Publications & Media

How can IoT turn cities into smart cities?

Smart cities use digital technology to improve public safety, energy efficiency, sustainability, and overall quality of life.

They use IoT (Internet of Things) devices such as connected sensors, lights, and meters, to collect and analyse real-time data.

City administrators can then use this precise data to carry out initiatives like improving infrastructure, public utilities, and services.

By utilising the power of IoT, ordinary cities are turning into smart cities around the world.

Today’s city planners are working to incorporate big data applications, 5G networks, sophisticated security systems and more to transform citizens’ lives and work. These complex, ever-evolving systems promise a new generation of efficient, safe and environmentally friendly urban spaces.

What is a smart city?

According to McKinsey, “Smart cities put data and digital technology to work to make better decisions and improve the quality of life. More comprehensive, real-time data gives agencies the ability to watch events as they unfold, understand how demand patterns are changing, and respond with faster and lower-cost solutions.

TWI Global goes on to say that, “A smart city uses information and communication technology (ICT) to improve operational efficiency, share information with the public and provide a better quality of government service and citizen welfare.

In essence, smart cities are helping to improve key quality of life indicators – the cost of living, safety, time, jobs, connectedness, environment, and health.

The power of IoT

Out of all the recent technological advances, IoT undoubtedly has the most substantial impact on the development of cities. IoT is revolutionising life, helping us to move confidently towards a necessary technological revolution.

As the adoption of the smart city concept grows, the use of massive volumes of IoT devices and sensors to monitor and control every aspect of city operations and functionality will expand.

Massive IoT deployments include anywhere from hundreds to millions of IoT devices, with the primary goal of transmitting and consuming small amounts of data from many sources.

The challenge will be building, deploying, operating and maintaining the devices with physical, software and service components that offer scalability, security, low power and low cost to handle the expansion of coverage and functionality scope of the deployment.

Harnessing big data to power smart cities

The opportunity to use big data to inform better, more efficient operations in smart cities is enormous, but only if that data can be effectively collected and analysed to drive those improvements. Efficient orchestration is critical to transferring and processing vast amounts of data from a wide and growing array of devices.

Smart city IoT applications and use cases

Smart city devices work to make everyday tasks easier and more efficient while relieving pain points related to public safety, traffic, and environmental issues. Here are some of the most popular smart city technologies that utilize the power of the IoT:

Better traffic management

As infrastructure has failed to keep up with overpopulation and the rate of urban growth, smart city innovators were challenged to develop solutions for severe traffic congestion and an increase in road accidents.

These solutions aim to improve safety and reduce traffic congestion by utilising IoT connected vehicles and smart parking solutions.

Sensors collect real-time data that can be shared with both drivers and local authorities, triggering alerts when there are traffic issues and providing useful information regarding parking availability and the best routes to take at any given time.

Smart cities that utilise IoT technologies can help to drastically reduce traffic congestion as well as reducing the number of road accidents.

Smart transportation

Linked to better traffic management is the increase in connected vehicles and the rise of the smart transportation sector.

Connected vehicles have made their way to the forefront of public transit—and the efforts have already started to bear fruit. Business Insider Intelligence projects US connected cars will make up 97% of the total number of registered vehicles by 2035.

Specifically, voice search and location data capabilities are attractive to drivers, and as smart applications continue to evolve and grow, so will the adoption of smart transit.

Of course, smart transportation covers a much broader range of solutions than connected vehicles. At NEC, we are leading the way with smart transportation solutions and you can read more in some of our recent articles below.

Related articles

Smart waste management

Improving waste management is an essential part of the smart city initiative. Data-orchestrated IoT-enabled solutions help organisations gather and monitor critical infrastructure data to prevent system failures and use predictive analytics to optimise resource use.

For large cities, waste management is costly, inefficient, and often a cause of traffic build-up. Smart waste management solutions use IoT technology to optimise the efficiency of waste collection, decrease operation costs, and reduce rubbish overflow and pollution on the streets.

Solar-powered smart bins are equipped with a level sensor, which communicates numerous times a day with smart city management software, allowing waste management companies to plan the best waste pick-up route, avoiding the clearance of unfilled bins and the possibility of litter overflow.

Smart waste management transforms cities by reducing the consumption of fossil fuels, air pollution, and traffic congestion, resulting in a healthier life for us and the planet.

Public transport solutions

Smart cities are also focused on improving the public transport network in a bid to reduce traffic congestion and parking in densely populated urban areas.

This brings about a number of benefits. It is easier for people to get around and it is more environmentally sustainable.

From ride-sharing to last-mile solutions such as smart bikes and scooters to communication systems that let passengers know when and where they can catch a ride, IoT enables smart city public transportation solutions that are easier and more convenient.

