How IoT Is Powering Smart Cities

6 min read

Smart cities can create a utopia of smooth infrastructure and upgraded efficiency, improving the quality of life in urban areas and boosting local economies. Its impacts are so meaningful that the revenue from smart city infrastructure is forecast to generate over 100 billion dollars by 2024.

From improving public transport to addressing crime and advancing energy efficiency – you name it; smart cities can do it. The Internet of Things sits at the heart of smart city technology and powers many of these projects. In this article, we will explore the role of IoT in smart cities and its various (and highly impressive) applications. 

What is a smart city?

Smart cities are cities where digital solutions, such as IoT technology, optimize multiple forms of infrastructure. They use connected devices such as lights, meters, sensors, and other technology to collect and analyze data using wireless and cloud technology in real time. 

This data is used to make decisions that improve public infrastructure, services, public transport, public utilities, and more. Citizens can actively engage with some of this technology using connected devices such as smartphones or other mobile devices, connected cars, and smart homes.


Some examples of smart city applications include:

  • Smart home utilities – such as water, gaz, energy smart metering to enable citizens to control and lower consumption and allow utility companies to balance supply and demand 

  • Environmental Well-being through monitoring the environmental conditions e.g. water conditions that might be harmful to human beings. 

  • Enhancing public safety using real-time monitoring – Sensors and CCTV cameras are deployed throughout the city and data from them is combined to predict the crime scenes

  • Smart Transportation – Connected vehicles that communicate with parking meters, charging docks that direct electric car drivers to the closest empty spot, car sharing, smart biles and more

  • Street lighting – Connected traffic lights that receive sensor data can adjust light cadence and timing to respond to traffic in real-time and reduce congestion.

What is the role of IoT in smart cities?

Smart technology optimizes urban life, including mobility, infrastructure, utilities, and municipal and public services. IoT technology is the backbone of smart cities, making achieving these goals possible by sharing information across devices that can be used to improve city-wide infrastructure and functionalities.

IoT sensors play a central role in most smart city technologies, such as:

  • Humidity sensors – used to adjust heating systems automatically or predict the weather.

  • Pressure sensors – used to detect changes in the water system.

  • Proximity sensors – used to optimize parking lots or implement traffic management solutions. 

Which IoT technologies are best for smart cities?

While IoT has various applications, some solutions address specific needs. For example, WiFi and Bluetooth are more effective at a smaller scale or even for private use, such as smart home appliances or wearables such as fitness trackers and heart monitors. 

Smart cities require technologies designed to address municipal needs, which are generally at a larger scale than even the largest enterprises. Addressing these needs means that technologies must meet specific requirements, including high-range and low-energy.


Smart city sensors are spread across a larger surface area and often can’t be accessed quickly, making regular maintenance such as battery changes impractical. They also serve a large group of people, increasing the stakes of the potential fallout from a device losing power or connectivity. If a home device loses power, replacing the battery is easy, and only a few individuals are affected. But smart city devices potentially impact the lives of millions of people.

With these considerations in mind, here are some IoT technologies ideal for smart city use:


LPWAN (Low Power Wide Area Network) is a category of technologies used explicitly in smart cities. LPWANs provide long-range communication powered by small, inexpensive batteries that can last for years. Built to support large-scale IoT networks across vast spaces, LPWANs can connect to all types of IoT sensors, making them suitable for various applications, from environmental monitoring to resource management.

Some important things to note are that LPWANs can only send small amounts of data at a low rate, making them unsuitable for time-sensitive applications or applications which require high bandwidth. The performance of LPWANs varies across a range of factors, including power consumption, scalability, and range. 

To ensure maximum reliability, security, and interoperability, select the best LPWAN technology for your use case and maintain standardization across each project. NB-IoT and LTE-M, for instance, are cellular LPWAN technologies that can reliably power various smart city applications, such as smart metering, lightning, or asset tracking. 


Cellular Networks

Cellular networks are one of the most widely recognized and widely used forms of IoT technology. They are fast and efficient, offer reliable broadband, and support various communication methods. 

Cellular is also a quickly evolving technology. 5G, its most recent iteration, offers high speed and ultra-low latency benefits. 5G is the future of cellular connectivity and is essential for developing technologies such as autonomous vehicles and augmented reality. On a smart-city scale, cellular networks, and 5G in particular, enable real-time delivery of medical data in the health industry, real-time surveillance footage to support public safety, and various industrial automation applications.

While cellular networks will play a central role in the future of IoT connectivity, managing cellular networks, particularly at such an enormous scope and across a broad surface, can be highly challenging and demand a lot of power. FirstPoint is an IoT connectivity management solution that covers all networks from 2G to 5G, CAT-M1, LTE M, and NB-IoT. It is fully scalable, ensures network security, and makes large networks more straightforward to manage by giving you more control.


IoT applications for smart cities

IoT is exceptionally versatile. Some future applications include energy asset management, smart transportation, smart waste management, and environmental and health initiatives such as air quality management. All these technologies rely on IoT sensors to function.

For example, the city of Taipei is close to achieving its ambition of becoming one of the world’s most innovative cities. Its initiatives include smart buildings incorporating data analysis and IoT sensors into regular operations to reduce carbon emissions and government expenses. 

Another example of a city implementing smart technology today is London’s SmartPark initiative. The SmartPark solution comprises over 3,400 in-ground vehicle detection sensors that provide drivers with real-time information on unoccupied parking spaces. With smart technology already making a difference, fully connected IoT-powered cities can’t be too far off in the future.

The importance of cybersecurity for IoT-powered smart cities

Although smart cities have numerous benefits, new technology often brings new dangers. Increased connectivity means that devices can communicate with each other, but it also means that cybercriminals only need to breach one device to gain access to the entire network. The consequences of such an attack would also be more severe than ever before, as an attack would be able to derail public infrastructure and halt municipal operations.


That’s why smart cities must remain aware and implement the steps necessary to protect each device and network. FirstPoint is one of the leading security solutions that ensures your network is covered at a device level and as a whole. We offer a secure overlay core network that operates seamlessly with the MNOs network making operations management easy and simple. At the device level, FirstPoint provides each SIM with an individual, dedicated applet that protects the device and guarantees complete anonymity. 

Smart cities need to be safe cities

According to a United Nations study, 68% of the world’s population will live in urban areas by 2050. Smart city technology makes it possible to meet the needs of a growing population and address the challenges cities have faced from the beginning. While sensors, cellular, and connected devices are critical for smart city functions, they can also put them at risk. 

With such large-scale projects, enterprises must do their best to prevent cyber attackers from breaching networks or failing connectivity. FirstPoint can help you securely connect all your cellular IoT from beginning to end. Want to learn more about how you can protect your network today? Get in touch with us to request a demo

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