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According to the UN, the world population is projected to hit the 9.7 billion mark by 2050. On the other hand, IoT devices have been forecast to grow from 9.7 billion in 2020 to more than 29 billion by 2030. This growth, coupled with supporting technologies such as machine learning, natural language processing, artificial intelligence, etc. is transforming the traditional civil structure of society into one that is more on the grid.

IoT devices have been forecast to grow from 9.7 billion in 2020 to more than 29 billion by 2030.

What is Smart City

Coined between 2008 and 2009, the concept of “Smart City” is no longer just a futuristic dream. From agriculture to defence, from the residential sector to the industrial sector, everything is going “smart”. To improve the quality of life for residents and visitors alike, municipal governments are leveraging cellular and Low Power Wide Area (LPWAN) wireless technologies.

Smart city is a city or a municipality that uses Information and Communication Technologies (ITC) to optimise city function and drive economic growth. It uses IoT and IoT-powered devices to enhance the quality of life for its citizens by improving accessibility, convenience and efficiency.

Benefits of Smart City

  • Improves Quality of Life

Smart city projects simplify life for its citizens while improving the quality of life.

Earlier, people would have to study bus routes beforehand in order to make a safe and accurate trip to their destination. However, in June 2019, Google maps launched its real time bus tracking system. This system not only shows when the bus is scheduled to arrive at what stop, it also informs travellers about other aspects like how crowded the bus is, is it accessible to people with disabilities, how the women’s section is utilised, etc. For densely populated countries like India, Google also uses machine learning to predict delays due to traffic.

  • Positive Impact on the Environment

Preservation of the environment essentially boils down to reduction of resource consumption coupled with promotion of sustainable systems. This is possible with smart cities, which is why they are believed to have a positive impact on the environment. As an example, connecting cars to the Internet and directing them on optimal routes reduces car driving time and CO2 emissions. This is projected to save “1.9 Gt of CO2 in five years“. Optimization of city-wide operations like water system, waste management system, traffic, public transportation, etc. leads to reduced wastage and a sustainable consumption of resources.

A great example of an environmentally sustainable smart city is Bhopal, India, which was ranked number 5 in the country.

  • Better maintained Infrastructure

Infrastructure in cities deteriorates at a fast pace and needs huge investments to be maintained and repaired. With Iot, the system can collect and analyse infrastructure data and implement predictive maintenance to reduce cost and avoid dangerous situations. A study found that Seoul city, South Korea reduced its garbage collection cost by 83% by implementing a smart waste management solution.

Seoul city, South Korea reduced its garbage collection cost by 83% by implementing a smart waste management solution.

The money thus saved can then be used to improve other aspects of the city to enhance the quality of life for citizens.

Challenges Faced While Implementing IoT in City

  • Infrastructure

Smart cities use sensor technology to collect and analyse data. These sensors collect data on everything, throughout the day and night. This is a complicated infrastructure to integrate and a costly one to maintain. Even outside of this, cities struggle to replace or upgrade old infrastructure, so integrating a completely new one with limited funding is a real challenge. Other than that, the process of implementation can cause major inconveniences to the lives of the citizens.

  • Socially inclusive

The main objective of smart cities is to give the citizens a better quality of life. However, a lot of these citizens are not on the grid, so to speak. People living in rural, remote, or economically backward areas don’t have constant access to the network – More than 84 percent of the Indian population has access to a mobile phone, but only 43 percent has access to the internet.

More than 84 percent of the Indian population has access to a mobile phone, but only 43 percent has access to the internet.

Most senior citizens don’t own smart devices and have a hard time operating the ones they do own. According to the 75th round of the National Sample Survey, only 13% of rural and 37% of urban residents over the age of five have access to the internet. This being the case, the biggest challenge for implementation of smart city will be to stay accessible to and inclusive of these citizens and not just the affluent and technologically advanced ones.

