How smart cities can use IoT to become the green cities of tomorrow

3 min read

Making Smart Cities green with IoT

Speaking broadly, the Internet of Things (IoT) represents internet-connected devices ranging from smart speakers to health trackers. And, at the consumer level, many people use IoT devices to make their lives more convenient. That benefit is relevant, but IoT technology could have a substantially broader reach by making smart cities more eco-friendly.

By reducing traffic jams

Getting stuck in traffic is a frustrating experience for drivers. And heavy traffic exacerbates the vehicle emissions issues that contribute to global warming and harm the planet in other ways. Conversely, there are innovative solutions for depending on the IoT for traffic management.

For example, sensors mounted on traffic lights could pinpoint when the traffic flow reaches a peak. Then, a complementing big data platform might suggest alternative routes that reduce potential backups. It’s also important to realize that people contribute to traffic upticks when they drive around searching for parking places.

If IoT sensors measure when people occupy and leave parking places, they could send up-to-the-minute information to drivers who are using apps and approaching a smart city. The apps could direct people to the places with the most parking opportunities that are closest to their destinations, thereby saving those people from causing or getting caught in traffic jams.

To evaluate a smart city’s baseline sustainability level and track progress

One of the pressing challenges facing all smart cities that want to become more sustainable is not understanding the most pressing issues in the city that negatively affect the planet. If people only guess at what the worst problems are, officials might mistakenly invest in the wrong areas while ignoring those that most need funds.

If city officials do not want to initially invest in customized sensors before determining how best to use them, they should consider commercial off the shelf (COTS) sensor equipment. Frequently used in military applications, COTS equipment allows implementing technology faster than usual without sacrificing advanced features.

IoT sensors could also indicate whether a community’s residents are adopting eco-friendly IoT-driven measures at an expected rate. If they don’t understand the direct impact of IoT technologies on the ways they live, the associated adoption rate may be sluggish.

In one study, 31 percent of respondents did not believe their city’s smart initiatives would directly impact their daily lives. If citizens in other places feel similarly, it’ll be difficult to encourage them to embrace smart city technology at all, let alone that which helps boost sustainability.

However, one of the recommended uses of IoT data as it relates to sustainability is to combine it with big data and measure a city’s current sustainability level and how it changes over time. Taking that approach allows urban planners to rely on metrics as they show stakeholders why IoT technology is relevant and how it’s had a positive effect.

By improving waste management techniques

Globally, there is 3.5 million tons of waste generated daily, and that number is rising. So, for a smart city to get serious about environmental sustainability, it cannot overlook practical ways to curb waste production, mainly by recycling.

When cities take advantage of IoT technology to manage waste, the relevant representatives can learn which areas generate the most waste, whether waste levels go up or down on certain days and more. Some sensors might track the fill levels of recycling bins, letting crews know when to empty the containers.

Also, if there are problems with illegal dumping in an area, an IoT-enabled camera could capture footage of the culprits and send it to a complementing app. Then, waste management officials might invest in security measures that reduce that behavior.

Reducing resource usage

Many people are already familiar with smart meters that track the amount of energy used in homes. Those gauges also typically give information about fluctuations in energy use over time. Then, people can proactively make changes to make utility bills more manageable and protect the planet at the same time.

There is also a growing trend of utility companies around the world using IoT technologies in their operations. In one study, 47 percent said they were able to prioritize cost savings by doing so. Retrieving information from IoT sensors could help utility companies recognize increases in usage, take part in predictive maintenance and cut down on waste.

At a community level, IoT sensors could determine the busiest times at parks, office buildings and other frequently used areas. And, IoT-connected lights could automatically turn on when needed and deactivate during daylight hours or when premises are empty.

Similarly, companies use IoT equipment to monitor water consumption by utilizing sensors that detect leaks, measure flow rates and otherwise provide statistics about overall water usage in a smart city. That data could then get used to determine the most efficient ways to stop wasting so much water in a community.

Informed investments are ideal

The areas covered above are some of the most pressing environmental issues faced in smart cities around the world. It’s obvious that, if used correctly, IoT tech could go a long way in making those places more eco-friendly. But, it’s essential for planners to invest wisely and in ways that are tailor-made for their cities rather than merely following trends.

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