How IoT-powered Smart Cities can Help Fight Climate Change | by Sandeep Gundla | Medium


What are smart cities? Exciting to imagine that all urban cities would be converted to fully smart cities in the near future! Wonder what goes behind the functioning of smart cities and smart city technology? How do smart cities help in dealing with urbanization issues and challenges? What are the industrial IoT applications that help in building smart cities?

According to a report by Business Wire, the global smart cities market is forecasted to grow at a CAGR of around 20% during the forecasted period (2021–2026). A smart city also knows as a digital/intelligent city is a technologically advanced area, which uses Information and Communication technology to solve modern-day urbanization challenges. It aims for sustainable development by incorporating innovative technologies such as IoT, AI, and more that act as drivers in providing solutions that enable efficiency, automation of services, and optimal use of resources. One of the major benefits that smart cities focus on is the connectivity it comes with, not just among people but also connecting people and administration for efficient management. Countries all across the world are investing in smart cities. China currently has over 800 smart city programs deployed and Paris is planning to invest 100M euros into infrastructure to help facilitate the deployment of connected and autonomous vehicles Otonomo.

How IoT is helping build smart cities?

IoT plays a pivotal role in the development of smart cities. Smart cities involve dealing with tons of data that needs to be collected, analyzed, and put to best use. IoT is a part of ICT and according to a report by Ericsson, the ICT industry could help reduce greenhouse gas emissions by up to 63.5 gigatons, or 15%, across all industrial sectors by 2030. Internet of things for smart cities has very evident advantages and opportunities, some of which include:

Sustainable development Connected devices Smart infrastructure Advanced healthcare Environmental benefits Improved traffic management Energy conservation Waste/garbage control and more

All of these advantages also lead to a major gain for cities, that is reduction of costs. Increasing population is a major urbanization challenge that brings in further issues such as scarcity of resources, increased pollution, high levels of garbage, and so on. According to a report by the UN DESA, the urban population is forecasted to increase to 68.4% in 2050, globally. With more and more people shifting to cities, the need for the integration of smart technologies for sustained welfare is crucial. Thus, IoT and the benefits it gets along with it come to the rescue.

Role of IoT in addressing climate change

Climate change is caused by factors such as global warming, increasing emissions from various sources such as traffic, industries, greenhouse emissions due to human activities, and more. The adversity of climate change is threatening as it leads to increasing maximum and minimum temperatures, rising sea levels, melting of glaciers, and so on. These direct changes then lead to indirect adverse effects on living beings such as water and hunger crisis, loss of biodiversity which comes by not being adaptable to those adverse situations and unfit for survival in this soaring condition, rising temperatures causing health issues and damages, insect outbreaks, and many more.

IoT is playing a transformational and life-saving role when it comes to dealing with such issues that smart cities aim to tackle. According to NASA, humans have accounted for an increase in atmospheric CO2 concentration by 48% since the Industrial Revolution began. IoT-enabled applications are helping conserve energy, curb traffic congestions and facilitate better traffic management, which reduces Co2 emissions, and more. Some of the ways in which IoT is addressing climate change and also making the lives of people more convenient in general are:

The IoT-enabled smart meters are big-time energy-saving systems that help conserve energy, thereby also reducing pollution which is a win-win for climate change. These digitally powered tools help monitor real-time information and track energy usage. They also alert any defects in the power supply. Not only are they better for reducing costs and bills, but also help conserve energy and reduce wastage. The end goal of smart meters is to reduce carbon footprint, save water and electricity all of which can help reduce the adverse effects of climate change.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, transportation accounted for 29% of total greenhouse gas emissions which was also the largest contributor to the same. Efficient public transportation, possible with IoT applications that help connect and crowdsource people together, an alternative to private car usage is a very useful way to reduce emissions.

Electric cars can be a huge relief compared to the burning of fossil fuels in non-EV cars. IoT helps efficiently manage the battery charging systems of EVs by monitoring real-time data, the electric charge usage, increasing the charging speed, easy maintenance of charging equipment, and more, thereby making it more convenient for users to opt for EVs.

Smart manufacturing and smart factories that are driven by IoT, also aim to reduce energy waste and reduce industrial emissions. It helps improve energy efficiency and conservation.

Traffic management becomes more efficient with sensors that are technology-powered and can detect traffic congestions, energy-saving traffic lights, and efficient public transport systems in place. Smart mobility options also help reduce commuting times which makes the public prefer them and switch to these means which reduces emissions from private transport.

IoT-enables sensors also allow detection of the air quality and an increase in pollution levels can be addressed and resolved.

How to get the implementation right?

