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IoT for Smart Cities: how will the cities of the future work?

Smart Cities are urbanised areas that use IoT devices to improve infrastructures, public services and transport. Find out how they work now!

From traffic management to energy saving, from safety protection to monitoring environmental parameters: the challenges that the cities of the future are able to overcome are expanding towards many new fields and it’s all becoming possible thanks to the diffusion of Internet of Things (IoT) technologies.

In this article, we’ll explore the concepts behind IoT technologies and Smart Cities and why the use of sensors, wireless networks and advanced connections is an essential step towards developing the smart cities of the future.

Then we’ll move on to explain the importance of adopting specialized software solutions for managing urban resources with the ability to collect, organize and monitor data coming from these sophisticated sensors. It’s also worth underlining that one of the main objectives is to simplify Facility Manager tasks when engaged in existing infrastructural heritage maintenance operations.

Just so you know where to start, the first thing to do would be to get hold of a Facility Management Software and discover how easy it is to manage typical city assets in a cloud-based solution. You can gather all the information you need in one centralized platform and plan, track, and manage operations related to infrastructure resources and their maintenance.

What is a Smart City?

The term Smart City defines an intelligent, urban ecosystem that uses information and communication technologies to improve the quality of services and infrastructures offering a much more efficient lifestyle to its residents.

The main objective of a Smart City is to solve problems related to growing urbanization including public safety, traffic and environmental aspects. This is possible by promoting and implementing sustainable development practices while using interconnected devices that work together to simplify everyday activities.

Since the Internet of Things represents the key element of urban transformation, from a traditional city to a smart city, let’s see which technologies are involved and what are their possible applications within a Smart City.

First of all, what is IoT (Internet of Things)?

The Internet of Things is an expression used to describe a vast network of digital devices that communicate with each other over the internet or across a private cloud-based service. IoT devices can process different kinds of signals coming from sensors and transductors and are starting to influence our daily lives.

These devices also rely on specific software or apps that can read and convert the signal inputs in order to drive power actuators, switches or other electrical equipment. They have the ability to collect and transfer data via the internet without any human intervention (via wireless or wired networks) and are able to evaluate, control and manage certain aspects of city life like streeting lighting, traffic lights and road signals, pedestrian safety, or even how public transport services can provide real-time information to cummuters.

Sensors equipped with artificial intelligence, for example, can collect climate data in real time and use this information to manage thermostats in public buildings. Autonomous electronic systems that can modify output signals according to environmental input variations and help reduce emissions leading to considerable savings in both energy and economic terms.

Of course, there are many other IoT solutions for Smart Cities that allow stakeholders to interact with city ecosystems (also using mobile devices) and that help towns, businesses and citizens make more informed decisions.

How is IoT contributing to the creation of smart cities?

The Internet of Things is a fundamental column in the development of smart cities. With the help of IoT technologies, communities can improve energy distribution, reduce traffic congestion, simplify waste collection and improve air quality.

Intelligent sensors are able to generate large volumes of data in real time, which are collected and duly used (through cloud computing) to manage public assets and optimize the provision of services.

As technology advances, more and more countries embrace next-generation connectivity while IoT technology continues to grow significantly influencing the way we live and interact with the surrounding reality.

To understand the importance of the role that IoT technology plays within a Smart City, let’s analyze some of the possible solutions that we can expect to see appearing in our cities.

