Driving Digital Transformation in Smart Cities With IoT: Prospects & Challenges

With the enlarging world’s population, the urban areas are first to experience transformation; as people continue to flock cities for several reasons, such as employment opportunities, lifestyle, and more. It is further estimated that the urban population will witness a rise of approx 60% by the year 2050.  And the IoT technology trend to contribute citizen-centric services through a precisely designed network of devices and sensors that facilitates intelligent communication between a user and a device or between two devices.

In order to solve the population density concern, there exists a great need to transform urban areas into smart cities. In this concern, the Researchers and Scientists have started analysing plans on how to transform urban areas into smart cities without hampering the natural existence. The most crucial areas related to the everyday lives of people comprise traffic, parking, railway system, infrastructure, water, food and other supplies. Hence, managing all of these became difficult with the increasing population in the cities.

IoT adoption level

The adoption of IoT is spreading like a wildfire. Source from Forbes reveals that 60% of organizations have started an IoT initiative, 45% of which were funded by a new budget allocation. Further, 23% of companies plan to start an IoT initiative within a year to betterment. In another exploration of the state-of-IoT, about 90% of the 500 executives Bain surveyed said they remain in the planning and proof-of-concept stage, and about 20% expect to implement solutions at scale by 2020.

Before going deeper, let’s sketch “What is Internet of Things” and “How can it help with city management”?

Another important question is how it will improve the quality of life,  and help in efficient use of the city’s resources without wastage?

What is Internet of Things (IoT)?

Internet of Things is more of advanced technology that uses sensors and devices connected over one network. No sooner, the Internet of Things (IoT) solutions is backing an important place to transform the modern cities. Therefore, city planners and service providers are trying to find out solutions that will overcome the urban challenges using smart, connected devices and sensors.

The value is hidden, the Internet of Things provides, the data are collected using this network.  And interpreting this data, we can get important insights on all of the crucial aspects of life in the city. This data is used to bring improvements in over all of the aspects. As we know, there are multiple sectors that needs fundamental improvements in utilities, transport and waste management are also improving the quality of services and saving costs in the same process. As same, the mobile network operators are endeavoring to provide connectivity and digital services, for deployment of secure and reliable connected smart city solutions.

The Governments and city councils are working on some common approach to come up with smart city solutions to deliver real time data, long-term benefits to businesses and citizens.

What is a smart city and how IoT help in city management?

Smart cities are those who make use of the Internet of Things (IoT) devices such as connected sensors, lights, and smart meters, in order to improve smart infrastructure and architecture by collecting and analyzing real time data. This data helps management to take right decision.

Well, the architecture designer and developers are keen to incorporate IoT devices and solutions into their infrastructures so that it helps in bettering the quality of buildings.

For example;

Daintree Networks conducted a survey which reveals that approx 60% of building managers in the U.S. have IoT understanding, and 43% believe that in the next two to three years, the IoT can change the way, operation in buildings takes place. Switching to LED bulbs is one of the major area to accompany potential improvement which will save money and energy at the same time. Exploring more, we can find elevators, another area where the need for greater efficiency is surprising.

Let’s outline how IoT based smart cities  are proving to establish an efficient and standard quality lifestyle for their residents, and the agile methods they use to reach these goals.

Smart Traffic


The last few decades unfold, how fast the culture of the car has been cultivated among the people. This scenario is quite common in most of the cities, people prefer driving their own car no matter how good is public transportation.  For instance, in the US only, commuters have lost $124 billion in 2013 due to the value of time wasted in traffic and the cost of fuel.

  • In order to overcome this traffic bottleneck, fetching information from CCTV feeds becomes easy and vehicle related data can be transmitted to city traffic management centers to help in the smooth traffic run. Hence, prioritizing traffic is a good approach as it allows smoothing with traffic lights that respond in real time. This response gets custom-tailored depending on traffic load.
  • In cities, one of the major concern is air pollution, which is due to the growing number of cars. The majority of polluting gas gets emitted during the stop-start driving that happens in spots where traffic is regulated by lights. Hence, if you go for smart traffic, this helps in pollution reduction throughout the entire city.
  • With the smart traffic controlling system, the movement of public transportation during rush hours becomes easy and hassle free. The big public transport like bus, take up much space and relatively slower than cars. Thus, smart traffic will ensure that every bus gets through the “green wave” thus help to improve the traffic flow.
  • Traffic management system coupled with IoT, the response to traffic incidents becomes much shorter. With this system in place, gathering data and making analysis in real time become easy, and allows the system to make real time adjustments to traffic regulation via traffic lights.