  • Security and Privacy

Since smart cities work on the cloud, everyone can have access to the data gathered. While this can be great for comparison and feedback, it also poses a major threat to security and privacy. A study by Accenture reveals that 68 percent of business leaders feel their cybersecurity risks are increasing.

Since everyone has access to all or most data, the chances of cybercrimes rising exponentially is very real. In fact, a study found that in 2017, attacks against IoT devices have increased by 600%. Hackers can use the data for illegal activities like phishing, identity theft, etc. This information can also be sold to companies which is a major breach of privacy. In 2017, the ACLU of Northern California did a study about privacy concerns in smart cities. In this study, they stressed the fact that cities should not forget about personal privacy while upgrading to smart cities.

Uses of IoT in Smart City

  • Smart Lighting

Smart lighting uses IoT and Machine Learning to adapt the lighting schedule to the lighting zone.

Machine learning gathers and analyses brightness, movement of people and vehicles, historical data, and contextual information like special events, public transportation schedule, time of day and year, etc. Using this data, the smart lighting solution can tell the street lights when to dim, when to brighten, when to turn on and off based on external conditions. This makes managing the street lights straightforward and cost-effective. Also, it vastly reduces the load on the municipal outlay and improves the quality of the citizens’ lives. For example, the lights can brighten around a crossing when pedestrians are crossing the street. The lights around a bus stop can turn to a brighter setting compared to other street lights when the bus is expected to arrive.

The lights around a bus stop can turn to a brighter setting compared to other street lights when the bus is expected to arrive.
  • Smart Waste Management

Following traditional methods of waste management, waste would be collected on the basis of a predefined schedule. Not only was this an unproductive use of the waste containers, it also caused unnecessary wastage of fuel in the waste trucks.

With IoT, the smart waste management solution tracks waste levels in the containers through sensors. The smart waste management solution receives continuous records of the level of waste in the containers that it processes and analyses. Once the waste gathers up to a preset threshold, the smart solution sends a notification to the truck driver’s application. Not only does this method avoid overflowing containers or emptying half-full ones, but it also provides route optimization and operational analysis.

  • Smart Parking

Smart parking creates real-time parking maps using the GPS from cars or road-surface sensors to tell if spots are free or occupied. This map is sent to the drivers’ smartphones to lead them to the nearest available parking spot via the path of least resistance. Smart parking solutions also can be used to minimise congestion by sending vehicles to certain parking zones at certain times. All of this helps optimise the use of resources like fuel, time, and space.

  • Environmental Monitoring

Often in city management, environmental issues take a backseat due to prioritisation of other, seemingly more important issues. Here, IoT helps paint this urgent issue in a better light.

For example, Iot-driven air quality monitoring warns people when the air quality drops below safe or preset threshold. A network of sensors deployed along busy roads and around plants gather data of levels of harmful gases like carbon, CO, sulphur oxide, etc. It sends this data to a central cloud platform to be analysed and visualised. Users can use this map to tell where the air quality is worse. This allows for accountability and optimisation of air quality control plans. 

  • Smart Water

Water sensors deployed throughout the water network. These sensors measure the flow rate to detect leakages. Another function of these sensors is to monitor the quality of water based on parameters like the pH levels, dissolved oxygen, turbidity, etc.

These sensors also gather water consumption data so that citizens can see their real-time water consumption. This data helps the user gauge their consumption levels by comparing it to the neighbourhood and, in future, helps in accurate, on-time billing.

This same data also alerts the system to excessive consumption or sudden spike in consumption so that, with the next bill, it can send water conservation and sustainable usage tips and a how-to on checking for leaks.


IoT has the potential to benefit cities by connecting and managing the vast number of infrastructures and public services that exist in cities. From smart lighting to smart water to better waste management – the possibilities are endless. There is one thing they have in common: the results. Using IoT solutions reduces energy costs, optimises resource use, and makes cities safer and cleaner.

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