Smart City Mobility

Smart cities, mobility, and the road in between

Smart City Technologies: Role and Applications of Big Data and IoT

Smart cities around the world are implementing initiatives to promote greener and safer urban environments, with cleaner air and water, better mobility, and efficient public services. These initiatives are supported by technologies like the Internet of Things (IoT) and big data analytics, that form the base of the smart city model.

In this article you'll learn about:

What Makes a City Smart

Smart cities leverage technology solutions to improve city services and the living experience of residents. Municipalities use IoT sensors, networks, and applications to gather relevant data, such as traffic congestion, energy usage, and air quality.

This data can then be used by technological solutions to improve city services, including utilities, transportation, and public services.

Major Smart City Technologies

Cities around the world are becoming smarter. They are implementing initiatives to promote greener and safer urban environments, with cleaner air and water, better mobility, and efficient public services. These initiatives are supported by smart technologies, such as the Internet of Things (IoT) and Information and Communication Technology (ICT) that provide the technical framework to implement smart city projects.

Big Data and IoT in Smart Cities

IoT is an essential technology without which smart city initiatives cannot exist. The “things” of the IoT━devices, sensors, applications━collect the data that enables the technology solutions to be effective. For example, smart water meters reporting water quality and usage, alerting the water company of leaks, or potential contamination.

That said, smart city initiatives need big data analytics to function. The IoT generates huge datasets that must be analyzed and processed to implement smart city services. Big data platforms, part of the city ICT infrastructure, have to sort, analyze, and process the data gathered from the IoT.

City governance integrates ICT solutions to interconnect public services, at the same time engaging communities in local governance, thus promoting cooperation. One example of this is the Greater London Authority initiative, where city hall is using an open, common platform to share data with local communities.

Examples of application of IoT in smart cities include:

  • City lighting: cities such as London and Quebec are installing smart street lighting. The intelligent street lights function as wifi hotspots, come equipped with a surveillance camera, charging outlets for electric cars and phones, and even measure the air quality. This multitasking street light works as a sensor and an actuator, providing services that better the quality of life of the residents while collecting important data about the environment.
  • Waste management: cities are applying technologic solutions to achieve a cleaner environment and reduce waste. For example, Songdo district in South Korea is reducing noise pollution eliminating garbage trucks altogether. Buildings have a smart garbage collection station where residents dispose of the trash bags, separated by organic and combustible. The station is equipped with sensors that detect when is full. The trash is automatically sent through high- pressure pipes straight to the recycling center.
  • Connected public transport: sensors in public transportation send traffic data to the city transportation management software. They tell you in real-time how long you have to wait for the bus or train, alerting the system traffic congestion or delays.


Sensors are at the core of every device in the IoT system. From connected cars to traffic lights and smart homes, almost every device today has sensors that gather and send data to the cloud. This interconnectivity is what makes possible the Internet of Things system.

For example, proximity sensors make possible the development of automated vehicle systems. Smart cities use sensors to measure a myriad of values from traffic congestion to pollution levels, water quality, and energy usage.

5G Connectivity

Smart city technologies require connectivity to work. 5G cells provide urban areas with a strong connection between millions of devices and sensors, enabling the IoT to work efficiently. Therefore, cities like London are installing 5G cells across the city, using drones to identify available spaces.

Geospatial Technology

Urban planning requires geolocation accuracy and detailed geographic data. Smart cities rely on technologies such as Global Positioning System (GPS) for transportation management and connected vehicles. The Geographical Information System (GIS) helps city planners to build an urban digital model with georeferenced data.

This enables building engineers, for example, to determine the best route for bicycle lanes or where to locate multimodal transport stations. In the case of new cities such as Belmont, USA, city planners use geospatial technologies to design residential and urban areas in a way that promotes walking commuting.  


Robots left sci-fi movies to become part of everyday life. The integration of robotics aims to improve city operations, such as using drones for postal services. Cities such as Dubai, Singapore, and Tokyo are at the forefront of this trend, introducing humanoids for services such as room service in hotels, surveillance and to attend the information desk at public offices.  

For example, visitors to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics are going to get help to communicate in Japanese from humanoid robotic translators. Meanwhile, in Dubai,  Robocop is not a fantasy anymore, since the city is testing humanoid police officers with the intention to replace 25 percent of their police force by 2030.

The Role of Big Data in Smart City Projects

Smart cities are by definition, data-driven. Big data and analytics play an important role in city management, with many a city having now a Chief Data Officer in the administration. The combination of big data analysis and smart city solutions help cities improve the management in critical segments such as:

Big Data for Smart City Energy

Major cities are experiencing the challenge of managing power usage efficiently. The implementation of smart grids allows city officers to analyze the power consumption in real-time. Using data analytics, they can predict periods of heavy usage and plan the energy distribution accordingly. Solar energy plants can install smart sensors to check the panels for maintenance.