IoT Smart City

IoT Smart City

Examples of IoT applications in Smart Cities

The most significant applications of Internet of Things (IoT), that also contribute to creating increasingly intelligent and interactive urban systems, start from:

  • public and private transport: Intelligent transport systems (ITS) make it possible to address mobility problems in an innovative way, developing solutions based on safety, efficiency, effectiveness, cost-effectiveness and respect for the environment. These systems include a number of technologies (including sensors, GPS devices, timers, etc.) that allow you to:
    • monitor travelling times;
    • improve traffic flows;
    • reduce waiting times,
    • search for the best route according to weather conditions and traffic;
    • warn drivers about dangerous situations in order to avoid accidents or risks to drivers;
    • adjust traffic lights in real time
    • etc.
  • car parks: IoT technology can be used to help drivers find parking spaces and also automate the relating payment processes. By combining sensors, cameras and special software, the presence of a vehicle within a certain parking area can be monitored and detected as empty or occupied. The number of available parking spots can then be shown on monitors around the city or shared as a useful data resource on a mobile app. This allows you to find an available parking space and greatly reduces the amount of time necessary to find a free spot;
  • urban lighting: street lights may be equipped with sensors that control activation and light intensity according to the presence of vehicles, pedestrians and weather conditions. This can reduce energy consumptions, ensure an optimal level of road illumination, improve visibility in dark corners and increase the road safety levels;
  • energy consumption: the use of smart metering systems allows users and operators to read and remotely manage data relating to energy, water and gas consumption, in real time. These devices connect to intelligent communication networks that facilitate the transmission of information and allow service companies to manage energy flows more effectively;
  • waste management: waste containers can be integrated with sensors that automatically detect the level of filling and send data to operators to allow them to optimize collection routes and make the disposal process faster and more efficient;
  • air quality: air quality monitoring devices allow the environmental parameters relating to humidity and temperature to be constantly detected. This is also possible in order to measure the presence of particles and pollutants, informing users with regard to concentration levels that are not safe for human health;
  • public safety: smart surveillance cameras are widely used in public and non-public areas to detect people and objects on the move by automatically recognizing any critical issues (such as theft, road accidents, etc.);
  • maintenance: thanks to the use of IoT sensors, equipment present in the city (means of transport, electronic devices, etc.) can dialogue with maintenance teams. This allows you to manage and communicate operation al data and status’ to define more appropriate maintenance plans.
Smart City- Intelligent Transportation Systems

Smart City: Intelligent Transportation Systems

Advantages and Disadvantages of IoT in Smart Cities

Among the main advantages that derive from the implementation of IoT technology with the BIM and IoT integration in Smart Cities we can definitely find:

  • the possibility of accessing a huge amount of information that helps improve efficiency, safety and sustainability, while also acquiring feedback from citizens;
  • reduce crime rates, creating safer environments for both residents and visitors;
  • environmental impact mitigation, through solutions that reduce energy consumption and pollution, and improve air quality and waste management;
  • the ability to provide more efficient services, such as public transport, roads, parking, infrastructure management, cleaning, etc.

Despite the numerous advantages, the use of digital devices and information technologies within a Smart City has some weaknesses, which basically concern:

  • privacy concerns, due to the large number of cameras that monitor every activity carried out within the urban environment, and the illicit use of data collected by the various IoT systems;
  • possible interruption of services, caused by a slow or inefficient internet connection;
  • the increase in costs, necessary to update cities with the most advanced technologies.

The role of IoT in smart city management

Implementing Internet of Things at an urban scale not only helps cities to become increasingly efficient and sustainable, but also allows promotes innovation and optimizes how we manage and maintain infrastructures.

Thanks to data collected by the smart sensors located in strategic points of the urban space, infrastructure managers can:

  • monitor asset operations remotely;
  • plan and implement a series of Facility Management strategies that help maximize the efficiency of the systems and equipment present in the city (including the same IoT technologies);
  • improve the quality of services offered to citizens by reducing costs.

To keep an eye on the many aspects of managing a Smart City, however, it is essential to integrate IoT technologies with digital cloud-based platforms. These tools allow data to be centralized in a single platform and provide detailed reports that allow easy reading and interpretation of the numerous data collected by the sensors.

That’s why I really suggest getting your hands on a municipal asset management software that covers all these needs. Start off by making your city’s resource and infrastructure management processes smarter and more efficient, just like other professionals in the sector.