The trend of people moving towards the urban cities has increased rapidly in the past few years, with the prediction of 60% of the world’s population living in those cities, by 2030. Urbanization has increased the pressure on existing infrastructure, leading to many problems, in the cities, as well as for the people.  A smart city tries to solve this problem with the help of advanced technological architecture, to analyze and provide an efficient and sustainable environment, which can handle the growth, while reducing the risk of infrastructure bottleneck.

A smart city uses IoT (Internet Of Things) services, to implement a system-wide sensor networks (RFID, IR, GPS, laser scanners, etc.) in the city, to screen, oversee and control gadgets, and to make new insights and actionable data from enormous floods of data, collected from these sources. These data enable the city corporations to manage the resources efficiently, reducing assets wastage, providing real-time high-level context-aware customized services while providing security to individual privacy. IoT helps is analyzing these real-time data intelligently, and provide dynamic solutions to make the city more effective and affordable for everyone.

10 ways IoT applications are improving smart cities are:

1. Smart Lighting

With the increase in urbanization, energy consumption has become an important issue for cities, with lighting as the main source of consumption. IoT helps in reducing this loss by almost 33.3% by implementing a smart lighting system, with the help of wireless mesh networking sensors, placed all over the city. These sensors collect data from all the sources, to provide an efficient and dynamic energy management system, which helps in reducing energy consumption, operational costs, maintenance cost, and also increases public safety, through video cameras, and better traffic management system. These interconnected sensors, deciphers, where the lighting could be increased or decreased, based on usage, daylight, weather or even traffic. Such network nodes comprise of light dependent resistors (LDRs), passive infrared (PIR) sensors, current sensors, hall effect sensors, and relays, to transfer all the stream of data, to  the main processor, which then implement the most optimal solution, and implement it back, through the same route, making it a bi-directional exchange.

Real life implementation:

Bristol City Council, United Kingdom has replaced 20,000 street lights with smart lights, generating cost savings of 1 million British pounds per year, while increasing public safety, and better service reliability.

A smart street light

2. Smart Transportation System and Logistics

IoT is helping in creating a Geospatial-enabled intelligent transportation system with fleet management, traffic management, and goods and services management, using Integrated transit hubs, Freight ICT services, and Public transport surveillance. Using GPS, traffic sensors, infrared sensors, and RFID tags, these systems can determine the best route for the fleet to travel, while creating an intelligent Traffic control system, for reduced congestion. Automatic detection of goods and GPS tracking of the interconnected vehicles allows the main processing system, to find the best route for the fleet, micro-managing the whole service, to provide the most efficient and fastest travel itinerary. The whole system for data detection for data transmission is automated and is not affected by adverse weather or any external condition, making it very reliable, for intelligent decision making, and real-time vehicle management. Micro-navigation in public transportation and Bridge sensors helps in alerting drivers, for risky routes, and providing with alternatives.

Real life implementation:

Dublin has implemented an extensive citywide sensor network, to track and manage traffic real-time. The data from bus timetables, traffic detectors, cameras and GPS updates broadcasted by city buses every 20 seconds to build a digital map of the city superimposed with real-time positions of Dublin’s 1,000 buses, providing a detailed overview of the area, to implement traffic calming measures.

Smart transportation system

3. Smart Parking

Finding a parking area in urban areas has become more difficult due to the increase in population and vehicles. This lead to the inefficient parking system, which affected the whole parking revenue system. With the help of IoT, the parking system is made smarter, by using parking and occupancy sensors. The sensor keeps a track of the parking spot, whether is it vacant or not. The information recorded from all sensors and sent to a cloud directory where it processed to form a digital map of the whole parking area, with the list of all available spots. A user can then connect to the server, with an app in their smartphone to check any available spot, and books it online, for a certain amount of time, while making the payment. The app then helps the user to navigate to the spot, using GPS navigation. The automated system removes the human interaction, making the whole process faster and efficient. When the spot becomes vacant, the sensor updates the location to the cloud directory, thus completing the whole loop, of booking.

Real life implementation:

Oxford, a city in Northern Mississippi implemented a full parking solution, including multi-space paysites, smart cash collection system, vehicle discovery sensors, and a web-based data management system to reduce the parking issues, they were facing. As a result, it leads to an increase in parking revenue to more than $500,000.

Smart Parking system

4. Waste management

Disorganized waste management has become a major issue for city management, and lead to an unhygienic living environment for the residents. IoT aims to solve this issue, by introducing a smart waste management, which would keep track of all waste generated, and use these data to create a dynamic route for the garbage disposable drivers, to collect it efficiently. The existing waste management has a fixed price system and does not account for the amount of waste collected, making it difficult to adjust and manage disposable amounts. In the new smart waste management system, the garbage trucks are installed with trackers, and the garbage bin with RFID sensors, which keeps a record of resident’s information, Load cells to measure the amount of waste deposited, Humidity sensors to check the presence of wet waste in bins. All these interconnected systems of sensors are then sent to the server, which analyses and creates the most optimized route for waste collected for each garbage disposal truck, thus creating an effective waste management system, reduce collection cost, and improve street sanitation.

Real life implementation:

The city of Nitra, in Slovakia, has reduced up to 30% waste collection costs, after installing 130 ultrasonic Smart Sensors to monitor the levels of waste in the semi-underground bins.