Big Data for Smart City Transportation

A smart transport infrastructure uses big data and IoT technologies to provide residents with access to faster and safer travel across the city. At the same time, it gives city authorities data about traffic flow allowing them to manage the transit efficiently.

Usually, a smart city transportation system consists of an Intelligent Transportation Network (ITN). The network usually includes:

  • A transportation management system: that optimizes the traffic flow of public transportation. Ideally, the system should include all mobility options, including micro-mobility and sharing transportation modes.
  • A vehicle control system: that ensures safety and prevents accidents by monitoring and alerting about road conditions.
  • An electronic timetable and route information system—mostly in the form of real-time displays at bus stops and train stations. This, combined with a mobility application, informs consumers of the available transportation options and the conditions of the routes.
  • A single rechargeable fare card: to travel using all available public transport options. An example of this is the Oyster card in London.

Big Data for Smart City Infrastructure

Smart cities share one characteristic, all use sensor data to improve city management. Big data can help cities to monitor and manage urban issues such as waste disposal, transportation, and saving resources. To do that, the city needs to install sensors in the infrastructure, retrofitting or replacing outdated infrastructure when necessary.

To transform a city infrastructure in “smart”, the city manager should develop three layers of “smartness” as follows:

  1. The tech base include networks of sensors and connected devices who gather data
  2. The second layer consists of the deployment of smart applications that process the raw data, translating it into alerts, insight, and actions.
  3. The third layer involves widely adopting the system by the residents.

Benefits of Smart City Solutions

According to this Mckinsey Global Institute report, for a city to be smart, it should use technology and data with the purpose of delivering a better quality of life. What consists of quality of life? While this is a subjective matter, most city residents agree that a good quality of life should include improvement in the following areas:

Public Safety

Applications using real-time crime mapping, for example, use statistical analysis to detect crime patterns and identify problematic zones, predicting the incidence of crime. This allows police forces to reinforce security in these areas. One example was the trial of HunchLab, a predictive technology solution in New York City which significantly lowered crime.

Faster Commutes

For most city residents, improving the daily commuting time is basic for a good quality of life. Cities that have smart-mobility applications in place can reduce commuting time by as much as 20 percent on average. Multimodal mobility solutions allow passengers to choose between all available transportation options. This results in lower car usage since residents can opt for the transportation mode that better suits them at the moment.

Economic Prosperity

Smart cities tend to attract technology companies and talent. This, in turn, attracts venture capital to the cities. Cities like London and New York have received an influx of investment capital thanks to their smart initiatives.

Greener Environment

Environmental concerns are at the core of every smart city strategy. Smart cities aim to reduce pollution and emissions, through smart urban planning and transportation management. When people walk and use multimodal mobility, the result is fewer cars on the streets, reducing emissions. Smart cities are also characterized by the smart management of their resources.

The Bottom Line

Smart city technologies and applications help cities to change into a greener, safer, and effectively planned urban environment. It is no surprise then, that the smart city model is proving successful with over 50 smart cities around the world using smart technologies to improve the quality of life of its residents.

With more planned smart cities sprouting from America to Asia, the technologies that form the basis of the model will continue to evolve, with the technology industry developing newer applications and solutions for building the cities of the future.

Learn More About Smart City Technology

There’s a lot more to learn about smart city technology. To continue your research, take a look at the rest of our blogs on this topic:

Smart City Mobility: 7 Major Cities Getting It Right

Many cities around the world have already started solving their transportation problems by embracing mobility-related innovations. These are municipal “operating systems” that collect data from across the city and enable smarter city management and communication between city government and citizens.

Read more: Smart City Mobility: 7 Major Cities Getting It Right 

Smart Cities, Smart Villages, and Everything in Between

Some smart city initiatives involve major investments in infrastructure such as sensors and data platforms. But smart city principles can also be implemented by simpler means, such as mobile applications and sustainable energy innovations. This article explains how to harness new technologies to improve the quality of life and make smart city technology successful in residential areas large and small.

Read more: Smart Cities, Smart Villages, And Everything In Between

Smart Urban Mobility: A Quick Start Guide

As city populations explode and private car ownership soars, city transport is unsustainable, not just from an environmental perspective. Quality of life and economic growth will also be severely hurt if current trends continue.

Forward-looking cities are learning about and actively implementing smart mobility solutions. These might take the form of smart transport infrastructure, mobile apps, and digital services that allow more efficient use of existing transport methods, and completely new transport methods like autonomous vehicles.

Read more: Smart Urban Mobility: A Quick Start Guide

How to Build a Smart City Transport System in 3 Phases

Transport in smart cities can make a big difference in the way people commute in dense urban areas and can help municipalities save costs, provide better service to citizens, and better manage safety and security.

