How to build a Smart City: with IoT and Big Data

Olivia Brookhouse    5 October, 2022
Photo: Aditya Chinchure / Unsplash

A smart city is defined as a high-performance urban environment, where the aim is to optimize the use of resources and access to services.

Smart cities take advantage of technological innovations to improve essential aspects of our quality of life. Factors such as intelligent sensors, connectivity, access to data and cloud applications, which can be grouped within the areas of IoT and Big Data, are key to enabling the implementation of services.

Urban mobility also benefits from the combination of traditional transport systems, modern information technology platforms and the analysis of large volumes of data.

Most notably, transport is one aspect that can benefit from the use of devices with mobile connectivity.

In-car connectivity and access to real-time information allows for a more efficient use of the transportation system.

As we connect our devices and begin to leverage data, we are discovering the capabilities of smart cities.

Key factors for the sustainable development of a Smart City

Online access to information systems, e-government processes and digital citizenship are among the distinctive components of an intelligent city.

E-government, or e-administration, is the use of information and communication technologies (ICTs) to improve government management services. Digital citizenship refers to the process of education, skills development and behavioural norms required by citizens to have adequate access to ICT.

These three components make our lives easier, with benefits such as faster access to services, reduced paperwork and bureaucratic costs.

The smart city components are complemented by technologies aimed at improving sustainability, such as electric vehicles and efficient public transport systems.

Ecosystem of a Smart City

In addition to technological innovations, it is also essential to create an ecosystem for the development of a smart city that includes:

  • Continued incorporation of public-private partnerships.
  • Exchange with universities, research centres and information and communication technology (ICT) companies.
  • Support for digital innovators, entrepreneurs, start-ups and companies that develop cutting-edge technological solutions for citizen and management problems.
  • Constant investment in research and development (R&D).
  • Trained human resources, innovative and entrepreneurial culture.
  • Connectivity and mobility based on access to networks and the Internet of Things (IoT)
  • Management based on open data and analysis of large volumes of data (Big Data).

Electric vehicles in Smart Cities

The goal of technology is to improve our quality of life. That is why measures such as the use of electric vehicles and intelligent public transport systems have been implemented in the cities and have generated positive changes such as:

  • Reduction in the emission of pollutants into the environment, in sonic pollution and in heat emissions
  • Reduction of fuel consumption, in particular of non-renewable resources
  • Introduction of sustainable public and private transport systems

Other advantages of electric vehicles:

  • They do not require the construction of new road systems since they take advantage of the existing road infrastructure with some adaptations.
  • The maintenance expenses of an electric car are lower because they require fewer spare parts and components. Furthermore, they do not require oil or lubricant change services because they do not require mechanical transmission.
  • Also, they have incorporated technological innovations that facilitate data exchange through their connectivity.

Smart city and smart mobility: well-being thanks to connectivity

The advances in connectivity facilitate our daily mobility, due to more efficient transport services.

Smart mobility or Intelligent transport is transforming the way we get around in cities. It combines the benefits of using Artificial Intelligence and IoT to exchange data between users, vehicles, infrastructure and service platforms.

Traditional technologies and disruptive innovations combine to create smart mobility that offers the following benefits:

1. Sustainability

The development of sustainable mobility in intelligent cities focuses on promoting more environmentally friendly forms of transport. The following options stand out for their contribution to these characteristics:

  • Electric and hybrid vehicles.
  • Public transport systems using renewable energies.
  • Bicycles and motor-skates.
  • Shared transport.

Sustainability in eco-sustainable cities is also supported by improvements of infrastructure:

  • Recharging islands for electric vehicles and gas stations.
  • Connectivity of public roads
  • Incentives for the use of more energy-efficient vehicles.

2. Efficiency

The development of an interconnected platform contributes to the more efficient use of road infrastructure and transport systems. This platform includes sensors, constant monitoring and intelligent signaling systems that change according to traffic conditions.

Access to ICT applications and cloud services makes it easier for us to consult traffic conditions.

Another advantage of connectivity is to use road routes more efficiently and to know parking areas or nearby shops. Gaining access to this information through intelligent devices permits more efficient access to resources and services.

3. Cost reduction

Electric vehicles and car sharing reduce the cost of transporting people and goods.

One of the characteristics of a smart city is that it provides us with useful information to improve mobility. Apps, smart assistants and updated signage on the roads help us to reduce costs.

More efficient management of mobility resources based on real-time data helps to reduce travel time.

Another service that benefits from the combination of IoT, Big Data and cloud processing is the management of passenger and cargo transport fleets. Apps used by drivers and companies, together with IoT connected devices allow end-to-end tracking on journeys.

