Smart Cities and the Internet of Things

The rise of the Internet of Things represents an opportunity to make Smart Cities a reality  

City design has remained essentially the same for the past 1000 years, but recent and dramatic urbanisation trends have created a real need to make our cities smarter. Currently more than 50% of the world’s population lives in cities. By 2050, 6.4 billion people will live in a city, which is 2.5 billion more than today. This is likely to create growing challenges around managing buildings, traffic congestion, emissions, resource availability and much much more – making our cities inefficient and more challenging to inhabit. It could also develop new levels of competition between cities themselves.

To attract new residents, businesses and visitors, cities are increasingly turning to smart technology and IoT to stay ahead of the game. Long gone are the days when a city wants to be known for its tallest tower. Now cities want to impress with a network of technologies and communication systems that increase connectivity. With estimates that there will be over 26 billion connected devices by 2020 (which represents three connected devices for every human on the planet), IoT could well revolutionise city design and how we all operate within them. By its very definition, IoT interconnects smart devices such as mobile phones, computers and sensors – enabling the transfer of vast amounts of information known as ‘Big Data’. But the real opportunity is to use this incredible source of information to better understand city trends, movement, and infrastructure and apply this insight to improve city design – creating a higher quality of life in the cities of the future.

A perfect illustration of this is the ‘Copenhagen Connecting’ project for which Copenhagen (in Denmark) won the prestigious World Smart City Award. How? By simply capturing information using mobile phones, GPS data in buses and sensors in garbage bins and sewage systems and using this ‘Big Data’ to reduce traffic congestion, air pollution and carbon emissions. It is not surprising that Copenhagen has one of the lowest carbon footprints per capita in the world and continues to set ambitious targets for the future, aiming to be completely carbon neutral by 2025.