Improved public safety

Not only do IoT devices keep people safe on the roads, but they can also improve public safety by making it easier for emergency services to respond to incidents.

IoT networks allow officials to monitor real-time data through sensors and cameras, improving their ability to react quickly in the event of an emergency.

The cloud-based nature of IoT devices means that police, fire, and medical personnel will all have access to the same data, greatly improving communication, response times and ultimately saving lives.

In addition, other IoT connected solutions such as smart street lighting can also help to improve public safety, whilst reducing power usage and maintenance costs. Smart lighting systems help municipalities conserve energy and improve safety through usage monitoring, adaptive lighting settings and real-time data analytics.

Smart city examples

Europe leads the way when it comes to the rollout of smart city initiatives. The EU has been proactive in encouraging its member nations to develop smart cities, with funds allocated to help the development and growth of smart cities throughout Europe.

Whilst the US is lagging behind, despite being one of the most urbanized regions in the world, there are still some exciting smart city solutions being rolled out across the country, specifically relating to public safety and traffic.

In Asia, countries like South Korea and China are already utilising IoT powered smart city solutions to help to reduce traffic congestion and reduce emissions.

Here are some examples from around the world.


In 2014 Westminster, London deployed a smart parking project, SmartPark, that allows drivers to quickly locate parking spaces and remove the need for lengthy searches for an open spot. This, in turn, alleviates urban traffic congestion. 

Learn more about Westminster’s SmartPark project. 


Copenhagen is trying to become the first carbon-neutral smart city by 2025. Its Nordhavn district uses heating and smart-grid integration to show how electricity and heat, energy-efficient buildings, and electric transport can be integrated into one energy system. 

Learn more about Copenhagen’s EnergyLab Nordhavn.

South Korea

In South Korea, Blue Signal rolled out their AI-driven traffic prediction solution which incorporates adaptive traffic signals with a host of other data including driving speeds, risks and congestion to help predict traffic conditions for drivers, allowing them to make informed decisions and to adapt quickly.

Learn more about Blue Signal’s traffic prediction solution.

Portland, Oregon

In Portland, Oregon, the local authority is working with a startup out of Pittsburgh called Rapid Flow to avoid pedestrian accidents with an AI-powered system that automatically optimises traffic conditions. This system will be able to communicate with neighbouring intersections and any connected smart vehicles nearby.

Learn more about Portland’s Rapid Flow solution.


In Oslo, city planners are currently building 27 miles of cycling road in an aim to reduce emissions, banning cars from the city centre. As part of the same project, they removed parking spaces equivalent to 4,250 cars from its streets, installed around 500 speed humps, and lowered speed limits in a bid to improve overall road safety in the city.

Learn more about Oslo’s smart city bike lanes.

San Francisco

San Francisco implemented a pilot program, the Smart Traffic Signals Pilot, that will explore the use of Multimodal Intelligent Traffic Signal Systems, Dedicated Short Range Communication, Transit Signal Priority, and Emergency Vehicle Pre-emption technology to improve safety, reduce collisions, and decrease emergency vehicle response times.

Learn more about San Francisco’s Smart Traffic Signals Pilot. 


Cities around the world are investing in smart parking solutions in a bid to ease the issues associated with finding a parking space. Singapore, which is aiming to be the world’s first ‘smart nation’, has deployed the use of sensors around the city to accumulate and monitor large amounts of data, which they are using to improve parking, traffic and cleanliness.

Read more about Singapore’s smart city solutions.


In late 2020, SPARK partnered with Auckland Transport to install an IoT-enabled infrastructure in the Wynyard Quarter which included smart city applications including connected lighting, smart parking, smart benches, and smart bins.

SPARK’s deployment of 5G in downtown Auckland enabled the implementation of these smart city technologies and the deployment in the Wynyard Quarter is a demonstration of what the future could look like for the city’s wider central business district.

Read more about Auckland’s smart city solutions.


The potential of smart cities is nearly limitless, and the growth of these cities should only accelerate in the coming years. IoT is one of the many factors contributing to the exponential growth of the technology that is helping to power smart cities.

Here at NEC New Zealand, we recently signed a long-term agreement with Environment Canterbury and the Christchurch City Council to evolve the current bus network into a smart transportation network. It is initiatives like this that put transportation at the heart of smart growth for a modern city.

Many of these smart transport solutions are powered by the Internet of Things (IoT) which is allowing for the collection and analysis of huge amounts of data which can then be utilised to improve transportation networks and implement smart solutions for travellers and pedestrians alike.


Contact our experts today


Contact Us

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.