Smart city and GPS solutions: improving service delivery

Smart Cities have improved the delivery of services to their citizens by combining GPS solutions and mobility platforms.

These technologies are integrated into vehicles such as police cars, ambulances, transportation, collection trucks or repair crews and generate real-time data on location and coverage.

Valencia in Spain and San Nicolás de los Arroyos in Argentina are two cities that have been able to integrate new technologies within their traditional services

Valencia, Spain

In this city, a model of a European smart city, a unique real-time data management system has been implemented for transport, bicycle and traffic systems.

The information is not only useful for the city’s management teams, but can also be made accessible to citizens via a mobile app.

With the integrated use of GPS, IoT and Big Data analysis solutions, Valencia seeks to build an efficient and intelligent mobility system. The benefits include more efficient use of transport systems, communication routes, energy savings and improved quality of life for Valencians.

San Nicolás de los Arroyos, Argentina

In this city, near Buenos Aires, police patrol systems and waste collection trucks have improved community visits by integrating GPS solutions into vehicles.

Massive data is generated, which is collected, processed and analyzed for local administration to make more efficient decisions.

In San Nicolás de los Arroyos, they can locate in real time where their police squads are, and which communities have been patrolled. Also, they can ensure services run to their timetables in the community.

There are numerous examples of successful projects which include the integration of technologies such as GPS support, connectivity and the use of mobility data within Telefónica’s Smart City platform. Its implementation has resulted in concrete benefits: better service coverage, fuel savings for vehicles and more efficient and integrated use of resources in cities.

Smart City Success Stories

According to the IESE Cities in Motion Index (ICIM) from the University of Navarra’s (Spain) Business School (IESE, 2018), the five cities with the best indicator in the “mobility and transport” dimension in 2018 were

  1. Paris, France.
  2. London, United Kingdom.
  3. Seoul, South Korea.
  4. New York, United States.
  5. Shanghai, China.

In Spanish Speaking countries, the following cities stand out in terms of transport:

  1. Madrid, Spain.
  2. Barcelona, Spain.
  3. Valencia, Spain.
  4. Buenos Aires, Argentina.
  5. Santiago, Chile.
  6. Panama, Panama.
  7. Bogotá, Colombia.

1. Paris

The city of Paris ranks first in mobility and transport in the ICIM index for its efficient and comprehensive metro system. Strategies implemented in the city include:

  • Use of bicycle sharing or free access bikes.
  • High-speed trains.
  • Numerous airports.
  • Access to information with options for connectivity between public transport systems.

2. Madrid

The city council of the Spanish capital is developing the Madrid Green Capital programme, in which improvements in transport are an important element.

Promoted by the city council, the aim is to reduce pollution levels and carry out various activities in the framework of the Climate Summit (COP25).

To achieve more efficient use of transport and the promotion of clean technologies, the programme includes several strategies:

  • Economic incentives for the use of electric vehicles and carpooling.
  • Promotion of low polluting vehicles: electric, hybrid and gas powered, among others
  • Awareness of a transport culture based on sustainable principles and habits.
  • Articulation of sustainable urban mobility plans
  • The development of Mobility as a Service (MaaS)

3. Medellín and Bogotá

In the region, Colombia leads the market for electric car sales, above Mexico, Chile and Ecuador.

The incentives in Medellin and Bogotá for the use of these alternative technologies are based around the desire to become a benchmark example in Latin America of a Smart City.

Some incentives for the use of more environmentally friendly means of transport, such as electric and hybrid vehicles, are as follows:

  • Lower tax payments: lower payment of VAT from 2016, for example.
  • Payment of a lower tariff (between 0 % and 5 %).
  • Renewal of taxi, public transport and cargo fleets with the use of non-polluting energy.
  • The incorporation of ICTs, mobile networks, artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things in applications associated with public services and mobility is highly beneficial to those cities which incorporate them, such as Columbia. It is not just chance that Bogotá, Medellín and Cali are in the top 10 intelligent cities in the region.

Characteristics of cities with successful transport systems

The electric vehicle, autonomous transport systems, vehicle sharing and connectivity are key to mobility innovation in a smart city.

The incorporation of modes of transport that use renewable energies and encouraging citizen behavior changes makes the difference between cities.

Internet of Things and Big Data are two innovations that are changing the way smart cities improve their transport systems. Connectivity on a smart city platform also leverages the multi-dimensional benefits of IoT: easy access to the cloud, global connectivity and IoT ecosystems.

Connecting people, services, platforms, businesses, cities and society is what really matters. The Internet of Things is an enabler of digital transformation that offers endless possibilities for people and businesses. In addition to mobility and connectivity, it also improves the management of transport systems, resulting in more efficient cities and a better quality of life.

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