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10 Ways IoT is Changing How We Manage Our Cities & Towns

IoT & Smart Cities

Today, 55% of the world’s population lives in urban areas, with that number expected to increase to nearly 70% by 2050. In the European Union, 68% of the population already lives in urban areas – by 2050 it will be 85%. At the same time, 70% of all energy used in the EU is consumed in cities.

According to the IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) Standards Association, rapid urbanization means there will be an increased demand for intelligent, sustainable environments that reduce environmental impact and offer citizens a high quality of life. Smart cities bring together technology, government, and society to enable a smart economy, smart mobility, a smart environment, smart living, and smart governance.

70% of all energy used in the EU is consumed in cities.

1. Smart Infrastructure

Smart infrastructure can mean different things to different people, but the basic idea is that a smart city uses smart infrastructure to optimize performance while reducing waste and energy consumption. In other words, smart infrastructure uses intelligent technology to be energy efficient and environmentally friendly. A good example of this is street lighting: smart street lights adapt to changes in their immediate environment, lighting only when movement is sensed. So, if a person is walking nearby the light turns on. When the person moves on, the light turns off, resulting in energy savings and cost reduction.

2. Smart Public Transport

Enhanced services and operational efficiency are the two big benefits on a connected and unified public transport system.

IoT-enabled transport vehicles like buses, trains, and ferries can, for example, provide data that leads to real-time information about schedules, delays, re-routes, etc.  For the operator, constant visibility into the system means optimization of things like staffing and routes. Additionally, predictive maintenance will lead to cost savings and higher performing vehicles. Smart apps connected to the system allow the public to plan their trip more efficiently and provide payment solutions.

3. Smart Healthcare

There is a global need for reliable, cost-effective healthcare, and technology can serve as a powerful facilitator. Populations are aging, and the number of chronic, non-communicable diseases are on the rise. While headway is being made when it comes to affordable and efficient care, there are still a number of challenges to be addressed.

IoT technologies are already having an enormous impact on the global healthcare system. From smart sensors and medical device implantation to expediating the delivery of care and allowing physicians to spend less time on administration and more time on consultation and treatment, IoT technologies are changing how we deliver healthcare.

The most common use of IoT technology in healthcare is patient monitoring, followed by remote operation and control, and location-based services. Energy meters, imaging devices, and x-rays are also benefiting from IoT, and increased innovation is cited as a top benefit, along with visibility and cost savings.

4. Smart Water Management

A community’s water management needs are varied, ranging from wastewater treatment to water monitoring. IoT solutions give municipalities a window into ageing infrastructure and customer usage, allows them to increase efficiency and improve visibility into remote assets such as water tanks, as well as optimize water management processes. This means challenges such as leaking pipes are addressed much more quickly.

Smart sensors can monitor things like flow rates, tank pressure, water levels, and pipe conditions. The data provided means both real-time responses to immediate challenges and the ability to plan long term. From an environmental perspective, smart sensors allow critical environmental data to be collected on things like groundwater.  And instead of sending staff to remote locations to perform tests, the data is sent remotely and in near real-time, reducing both costs and saving time.

5. Smart Buildings

In a smart building all systems – everything from air conditioning to security to lighting – can be connected, and sensors can provide actionable data, leading to reduced costs and increased efficiency.

In real terms, there are a number of big benefits to be found in a connected building. Sensors can provide data on how a building is being used, allowing smart systems to make adjustments as far as heat and lighting, as well as air quality control, leading to a significant reduction in operating costs. Sensors can also identify areas in the building that are either over or under used, opening up the possibility of optimizing space.

Building maintenance is a big cost when done manually. IoT-enabled predictive maintenance means building managers no longer perform maintenance on a schedule, whether it is needed or not – instead, maintenance is performed when needed, leading to substantial cost savings.

6. Smart Traffic Management

We’ve all been stuck in traffic and none of us like it, no matter how good the music or the podcast we’re listening to. Smart cities are able to optimize traffic control with integrated sensors that have been programmed to send real-time traffic flow updates to a designated platform, which then analyzes the data and in a matter of seconds adjusts traffic lights to ease traffic conditions. Additionally, sensors built into bridges and roads can sense degradation, allowing for predictive maintenance and thus cost savings.

7. Smart Waste Management

Inefficient waste management can lead to a host of unpleasant and unwanted issues: soil, air, and water contamination, negative impact on human, animal, and marine health, missed recycling opportunities, and an adverse effect on overall local life. IoT helps improve the efficiency of waste collection while also reducing operational costs associated with waste management. Here’s how: waste bins are equipped with sensors that register and report the fill level. As a result, the waste disposal company can collect waste on demand, meaning they don’t waste time emptying bins that aren’t full, and they can address overflowing bins promptly.

63 % of drivers avoided going to a destination due to the challenge of finding a parking space.

8. Smart Parking

Research shows that 63% of drivers have avoided going to a destination due to the challenge of finding a parking space, 30% of urban traffic is caused by drivers looking for a parking space, and drivers waste 17 hours annually looking for a place to park.

Driving around trying to find a place to park leads to excessive emissions and wasted fuel, not to mention some very irritated drivers.

There are a number of smart solutions that address this problem. Parking bay sensors provide real-time information on where available parking spaces can be found via an app and public signage, while also allowing parking authorities to analyze data to optimize parking spaces and adjust parking policies. The end result is less congestion, less fuel consumption, higher parking revenues, and happier drivers.


9. Smart Air Management

The ability to analyze air pollution data means the ability to forecast emissions for the coming days with a relative degree of accuracy.  In the long term, having this kind of data on air quality means steps can be taken to reduce pollution through a variety of means.

Due to technology advances, IoT sensors are increasingly small and low-cost and because they are mobile, can be deployed where needed across cities and towns, providing a much broader picture of air quality levels in near real time than one would get with traditional fixed monitoring stations. The benefits of near real time information are clear: optimization of traffic routes and traffic lights, as well as faster response to changing weather conditions. In the longer term, analyzing the data can highlight causes of and changes to air pollution. This understanding can in turn lead to actions that will improve air quality.

10. Emergency Preparation & Disaster Management

While IoT technologies can’t stop disasters from happening, they can be instrumental when planning for emergencies, as well as addressing the aftermath. Prediction and early warning systems are greatly enhanced by IoT-enabled sensors, which can send regular updates on current conditions.

If we look at the example of flooding, sensors can act as an early warning system, alerting the appropriate authorities when water levels rise. Sensors can measure temperature, moisture, and a host of other factors that can lead to early prediction and response. And when emergency workers arrive on the scene, they will have much more information in regard to location and scope of the problem.

IoT & Sustainability

That technology and progress have caused sometimes devastating destruction to the environment goes without saying. That technology – when equipped with IoT – can be instrumental in stemming the tide of destruction is obvious.

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