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Cities Get Smart

Added to IoTplaybook or last updated on: 01/03/2019

Across the globe, cities are turning to IoT connected systems and devices to automate processes, cut costs, and improve everything from traffic flow to energy consumption. According to a report from ABI Research, smart city IoT technology is expected to swell from $25 billion in 2017 to $62 billion in 2026.

Smart cities represent a lucrative opportunity for companies operating in the space. “Interest in and focus on smart cities has skyrocketed,” states ABI Research Vice President Dominique Bonte. “By its very nature of aggregating a wide range of solutions and technologies, the smart cities segment offers the perfect environment [for] more holistic, cross-vertical approaches.”

However, the vast array of vendors, platforms, systems, and connected devices involved in smart city projects can create confusion and bog down buying decisions. As a result, it’s critical to establish a strategic focus and a framework for adopting smart city solutions.

A recent report from the Alliance for Internet of Things Innovation (AIOTI), offers some insight and direction for systems integrators and resellers. The association, comprised mostly from academia and industry, suggests that organizations adopting smart city solutions focus on seven key factors:

  1. Connectivity. There is no “one-size-fits-all” connectivity solution, AIOTI notes. At the same time, “Cities should avoid having to manage or use too many different types of networks, which could make the Total Cost of Ownership prohibitive,” the authors state.
  2. Open Data. “Several cities are starting to open access to historical data in different file formats,” AIOTI says. “To move beyond static files, more effort is needed to provide datasets, including as they are generated, and use a uniform API for all city data.”
  3. Integration. Cities often focus on turn-key solutions, AIOTI points out, but these systems don’t always integrate smoothly. “These projects will yield greater value if cities pay close attention to architectures and the component reusability of platforms during the procurement processes.”
  4. Component reusability. Maximizing value is critical. Cities are increasingly emphasizing cross-application and cross-domain integration as they focus on getting as much ROI as possible from their IoT solutions.
  5. Risk versus reward. Identifying risks as well as opportunities is critical, particularly when little historical evidence exists for a particular use. “Identified risks should be viewed in comparison with the risk of not innovating and being left behind in emerging and evolving markets,” AIOTI notes.
  6. Avoiding a single IoT platform. Smart cities utilize a combination of infrastructure components from telecom operators, mobility operators, public safety agencies, utilities, and others, as well as infrastructure from cities themselves. This highlights an “increasing need for IoT platforms … designed and managed for interoperability,” AIOTI says. System integrators can benefit by addressing the requirements of cross-application use cases.
  7. A focus on public-safety use cases. Spending in the smart city space is increasing as risks and threats grow. These systems, from CCTV video to smart traffic controls, represent a significant opportunity.

In the second part of this two-part series, we’ll examine some of the technical factors that are critical to the success of smart city initiatives.


Samuel Greengard is a business and technology writer based in West Linn, Ore. He is the author of The Internet of Things (MIT Press, 2015).