Smart Rails


The next potential area offered by Internet of Things movement is Smart Rails. The concept of  the smart rails aims towards improving road traffic, and in turn ensure that commuting becomes convenient and on timely manner, pollution control from greenhouse gasses, and enhanced passenger safety. The transition from rail transportation to buses and other transportation means to get more synchronized with the smart rail ideas. We can analyze the effects in following ways;

  • Well, with the data collected via sensors and cameras installed on the railway stations, predominantly helps to identify and analyse the commuting patterns easily.
  • Further, this data will play an essential role in real time adjustments to the train schedule. Therefore, take an instance, this process increases the frequency of railway transportation during rush hours, and vice versa when there are significantly less passengers on the train.
  • Moreover,  the data received by the smartrail management system help in comparing and handling the traffic lights and bus schedule more effectively. Hence, the passengers arrive in time to make a smooth transition to a bus.
  • The safety measures are easily organised with smartrail management system. A wholesome new level of security can be established by installing the latest safety measures, such as warning signs and gates at rail crossings, fencing and other signs and integrating all the sensors attached to them into one system. This helps in organising the traffic flow during rush hours.
  • Also, Smart rails in cities have the potential to improve the traffic jams, maintain the flow of traffic, and reduce the pollution in urban areas.

City’s Infrastructure


A city’s infrastructure is another great prospect , IoT can revolutionize the complete scenario. The potential combination of technology paired with physical infrastructure simplifies living promising “smart city.” Thanks to technologies and digital abundance, that includes AI, 3D printing, robotics, and small reliable sensors, which are playing a crucial role in managing an automated controlled infrastructure in a whole new approach.

The physical city infrastructure, comprise to the transportation, energy allocation, water supply, telecommunication services, and waste management. The Internet of Things already relates to these physical components with the real world, and makes a great aspect to convert as a smart city component.

Machine Learning, Big Data, Sensors, IoT, Networks etc., offers a unique way to get a digital infrastructure and provide an accurate real time information feed. This enables to make a fast, cheap and better decision.

  • Smart Energy Management: A great prospect can be marked with the Internet of Things (IoT) in the Electric utilities sector in order to monitor, coordinate and synchronize the transmission and distribution of electrical power over large geographic areas.  The smart meter initiatives are more than just savings electric only, now this smart trend is moving into providing customers with data and transparency on energy consumption.  Hence, consumption will automatically reduce, as combining smart meters with IoT innovations in the home will magnify energy efficiency.
  • Smart Waste Management: As we know Singapore tops the ranking when it comes to smart technology implementation. For instance, this city use sensors which are directly installed into waste containers and inform the garbage collection and disposal center on the capacity status of each waste disposal unit across the town. This helps in proper regulation and on schedule waste collection trips across the town. Hence, the expense is reduced in controlling the air pollution and removing strain from the traffic.
  • Smart Street Light Management: Further, IoT technology reduces the electricity expenses for the city. For instance; In Eindhoven, one of the Dutch city, the authorities have installed LED bulbs and connected the lighting system with software, and the sensor connected allows to gather data on the streets. The collected data helps in the proper regulation of street light, i.e. the lighting turns off automatically on the less busy streets, thus reduce the energy costs for the city.

And if we talk about other smart city initiatives, it includes smart cooling systems, smart windows and other smart infrastructure, that has tendency to accelerate the usage of technologies in the best possible way. The distribution of free-flowing Wi-Fi ecosystem throughout the entire urban area shows a great potential. These IoT implementations in smart cities not only help citizens, industries to grow, but also makes the environment safer to live in.

 Water Management:


Not to astonish, IoT can also be implemented for the water management, gas and electric utilities, with the devices called smart meters. Therefore, when cities connect with such devices to their smart system, the energy supply to the buildings can be distributed in a more efficient manner by the companies.

