Key Insights

How IoT Devices Lay the Foundation for Smart City Infrastructure



As city populations soar, managing growth is of increasing concern. Cities such as Orlando, Raleigh and Seattle have grown more than 2% in a year. With this growth comes a demand for city services and a strain on resources. In turn, cities need new technologies to better manage traffic congestion, public safety and sanitation.

The trend toward urbanization is undeniable. Global city populations are expected to grow from 3.6 billion to 6.3 billion by 2050—more than 60%. Population growth will only augment cities’ use of the lion’s share of resources: Cities consume 75% of the world’s energy and are responsible for 80% of greenhouse gas emissions.

Smart infrastructure, enabled by technologies like Internet of Things (IoT)-connected sensors, can help deal with the impact of these population explosions: environmental strains, safety concerns and demand for services. If an exhaust-emitting car idles at a red light, for example, IoT-enabled traffic lights may turn green if the intersection is clear. Sensors may also help optimize trash pickup or stops on a bus route. They can also provide data in real time at the scene of an auto accident or help provide water management and sanitation at low cost in areas of need. Combined with new computing models such as edge computing, IoT can noticeably improve city living.

These kinds of data-driven environments, fueled by connected devices and network connectivity, can bring serious cost savings and efficiencies. In Barcelona, smart water-meter technology helped the city save $58 million annually. In South Korea, smart sensors reduced building costs by a third by monitoring water and electricity usage, according to Harvard Business Review.

Accordingly, IoT environments need support from new computing models, such as edge computing, which processes data closer to the network's edge, where IoT and other devices reside. With less transmission latency, data moves more quickly from device to device or infrastructure. Edge computing (Cisco’s iteration is known as fog computing) could enable, for example, drivers to pay at a parking meter with a smartphone. A commuter could get real-time alerts about the estimated time of arrival for a bus being re-routed around a traffic accident.

This architecture requires data and device security, and it likely means new approaches to securing city infrastructure to prevent nefarious or unwitting actors from wreaking havoc on connected cities. Malicious data hacking of smart devices could create small-scale nuisances, such as a parking meter not accepting payment or a bus arriving late, but they may also pose more serious risks. Consider if a traffic light system were hacked for malicious purposes or a water filtration system were inappropriately accessed. Smart city infrastructure also takes dollars. Many cash-strapped cities struggle to find the funding for smart city IoT projects. At the same time, there is substantial cost savings – to the tune of $2.3 trillion in efficiencies created and revenue generated worldwide by 2024.

Smart cities and IoT devices

Here’s how smart infrastructure and IoT devices have improved traffic congestion, street lighting, public safety, water sanitation and more—and some of the risks in connected infrastructure.

Article: Can IoT devices take the pressure off growing cities?

Connected devices can help lay the foundation for smart city infrastructure to combat the strain of city growth, from health and safety to environmental concerns to transportation and delivery of city services.

Article: Water conservation and smart cities

IoT devices allow cities to become more efficient about water usage. Banyan Water has assisted its customers with the conservation of more than 2.3 billion gallons of water since its inception in 2011.

Article: Digital cities building new public infrastructure

From smart lighting to public safety initiatives, the digital transformation is becoming the backbone of city infrastructure.

Blog: Smart city projects and IoT still in planning stages

According to Cisco data, many cities are still working on plans for smart city infrastructure. The major obstacle in moving more quickly is limited funding.

IoT in the enterprise

Here’s how companies are bringing the Internet of Things to the enterprise for cost efficiency, product development and more. But even as IoT makes its way into the enterprise, security concerns are key.

Article: Business-ready IoT technologies make their debut

There is ample skepticism about whether IoT technologies are ready for the enterprise. Here’s how they’re being used today.

Article: IoT device ecosystem develops apace

IoT sensors are now part of product development in a variety of industries, but standardization and quality control need to speed up.

Podcast and article: IoT device security remains a concern

The Internet of Things is already improving how we live and work, but device security is constraining the technology.

Article: IoT is about the enterprise, not just smart homes

While IoT devices have gained traction in the smart home sector, one Cisco executive predicts their real impact is likely to be seen in the enterprise as a result of the data insights that can be derived.

Article: Smart home technologies become increasingly attractive

Smart home technologies can control temperature, provide video security surveillance and more. These create a more optimized and secure home environment.

For more Cisco resources:

Cisco and IoT for utilities

Unlocking potential of IoT data with Cisco Kinetic

Cisco and connected homes

Cisco and Internet of Everything for cities

Cisco Jasper