Smart city transport uses electronic, wireless, and Internet technologies to provide access to smarter, safer, and faster travel between two points in a large city, and provide richer information and greater control over traffic flows for city authorities. 

Read more: How To Build A Smart City Transport System In 3 Phases

Big Data for Smart Cities: The Lifeblood of Smart City Services

Smart city initiatives are dependent on big data. Internet of Things (IoT) infrastructure creates massive data streams that must be tamed, analyzed, and harnessed to create smart city services. Big data platforms, shared by city officials, the private sector, and citizens, help cities transform data into insights that can improve quality of life.

This article explains how big data is used in smart city projects and helping cities provide new services and improve quality of life.

Read more: Big Data For Smart Cities: The Lifeblood Of Smart City Services

What Mobility as a Service Means for Consumers, Cities, and Transport Providers

Mobility as a Service (MaaS) solutions integrate all stages of the journey of a commuter, including booking, trip planning, e-tickets, and payments. MaaS solutions offer a user-friendly application that enables commuters to travel via train, bus, and taxi.

MaaS systems include a mobile app, which acts as the front-end, big data infrastructure that collects data from travelers and uses it to optimize services, and physical devices including the Internet of Things (IoT), Connected Vehicles (CVs) and Autonomous Vehicles (AVs).

Read more: What Mobility As A Service Means For Consumers, Cities And Transport Providers

Smart City Bike Services: Economic, Environmental and Societal Impacts

A bike-sharing system is a service that enables you to rent bicycles for short periods of time. Some services are free, some are paid, and most provide apps that map out a network of bikes located throughout the city. Some bike-sharing companies reimburse the city for the space that their bikes occupy. Bike-sharing systems can use docking stations, or they can be dockless.

Read more: Smart City Bike Services: Economic, Environmental And Societal Impacts

Smart City Car: Connected, Intelligent, Integrated

The combination of connected cars and advanced traffic management systems in smart cities create a seamless driving experience for commuters. Connected cars collect and share real-time data about roads, pedestrians, surrounding vehicles, and cyclists. Smart cities can use this information to provide citizens with improved transportation services, such as efficient incident response, traffic optimization, and re-routing.

Read more: Smart City Car: Connected, Intelligent, Integrated

Smart City Location and Geospatial Technology

Geospatial technologies help cities with a variety of applications, from finding the fastest route to pinpointing the exact location of an emergency call. Geospatial technologies gather data in a simple manner that improves health care, law enforcement, and government efficiency.  This article explains how smart location technologies work, and how they can benefit smart cities.

Read more: Smart City Location And Geospatial Technology

Smart Transportation: Benefits and Real Life Examples

Smart transportation is one of the main ways smart cities are improving the daily lives of citizens and improving sustainability. One of the main goals of smart transport systems is to reduce the reliance on private cars, make private transport more attractive, and incentivize city residents and visitors to switch from private to public transport.

Read more: Smart Transportation: Benefits and Real Life Examples

When Time Is Money: Impacts of the Congestion Charge

Congestion charges are taxes imposed on drivers depending on their vehicles aimed at reducing traffic and discouraging the use of certain cars. This is typically in the form of a daily fee applied to those who drive in certain areas, usually imposed during the workweek when traffic is most problematic.  Discover how the congestion charge works, the pros and cons of applying it in cities, and the positive results achieved by cities that have.

Read more: When Time Is Money: Impacts of the Congestion Charge

See Our Additional Guides on Key Mobility Topics:

We have authored in-depth guides on several other mobility topics that can also be useful as you explore the world of smart mobility.

Smart City Initiatives Guide

Learn about the growing trend of smart city projects, including new urban developments and initiatives to retrofit IoT and ICT solutions into existing cities.

See top articles in our smart city initiatives guide:

Smart Mobility Guide

Smart mobility is the reorganization of new and existing transport methods to reduce fatalities, reduce congestion and pollution, and improve the urban economy.

See top articles in our smart city initiatives guide:

Smart Transport Guide

The smart transport revolution is taking the world by storm. This guide focuses on the technologies from autonomous cars to smart roads that take traditional aspects of transportation and make them smart.

See top articles in our smart transport guide:

Travel API Guide

Learn about travel APIs that can assist travelers in planning and booking their trip—Global Distribution Systems, flight APIs, hotel APIs, and car rental APIs.

See top articles in our travel API guide:

Travel Technology Guide

Travelers are no longer willing to tolerate long lines at the airport or rely on paper travel guides. They want travel to be as easy as any other modern service. Travel providers understand this and are working to make travel a seamless digital experience, allowing customers to explore and book travel at any time using any device.

See top articles in our travel technology guide: