently and cut unnecessary costs up to 50% by optimizing refuse collection routes in real-time, avoiding overflows and planning ahead future routes. Cities can better analyze the citizen behaviour patterns and install bins at the best locations.

Environmental Monitoring

Cities are the centres of the consumption of energy and thus have a high environmental impact from greenhouse gas production, waste, and emissions of pollutants in water and air.

Air pollutants pose serious health and environment risks. Noise pollution has harmful effects on citizens health. Water level of rivers and canals must be monitored to have early warnings in case of flooding.

IoT sensors can monitor a range of environmental factors such as air quality (CO2, dust, sound, temperature, radiation), soil moisture, water quality, flood detection and more, even in remote areas for years without needing to replace batteries.

Remote monitoring of park systems such as irrigation and floodlights can directly improve grounds conditions and water and power use efficiency.

Traffic Control & Fleet Management

Smart city traffic control and fleet management allow cities to optimize vehicle use, divert traffic in the case of an incident and keep people moving. Using road sensors and trackers on buses and bicycles, city officials can collect, aggregate and analyze data, providing a treasure trove of insight for urban planning.

Drivers can be alerted of accidents and directed to routes that are less congested. Smart traffic signals can adjust their timing. Connected road signs can show information on digital e-ink screens. Reducing traffic congestion means higher productivity and decreased carbon footprint.

Smart tracking devices bring the opportunity to monitor in real-time a city’s vehicle fleet like buses and bicycles, to optimize routes and protect those assets using geolocation. When linked to air quality monitoring, it helps to understand and prevent pollution spikes.

There’s a bounty of data waiting to be analyzed for insights into your city.