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How IoT is shaping the future of Canadian cities

IoT can help cities improve efficiencies, reduce their environmental footprint and increase quality of living.

Overview of city

Sixty-eight percent of the world’s population will live in cities by 2050, according to a new report from the UN; that’s up from 55 percent this year. And by 2030, the world will have 33 mega cities with populations of more than 10 million people each.

Such rapidly increasing populations place heavy demands on urban centres for improved housing, transit, education and other resources. Plus, cities must try to decrease their impact on the environment while they simultaneously provide amenities for new citizens.

Many cities are turning to technology, such as the Internet of Things (IoT) and wireless networks, to solve these challenges. These innovations are making urban centres more liveable, sustainable and engaged—or “smart.”

What is a smart city?

“A smart city is a municipality that uses information and communication technologies to increase operational efficiency, share information with the public and improve both the quality of government services and citizen welfare.”


Seven ways cities can harness the power of IoT

IoT technology uses sensors to collect data about all parts of a city, from utilities to public transit. Municipalities can use this data to better manage their infrastructure and provide residents with more transparency and better services.

Here are seven ways cities around the world are using IoT and other technologies:

1. Smart buildings

Building owners can monitor their systems to lower costs and improve efficiencies. For example, they can automate air conditioning so it only turns on when the temperature inside a building exceeds a specific number.

2. Smart transportation

Sensors track bus, streetcar and train locations so riders can get live updates on when the next vehicle will arrive. Citizens can also use bike- and car-sharing apps to help them find the nearest available transportation.

3. Smart public safety

Public safety applications, such as video surveillance and gunshot detection, give the police real-time updates on threats. Augmented reality can also help fire departments and SWAT teams navigate emergency situations.

4. Smart utilities

Cities can automate streetlights, water metering and generators to lower costs. For example, streetlights can dim if there aren’t any vehicles on the road and automatically turn off when the sun comes up.

5. Smart public services

Residents can use apps to get updates on municipal services, such as when a snowplow will clear their street.

6. Smart environmental monitoring

Cities can track air and water pollution levels. They can also use IoT data to track incoming storms and improve emergency response.

7. Smart parking meters

Drivers can use an app to find the nearest parking spot. They can also pay via the app to avoid the hassle of a ticket or finding change to feed a meter.

These are just a few of the ways urban centres can harness the power of smart technologies. Cities have a massive opportunity to use IoT to create more liveable, sustainable and engaged environments.

But cities must take a holistic approach to IoT if they want to get the greatest return on their investment. A single project, such as automating water meters, can drive value. However, IoT’s real power comes from connecting multiple systems.

For example, a city might use fleet tracking to monitor the location of it busses. It may also use environmental monitoring sensors to collect weather data. By combining both data sets, the city can identify delays in bus routes caused by inclement weather before they happen. The city can then direct snowplows to clear specific locations first to optimize transit performance.

When it comes to IoT, its whole is much greater than the sum of its parts.