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Smart city is an urban development plan which is economically sustainable and offer high living standards to its residents. Technology has a key role to play in building smart cities. A smart city infrastructure incorporates various factors like Information and Communication Technology (ICT), Internet of things (IOT), public-private partnerships, social and human capital.

What is Internet of Things (IOT)?

Internet of Things (IOT) is connecting electronics devices (other than computers and smartphones) to internet for efficient monitoring and handling of day to day activities. They can be kitchen appliances, buildings, vehicles, health gadgets, lightings, waste disposal, security systems, energy management etc. These devices are connected to internet and monitored remotely.

The beneficiary of these devices are consumers, government and private enterprises. According to an estimate by Gartner INC, there will be 20 billion IOT devices by 2020.

IOT and Smart Cities

.In urban development ICT and IOT are important building blocks in creating a smart infrastructure for managing ever increasing city population. A smart city needs technological efficiency in transport, communication, safety measures and planning infrastructure.

In order to make cost effective, qualitative and self-sustainable infrastructure construction companies are incorporating IOT devices and solutions in their architecture plan. Governments of both developed and developing countries are working on public private partnerships (PPP) to bring IOT solutions in smart cities creation.

Some research firms estimate that by 2020 there will be investment of $400 billion every year in creating smart cities. Nearly $6 billion will be spent of IOT devices which will generate income of $13 trillion by 2025.

Must have technologies for every Smart City

1. Traffic Management and Parking Solutions

Traffic woes are a major problem faced by city dwellers. IOT devices can help immensely in giving dynamic and intelligent solutions to ever increasing traffic problems and parking space. The IOT devices can help in avoiding traffic jams, suggest feasible time to travel and give parking information about crowded places. IOT monitored traffic signals can function on vehicle density instead of time bands. Parking sensors can suggest a spot free for parking. These measures will save time, energy, gas emissions and maintain an easy flow of traffic.

Many European cities have incorporated these technologies successfully. A crowded city like Paris has minimized its traffic problem by adopting parking sensors. London is also working on its smart parking project that will help drivers in locating free parking spots. These cities are also experimenting on electric car and bike sharing models. Some examples of parking apps in Europe and US are ParkingPanda, SpotHero, Parker, and BestParking.

2. Waste Management

Waste management is a big issue for municipal bodies in urban areas. Large population generates large amount of waste. IOT enabled smart bins, garbage disposal methods, monitoring devices for wastes will help neighborhoods to maintain a clean and green surrounding.

Many waste disposal companies are developing devices powered by renewable energy. Some localities are using solar powered devices to assess the required capacity of garbage bins. Identification of trash in the form of bio-degradable, e-waste, non-degradable will save our environment from further degradation. Both government and private firms are looking for smart solutions which have least impact on our eco-system. Big Belly, Smart Bin, Zero Cycle are some companies which are giving IOT enabled waste management.

3. Security Systems

Safety and security are prime concern of Governments world over. Without technology it is difficult to trace the negative elements in overly crowded towns and cities. Top grade surveillance programs are required to eliminate the suspects. IOT sound sensors, smart video surveillance, smart streetlights and latest drone technology can quickly help police and security personnel in detecting the place of terror, number of gunshots or strikes, suspects involved and number of people affected.

IOT in security systems can also help in efficient monitoring of public places like markets, malls, airports, hotels, metro stations, banks and hospitals. They are must haves in residential and commercial buildings.

The recent surge in the market of security and surveillance products around the globe depict their necessity. Both developing and developed world are vulnerable to terror attacks. IOT in this segment can help tremendously in saving people’s lives and resources.

4. Smart Energy Consumption

Technology has made our lives easier but it has also impacted our environment negatively in last 100 years. Over utilization of natural resources in the form of nonrenewable energy like petrol, diesel, coal, wood has harmed our ecosystem. To safeguard the future of our coming generations’ countries are investing in renewable form of energy like solar, wind and water.

In lighting segment, LEDs are game changer. They reduce cost and excel on longevity factor. It is estimated that United States will convert all its streetlights into LEDS that will save $14million every year.

In renewable energy segment, European countries have taken the lead. Germany, United Kingdom, France, Italy have fared well in this segment. China, Australia and Japan are also harnessing solar, wind, hydroelectricity.

The new form of energy consumption will be linked with IOT devices which will help individuals, civic bodies, industries to check energy metrics. This will help in saving water consumption, improve air quality, sewage disposal and effective power generation.

5. Healthcare Services

Modern age has brought in sedentary lifestyles. Even though advancement in medicine and technology has improved ‘Life expectancy’ of human beings, it has also created new kinds of diseases and health problems in urban population. IOT in health sector helps in remote monitoring, smart sensors and activity tracker devices.

Smart cities need smart hospitals which can track patients remotely, provide emergency services quickly, offer preventive measures, analyze patient’s data and utilize them in better research practices. For example, some hospitals have smart wristbands for newborns which alert the staff if baby is taken outside the nursing room.  Also, medical staff receive alerts if any patient is critical or need emergency care.

Apart from medical application, they are creating sustainable development through better utilization of food, energy, hospital waste management, inventory management etc. Future of smart cities will be incomplete without proper health and wellness centers for its residents.

Downfall of Internet of things

Like any other new thing IOT comes with certain disadvantages as well. Foremost is security and privacy. All these devices collect lots of personal data and unless it is not encrypted, it can be shared and misused by a known or unknown. These devices are still in a nascent stage and security experts feel that a lot has to be done in this domain.

Complexity is another issue to be tackled. IOT devices make use of multiple technologies based on different platform or architecture. Problem in one device can malfunction the whole system which might incur more cost and time.

Also while implementing them right assessment of infrastructure and capacity, management of different devices, avoiding interference and checking security lapses must be covered.

As it is still in the development process, new and innovative standards are applied by different organizations. It is essential to form a stable, wholesome and common ground for IOT to overcome the disadvantages, reap the positives and benefit the mankind. In the end, smart cities are ever growing phenomenon and without IOT devices it is impossible to see the future of our cities.