Smart waste management system

5. Air quality

Air pollution has become the world’s fourth-largest cause of death, based on a recent survey. IoT has come up with wireless smart air monitoring sensors, to track and collect air quality over the city, and report it back to the operators, which would then analyze the data, to find the probable cause, whether industrial, weather, or traffic, and provide insight on how to reduce and rectify it. The real-time management setup helps in reducing the damage caused due to poor air quality. The processed data will be available to the general public, who will get a notification, if the outdoor air quality is not safe, and will inform them of the precautions, they can take to avoid health issues.

Real life implementation:

London has launched a ‘Smart London‘ initiative, with the GSMA and Royal Borough of Greenwich, where an electric vehicle containing a high-quality air quality laboratory, called Smogvehicle, will measure real-time and discrete roadside air quality every minute, for eight days in Greenwich, that will help to analyze the quality and find possible solutions to it.

Air quality monitoring system


6. Crime and Public Safety

To improve the quality of life of a smart city, the crime rate has to drop. To facilitate this, IoT uses wireless security cams, which are interconnected to each other, to form a secure visual network over an area, which can detect any malicious activity in real time, which will not only help in tracking the criminal but also prevent it, in most cases. The system is also connected to the lighting system, which monitors real-time outage so the operator can take a step to keep those areas well lit, to reduce the chances of crime, increasing public safety. IoT and AI have also provided ‘Predictive policing’ which detects the possibility of a person to commit an offense in the near future, thus increasing the chances of preventing it, before it happens. This is done by collecting user data, from all sources, whether be it physical environment (camera/sensors), or virtual (social media). The data is then analyzed to create a profile of the user, and rank them, based on the severity and closeness to the crime.

Real life implementation:

Police in Durham, UK are using an advanced system called Hart (Harm Assessment, Risk Tool), which uses a database of individuals and ranks the possibility that they will perpetuate another crime in near future.

Crime management and public safety

7. Smart City Architecture

A smart city architecture consists of a wireless sensor network, Field gateways, Cloud gateway, Data lake, Data warehouse, Control applications and Citizen Portal. The wireless sensor network is used to collect data from everywhere, and interconnected with each other, for maximum efficiency in data collection. The collected data is then transferred to Field gateways, which takes care of data gathering and compression, and is secured using Cloud gateways. The encrypted data are then passed to Data lake, which stores the data, until it is processed by Data warehouse, using Machine Learning. Data analytics are performed on the data, to analyze it, and provide with the best solution, which is then carried out by Control applications. Users connect to these systems, using Citizen portal, which gives them a real-time update of the issues, and possible fixes. It also allows them to report any issues, which is taken care of by the system.

Real life implementation:

Chicago has created a citizen portal that allows citizens to report smart device’s defects, access information on how those things work, view the location of the setup and which of them are inactive.

smart architecture

8. Energy usage and distribution

A Smart city is built of smart objects, including smart buildings. A smart building has a quality of power saving, better security, maintenance, and monitoring. A smart building energy management system helps in reducing cost and carbon footprint, by connecting to lighting, heating, ventilation, elevators, and fire safety systems to a central management application, which provides a detailed information of the areas of high use, and energy drifts, and informs the user, so that can take steps to reduce over-consumption, thus reducing maintenance cost, and effectively increasing the longevity and efficiency of the product, and the whole system itself.

Real life implementation:

Edge, an office building located in Amsterdam uses a smartphone app to know its occupants’ schedules and directs them to a parking spot, and then a desk, all while adjusting to preferring lighting and temperature. The Edge is declared as the most sustainable building in the world, with a score of 98.4%, with super-efficient LED panels, 28,000 sensors, solar panels, and a huge court that regulates air and lets in natural light.

smart building

9. Traffic flow and Smart Roads

To reduce traffic congestion, traffic lights are equipped with sensors, to transmit real-time data on traffic flow, to the main servers, which in turn process and analyze the traffic pattern to find the optimal way to operate the traffic lights, thus it won’t be fixed timed traffic signal, but a dynamic and automatic system, which will be based on traffic. Each vehicle will be fitted with RFID sensors, which will be connected to the server, and user’s smartphone, so that it can inform them of the alternate route, with less congestion, thus effectively controlling the jam. The roadside signals will also be attached with light sensors, which will be automated, to dim or increase the signal lighting based on daylight settings, or the weather, thereby increasing the legibility of those signals. These road signals can also help in location accident points, and communicate them to the nearest emergency stations.

Real life implementation:

New York has recorded a reduction of about 53% of its traffic lines by implementing intelligent traffic management controllers.


10. Commerce and Tourism

Cities need to organize multiple events and innovative events to attract tourists and business to grow. With IoT, smart cities can do that, by utilizing a smart ticketing system, and security services. For business, it can set up proper retail zones, for shops to get more customers, and provides online space, to attract virtual customers, to increase revenue opportunities. With an increase in the home deliverables, the need for logistics increases too, which can be handled by smart logistics and transportation system, for better performance.

Real life implementation:

Vodafone worked with Admirror, to create advertising mirrors, which gets updates automatically from Admirror servers, related to different businesses, thus enabling them to attract more clients and expansion opportunities

Smart commerce


Implementing smart cities with cloud-based and IoT services will help them build an effective management system to handle the growing population, while managing the resources methodically, using low-cost sensors and smart-devices, to communicate and bridge the gap between people, and the system.