  • As we understand, how crucial is water for a living, hence the big cities emphasis on water conservation. With IoT sensor technology,  water utility companies can track water consumption, pressure, temperature and quality. Hence, when the companies and citizens have the hold over estimated data such as average water consumption per household, the comparison becomes easy, and effective measure can be taken accordingly.
  • Apart from this, the water leak detectors have become popular, they prevent serious water damage to households, and also allow water utility companies to detect and prevent water leakage.
  • The smart meters used in homes to helps to determine energy consumption, thus the monitoring plays an important role in financial management.

Smart Parking:


Based on the Internet-of-Things technology,  the efficiency of the current cloud-based smart-parking system can be easily achievable and helpful in developing a network architecture. This technology along with mobile application allow a user to automatically seek a free parking space at the minimum costing based on new performance metrics that tendency to calculate the user parking cost depending upon the distance and the total number of free places in each car park.

Moreover, the Smart Parking system to consist an on-site deployment of an IoT module, to perform different task to maintain and support smart parking, including signal monitoring, state of availability of each single parking space, book a parking slot and receive automatic suggestion solution.

Using this usual cost, focus on solution implementation structure can be made that helps in distribution or getting a parking space upon a request from the user and if the car park is full, automatic suggestion solution can be sent for a new car parking . The calculated data can help to improve the probability of successful smart parking and thus reduce the user waiting time.

Challenges in IoT Implementations


IoT Implementation sounds very interesting, however, execution of IoT is a complex process. As this is not a simple process and consists of different components, it requires proper research, adequate planning and lastly the important concern is huge budget. Each IoT components has their own challenges that can create mess if the implementation do not take place in an organized manner. To reduce the complexities and understand the successful implementation process, there is a great need to divide Internet of Things into five categories such as Standards, Networks, Sensors, Analysis and Actions.


Keeping the standard makes a lot of difference, which is also applicable to the data collected by the sensors in the IoT ecosystem. Well, the standards comprise data storing, processing and handling. Why this Standardization is important? Because this process increases the quality and value of the collected data.

It becomes easier to extract the accurate result, if the embedded system has big data access that is frequently updated and scaled. Further, the data compilation process involves numerous standards, and are more complicated as standards depend on the IoP application. The two important standards are namely, technology standards and regulatory standards. The former includes a data gathering and compiling process, and communication and network protocols, whereas the other includes security and data privacy.

All of above, the main challenge lies in structuring giant unstructured data and handling privacy issues for each data with regard to regulatory standards. IoT companies are failing to find proper plan, execute standard and maintain IoT systems in the market.


As we know, the IoT ecosystem has dozens of sensors, these communicate with the main server, and hence this data gets transmitted and carried over the network.  The entire communication is powered by different technologies ranging from Wi-Fi and Bluetooth to WiMAX and Long Term Evolution. Hence, network implementation is the most challenging aspect, comprising coverage, power consumption and security.


By the means of active and passive sensors, the data are being collected in the IoT ecosystems.

As the advancement of technology taking place so rapidly, IoT companies have access to a variety of small, smart and cheap sensors, but it also undergoes limitations like interoperability, security, privacy, exactness and power consumption.


What it refers to analysis in IoT? The process of inculcating data that are meaningful is know as analysis. Internet of Things companies depends on cognitive technologies in order to refine the information gathered from numerous sensors. And it would be impossible to analyse real-time streams of field-data without it. However, the question is, can we rely on this technology. In this concern,  we need to improve technology to process terabytes of undefined data.

While data analysis some commonly faced challenges are inability to manage a real-time data stream and restricted ability to analyse unstructured data. Hence, advanced cognitive technology are required to process varied forms of data streamed in real time.


The adoption rate of IoT is quite slow, which has emerged out to be one of the major limitation of this new technology. As we know, the machine action is unpredictable, and numerous security issues make it even more challenging. Furthermore, the custom tailored software that has the ability to compile and collect data from sensors comes expensive.

However, the two important factors which create an impact on the IoT ecosystem, are effective machine learning and low machine-hardware prices.


The adoption rate of IoT is gradually increasing, and the implementation in large urban area will automatically take extra time, effort and strategies to get on the right wheels. Further, huge funding is required, that is why governments across the globe are looking forward to introduce friendly platforms for startups that are working on developing IoT solutions for the execution of smart city needs.

With the increasing population, there is great need for smarter and more sustainable cities. The IoT advent had already marks its promising prospect to achieve the same.  Now, if you are also excited to bestow what the IoT future holds for us, get regular updates on