The initial step in the development of smart cities should be identifying the needs of the people in those regions and then partnering with technological vendors who can provide such services. Athens was able to successfully create a smart city project by partnering with Microsoft Forbes. Smart cities involve effort from the government, private sector companies, and finally the people who need to be cooperative and install smart systems at home and workplace. The governments of most developed and developing countries are continually investing in the smart city market. Moreover, the private sector business leaders should identify this as an opportunity to capitalize on building and providing services that facilitate the provision of smart cities. Smart cities development and entrepreneurship can be interlinked and benefit from each other. Enterprises trying to come up with solutions and equipment to support the smart city infrastructure not only benefit themselves but act as a catalyst in smart city development.

The basic smart city modeling and implementation can be narrowed down to a 6-step approach. This refers to a 6 step modeling for incorporating IoT architecture into a smart city. At each step of this approach business leaders can find opportunities to leverage and come out with newer possibilities.

Smart cities focus not only on energy conservation but also help a lot with tightening security systems, accident protection (traffic), and in general provide a more convenient lifestyle. Smart security cameras for example, with the help of IoT, connect with our smart device and make it easier to stay updated on the happenings at home and workplace and give us more control over that. Possibilities in improving the battery life, ability to take more actions remotely, etc. can be leveraged by business leaders.

According to a report by Business Wire, the global market for Smart Electricity Meters is expected to reach US$ 16.4 billion by the year 2027. Multiple players in this market are providing smart electricity meters that provide two-way communication between people and service providers and enable power conservation and reduce wastage. Companies such as Honeywell International, Abb Ltd., Schneider Electric, Inc., ZPA Smart Energy a.s. and more, and some major players in the market. These energy-saving companies help install and suggest energy-saving plans to consumers and use IoT-based apps for the exchange of information.

These companies can also leverage and optimize further opportunities that can attract users to shift to smart meters and smart homes. In 2019, only 35% of UK homes had smart meters installed Energy Saving Trust. Since the world is moving towards adopting smart meters, the potential for business leaders to invest in building them is still high.

Smart elevators also help conserve energy and the market is expected to grow by $ 5.14 bn during 2021–2025, at a CAGR of 8.14% Business Wire.

Smart manufacturing/factory implementation is carried out by incorporating technologies such as IoT, AI, and more and a strategy in place to make the best out of it. ABB, Honeywell, Siemens, Emerson, Rockwell Yokogawa, and Schneider are some major players that help provide smart factory equipment.

The basic implementation is carried out by professionals of providers of smart products and services. The key is for governments and the public to partner or hire these companies to carry out the implementation and set up, and for the business leaders to also identify further needs and possibilities to improve and capitalize on them and make the implementation more efficient and effortless. The biggest advantage for people is the convenience smart cities and infrastructure brings in. You can check out our IoT landscape report 2021, which gives valuable insights on IoT security, the right approach to building IoT solutions, and the results one can expect from IoT implementations.

What results can we expect?

Since smart meters help reduce bills, it provides users a further personal advantage to opt for them. Some smart meters are capable of showing how much Co2 emissions are causing and thus keep the carbon footprint in check. The information being collected by the sensors at traffic lights etc. can be put to best use to divert, and mitigate traffic in heavy traffic areas, know the number of cars passing through a particular area every single day to check the emissions rates in check, figure out the need for public transport in certain areas and so on. The smart sensors capture the traffic information in an area and then reset the traffic lights to divert and ease heavily-trafficked areas.

Ericsson’s smart factory in Texas is now 25% more energy efficient. Thus, smart factories have the potential to save a reasonably good margin of energy and reduce emissions that can curb the industrial GHG pollution rates. It not only saves energy but also saves costs and expenditures for business owners. The enormous amounts of data that is collected then, in turn, can be used by companies to figure out what gaps are not being filled and come up with newer innovations and products that help the more lines of business for the enterprise and added revenue and also enhance and fasten the smart city adoption. This can help generate new customer demands and cater to them. The energy consumption data, that is received from IoT sensors can allow room for analyzing how to further reduce the current energy usage even more and can be applied not just to homes, but malls, public places, offices, industries, and so on. Smart homes use what are called smart thermostats that send in information about energy use and are a great tool for saving energy.

The more value enterprises can provide to users with the installation of smart devices, the more drawn people are to have them, the more the environment is benefitted and the economy and surroundings become even more sustainable. According to Statista, technology spending on smart city initiatives is forecasted to increase from 81 billion dollars to 189.5 billion dollars from 2018 to 2023, which is almost double in terms of growth and clearly, the expansion and scope of such initiatives are vast and something to look forward to.