Navigant Research Blog

How the IoT and Big Data Make Cities More Efficient

Ryan Citron — September 8, 2017

The delivery of city services is being transformed by smart technologies that are providing city managers with new insights into operational performance and providing platforms for new forms of personalized and responsive services. Central to this transformation is the availability of real-time data from a growing range of intelligent devices that can monitor city operations. Sensors, communications networks, and the real-time data cities collect can enable more intelligent, efficient, sustainable, and interactive public services. The new technologies are helping cities make the most of limited budgets while adding additional value to the services provided to their communities. These innovations have the potential to drive a revolutionary change in the way city services are delivered in term of the quality, efficiency, and responsiveness of services.

Digital Technologies and City Services

Examples of how digital technologies are changing the way city services are provided can be found across a variety of key sectors:

  • Transportation: Real-time data collected from sensors and other devices can optimize connections between modes of transport for faster travel times, reduce the costs of operation, and increase convenience through improved information services for users on parking and transit availability in cities. Real-time data on traffic and transit services is providing new tools to city managers for both operation optimization and the delivery of new services to users. In Helsinki, for example, the bus service operator Helsingin Bussiliikenne Oy (HelB) worked with CGI to use improve its competitiveness through the use of sensors and data analytics on service performance.
  • Waste: Waste collection in cities is being transformed through the use of sensor technologies to improve collection. Companies like Enevo are providing real-time data and predictive analytics on the fullness of waste bins, enabling optimization of the collection process. These technological advances address the inefficiency of traditional waste collection, which is carried out by emptying containers according to predefined schedules and routes that are repeated at a set frequency.
  • Water: Droughts and population growth around the world have made water an increasingly important issue for cities. Intelligent devices, communications networks, and advanced IT systems are helping the water industry transform the way they deliver water services for cities. Veolia, for example, is working with the City of Lille, France to transform its water infrastructure. Working in partnership with the city, it deployed 1,000 sensors across the water network to identify leaks, as well as water meters and probes to test water quality.

Innovative Smart City Projects

The smart city market continues to expand, as city leaders across the globe are heralding innovative projects and laying out a vision for how cities can use technology to meet sustainability goals, boost local economies, and improve services. The importance of smart cities is being recognized at national level, as well. Canada is the most recent country to launch a national program, joining a list that includes Australia, the United States, China, India, Japan, Singapore, South Korea, and the United Kingdom. The Canadian federal government announced in early 2017 the launch of a Smart Cities Challenge Fund, proposing $300 million over 11 years for Infrastructure Canada to implement the program.

Intelligent Cities Summit

The myriad of ways in which this funding can utilize the power of big data and the Internet of Things (IoT) to deliver improved services in Canadian cities will be discussed at the upcoming Intelligent Cities Summit in Toronto (October 24-25). The conference speaker lineup features C-level municipal executives from cities such as Toronto, Vancouver, and Calgary, among others. See the conference website to download the brochure and register for the summit.

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