Internet of Things (IoT) technology is enabling smart cities, but for what purpose? Too many times it is the technology driving these initiatives instead of people. In this article we focus on smart city and IoT technology and putting people first. the 12 opportunities of smart city technology, and the challenges.
The Real Purpose of Smart Cities – People, Not The Next New Technology.
As technology such as Internet of Things (IoT) devices get better, more and more city planners are implementing Smart City solutions. But are these smart city solutions really improving the lives of its residents, businesses, and visitors? Click here to explore why many smart city solutions are not really beneficial and see recommendations for implementing people-first smart city solutions.
Smart City and IoT Technology – 12 Opportunities and ROIs For City Planners.
IoT Analytics‘ recent study of 50 cities around the world shows that there are many priorities and opportunities for IoT and smart cities technology. To list, below is a description of 12 opportunities for city planners and the possible return on investment (ROI) for these smart city initiatives. Additionally, any smart city solution needs to be tailored to the needs of a city’s inhabitants and businesses. In the past, a lot of urban planning has focused on cars, not people. Also, city planners need to figure out how to pay for smart cities initiatives and assure it actually helps out its inhabitants and businesses.
“The main focus of urban planning has been to keep the cars happy.”Jan Gehl
1. Data Analytics To Drive Budget Allocation and Urban Planning.
One of the biggest benefits of smart city and IoT technology is that it has the potential to provide detailed trend data for analysis that is accurate and complete. So instead of ad hoc or focused on the “squeaky wheel”, IoT data can provide actionable data to measure impacts. Further this drives budget allocation, attracts economic investment, and drives long-term planning toward making communities more liveable for its inhabitants and businesses.
“By being sweet to the pedestrian and the cyclist you hit five birds with one stone — you get a lively city, you get an attractive city, you get a safe city, you get a sustainable city, and you get a city that’s good for your health. These are all things we are very concerned about at this time in history.”Jan Gehl
2. Connect Public Transport.
Connecting public transport systems to the Internet of Things (IoT) can help to improve the efficiency and safety of public transport systems. Specifically, by connecting public transport systems to the IoT, city planners can monitor and manage traffic in real time. Further, these systems provide passengers with real-time information about their journey. Hence, this can help to reduce traffic congestion, reduce operating costs, improve customer service, and ensure the safety of passengers. Also, connecting public transportation to micromobility solutions, private or public is critical. For instance, see SC Tech Insights’ article on Shared Micromobility, A Solution To Better Urban Mobility And Livability for details.
3. Manage and Monitor Traffic.
There are numerous applications of smart city and IoT technology to monitor and manage traffic, but remember that cities are for people first, not cars. To list, opportunities include:
- Connected Traffic Signals. Connecting traffic signals and sensors to the IoT enables city planners to monitor and manage traffic in real time. Hence, this reduces traffic congestion and improves traffic flow.
- Traffic Planning. Traffic planning to include data collected through IoT technology can be used to develop better traffic management strategies. This in turn, helps city planners to optimize the flow of traffic in their cities.
- License Plate Recognition. You can manage traffic using automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) or automatic license plate recognition (ALPR). Additionally, this technology helps with collecting tolls, identify identify stolen vehicles.
- Road Maintenance. Use surveillance technologies to enable better road maintenance such as detecing potholes..
- Smart Parking. Implement sensors for each parking space and then drivers use a parking mobile app to find empty parking spaces.
4. Monitor And Plan For Water Levels And Flood.
Floods can cause significant damage to cities. So it is important for city planners to be able to monitor water levels in order to prepare for potential flooding events. Additionally, smart city and IoT technology can be used to monitor water levels in real time. As a result, city planners have the data they need to prepare for and mitigate the effects of floods. Additionally, the data collected through IoT technology can be used to develop better flood prevention strategies.
5. Public Safety Video surveillance and Analytics.
Video surveillance systems are an important component of smart city and IoT technology. For instance, by connecting surveillance systems to the IoT, city planners can monitor public areas in real time and use analytics to detect potential threats and respond quickly. Additionally, this can help to ensure the safety of citizens and improve the overall security of the city.
6. Manage and Synchronize Street Lights.
Connected street lights can help to improve the safety of the streets by providing better lighting and helping to reduce crime. Additionally, connected street lights can be used to monitor traffic and provide real-time information about traffic conditions. Moreover, this can help to reduce traffic congestion and improve the flow of traffic in the city. Additionally, smart lighting reduces energy and maintenance costs.
7. Monitor And Manage Weather Effects.
This is another important component of smart city and IoT technology. For instance, connecting sensors to the IoT, city planners can monitor weather conditions in real time and take appropriate steps to prepare for any potential weather-related events. Further, this can help to ensure the safety of citizens and minimize the impacts of extreme weather events.
8. Monitor and Manage Air quality / Pollution Effects.
Air quality and pollution levels in cities can have a significant impact on the health of citizens. Indeed, smart city and IoT technology can be used to monitor air quality and pollution levels in real time. So with this data city planners can take appropriate steps to reduce pollution and improve air quality. Even more importantly, this historical data can be used for analysis to identify and justify anti-pollution measures in the future.
9. Smart Water Metering.
Smart metering can help to reduce water consumption and improve the efficiency of water usage in cities. For instance, connecting water meters to the IoT, city planners can monitor water usage in real time and provide feedback to citizens about their water consumption. Further, this can help to reduce water consumption and improve the sustainability of the city.
10. Real-time Fire / Smoke detection.
Fire and smoke detection systems are an important component of smart city and IoT technology. For example, connecting sensors to the IoT, city planners can monitor for potential fires and smoke in real time. As a result, cities can take appropriate steps to ensure the safety of citizens.
