What Makes Smart Cities Smart?

May 3, 2020


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Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, many cities around the globe were striving to become as “smart” as possible. The current global health crisis is accelerating the rise of the smart city.

What Exactly is a City?

A smart city is an infrastructure composed of Information and Communication Technologies, ICT, developed to utilize data in a sustainable manner to deal with the challenges of modern cities.

The ICT framework runs on a network of IoT sensors that transfer data from a very wide range of domains to the cloud, where it can be analyzed in real time to make the city run more efficiently¾saving time, money, natural resources, and even the lives of the city’s inhabitants. [1]

What Components of the City are Included in a Smart City’s Infrastructure?

We are using technology today not just to make life easier and more advanced, but to bring about a healthier world, preserve our resources today and in the future. “Smart city” infrastructures encompass all aspects of public urban life, including traffic, buildings, utilities, and management of the environment.


Many of the needs that cities must address intersect and overlap with each other. For example, traffic congestion is a major headache for almost every large city around the world. Pollution and especially CO2 emissions are also major concerns. With 14,000,000 inhabitants, London is the largest city in Europe. Today London leverages IoT-based smart city technologies to identify and block off overly congested areas, as well as areas that are high in CO2 emissions. Diverting traffic to less congested routes saves time, fuel, and lower the city’s carbon dioxide levels.

Copenhagen also uses IoT technology to help with congestion. The city has implemented bus and bicycle lanes to cut down on the number of cars on the road and has given these alternative transportation lanes priority in terms of traffic lights. As a result, people that travel by bike or public transportation save an average of 17% in travel time compared to people who drive their cars. [2]


The first that comes to mind when thinking of a large city is the skyline of imposing buildings. Temperature control and fire protection in these large structures can be major resource guzzlers. Although thermostats have been in use for one hundred years, it is estimated that two thirds of a building’s occupants do not set the thermostat, but rather turn off the heating when too warm or turn off the cooling when too cold. IoT technology can automate optimized temperature control on a room by room basis. The city of Singapore claims to have reduced their energy consumption by 35% since implementing a smart IoT solution for their Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning (HVAC) needs. [3]


Utilities are where a city can save the most money with smart technology. Sensors can now measure the quality of our tap water as well as quickly and precisely report detected leaks and their location to the correct resource in order to reduce wastage. Smart lampposts dim and brighten automatically depending on the time of day and weather conditions, and smart grids dynamically allocate electricity to where they are needed to avoid surges and blackouts.

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Public Good

From networks of cameras to deter local crime or to share community events, IoT has made communities safer and more tightly knit. Having the ability to monitor movement has been a major tool in fighting the COVID-19 virus. With the vast majority of households having at least one smartphone, cities are able to provide service and emergency help in real time not only at the district and neighborhood level, but at the individual level.

New York City—A Very Smart City

In 2016 Mayor Bill de Blasio started a program to make New York what he called “a smart and equitable city.” Since then New York has been at the forefront in the US of modernizing its smart infrastructure and their smart projects have been a real boon to the city residents. The Mayor’s Office of Technology and Innovation, MOIT, has overhauled the city’s ability to manage electricity usage, water quality and usage, waste management, and air pollution.

Just the transition to dimmable LED lightbulbs that use IoT sensors to respond to ambient light conditions saves the city hundreds of thousands of dollars a year, as well as hundreds of tons of greenhouse gas emissions.

New York City consumes one billion gallons of water a day. By changing over to smart water metering, the city is saving almost $75,000,000 on its water expenditures annually.

New York also has an innovative smart waste management device called “BigBelly” to help deal with the 10,500 tons of trash collected each and every day. The BigBelly trash bins are equipped with wireless sensors that report when it needs to be emptied. In addition, these dumpsters have a solar powered trash compactor, which enables them to hold up to five times more trash than regular dumpsters.

The city has also inaugurated automatically illuminated bicycle paths, pollution measuring devices, and central temperature control in public buildings—all made possible by IoT technology. [4]

The Final Note

As we contend with pandemic disease, climate change, drought and what seems at times an endless list of plagues, it is reassuring to see that the old adage “Necessity is the Mother of Invention” is still true.

Modern technology, especially in the field of IoT, is bringing us closer to sustaining the balance between our need for these resources and their usage. IoT is making our world a better place to live and we at Arad are proud to be at the forefront of this smart technology revolution.


[1] Gemalto, Secure, Sustainable Smart Cities and the IoT, February 13, 2020
[2] Guest Writer, What makes a Smart City in 2019, February 5, 2019
[3] Senseware, The Future of HVAC Lies in AI and IoT, November 6, 2018
[4] Michael Tobias, How New York City is Becoming a Smart City, 2019


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