11. Monitor and Manage Water Quality.
Water quality is an important factor in the health of citizens. Hence, smart city and IoT technology can be used to monitor water quality in real time. As a result, city planners can take appropriate steps to ensure that the water supply is safe for citizens to consume. Also, this can help to ensure the safety of citizens and improve the overall health of the city.
12. Monitor and Manage Waste.
IoT solutions for smart cities can optimize waste management. For instance, this can make for better resource management, reduced running costs via optimized pick-up routes, and increased sustainability of waste services.
“Architecture and city planning has an enormous impact on patterns of life in the city. Yes we form the cities but then the cities form us.”Jan Gehl
For more information on smart city and IoT technology uses see BeeSmart’s What Is IoT?, Onomondo’s How IoT Influences The Development of Smart Cities, and Conurets’ Top 8 Use Cases of IoT For Smart CIties.
The Technical Challenges of Smart City and IoT Technology.
Security and interoperability are the two biggest challenges associated with smart city and IoT technology. In order to ensure that these systems are secure, city planners need to ensure that they are using the latest security protocols and technologies. Additionally, city planners need to ensure that their systems are interoperable in order to ensure that they can work together effectively. By addressing these challenges, cities can ensure that they are taking full advantage of the potential of smart city and IoT technology.
1. Setting Data Security Guidelines.
IoT data offers city planners unlimited possibilities, but with these opportunities comes responsibilities. Legally, if you store or own the data, you are responsible for protecting it against unauthorized disclosure. Moreover, you must establish common sense data security guidelines that both protects the data and makes it available to all stakeholders and trusted systems. As an example, below are some suggested core security objectives from TWI
- Availability. Data needs to be available in real time with reliable access in order to make sure it performs its function in monitoring the various parts of the smart city infrastructure
- Integrity and Accuracy. The data must not only be readily available, but it must also be accurate. This also means safeguarding against manipulation from outside
- Confidentiality. Sensitive data needs to be kept confidential and safe from unauthorized access. This may mean the use of firewalls or the anonymizing of data. See SC Tech Insights’ Data Sensitivity: What You Need to Know For Your Business for more on classifying sensitive data.
- Accountability. System users need to be accountable for their actions and interaction with sensitive data systems. Users logs should record who is accessing the information to ensure accountability should there be any problems
2. Addressing Security Vulnerabilities.
A major vulnerability of smart city and IoT technology is it has many security challenges. This is because the data is not just in one database that can be locked up and just brought out and used when needed. For some cities, multiple IoT solutions involving a full range of sensors, communication technologies, and information systems may consist of thousands, if not millions of data connections. Each data point or connection may have its own set of unique vulnerabilities. See Rambus for a good overview of possible security vulnerabilities for an IoT network. Below is a list of key security vulnerabilities.
- Man-in-the-Middle (MITM). A breach, interruption or spoofing of communications between two systems. For example, a man-in-the-middle attack on a smart valve in a wastewater system could be used to cause a biohazard spill.
- Data and Identity Theft. Unprotected smart city infrastructure can provide attackers with targeted personal information for fraudulent transactions and identify theft.
- Device Hijacking. A cyber-criminal can exploit a hijacked smart device to launch an attack. For example, a cyber-criminal could exploit hijacked smart meters to launch ransomware attacks on Energy Management Systems (EMS) or stealthily siphon energy from a municipality.
- Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS). An attack to make a machine or network resource unavailable to its users.
- Permanent Denial of Service (PDoS). An attack to disable a system permanently.
3. Interoperability Challenges.
Another challenge with any data-driven initiative is interoperability. So the question is how do you get all these different systems to talk to each other? Indeed, this is a question to ask up front on how an IoT solution will be integrated with existing systems. Too many times, a custom, proprietary system will be implemented that has no open interoperability. Worst, you implement these custom solutions and they limit your organization from upgrading and expanding in the future. To list, below are suggested guidelines to mitigate IoT interoperability challenges.
a. Make Sure Your IoT Vendors Following Acceptable Industry Interoperability Practices.
If an IoT vendor is not following industry practices, then ask why not. Also, you need to ask yourself will their solution and technology still be viable in 5 years or more? This is something the IoT vendor needs to address. For example of IoT-type standards, see Open Mobility Foundation’s Mobility Data Specification (MDS).
b. Realize That Data Integration Is Not Magic, It Is Hard Work.
Beware of a tech sales pitch that offers you a “silver bullet” for your data integration initiative. To elaborate, data integration is a combination of data formats and data communications methodologies, but it first starts with a specific business objective. So it is critical that you specify the data elements needed and how you are going to use it. Tech vendors can help, but it is your business decision and responsibility. See SC Tech Insights’ Want To Integrate Data For Better Business Visibility? Here’s How To Do It for more ideas on how to integrate your business data
c. There Will Be Interoperability Challenges.
I think the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) says it all, “Two barriers currently exist to effective and powerful smart city solutions. First, many current smart city ICT deployments are based on custom systems that are not interoperable, portable across cities, extensible, or cost-effective. Second, a number of architectural design efforts are currently underway (e.g. ISO/IEC JTC1, IEC, IEEE, ITU and consortia) but have not yet converged, creating uncertainty among stakeholders.” So, as technology is always changing, there is a need for you to manage trade-offs and risks tied to a long-range plan.
For more in depth information on smart city and IoT technology planning, see Particle’s IoT and the Smart City: Examples, Applications, and Goals, and NIH Library of Medicine’s Smart Cities for Technological and Social Innovation.
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