Not familiar with the “Internet of Things” (IoT)? Well, it’s acquainted with you. IoT refers to ordinary physical devices that are embedded with internet connectivity. Think: Google Home and Amazon’s Alexa. But there’s more to the tech than just personal support.

Cities throughout the world are adopting IoT into their infrastructures to address systemic problems and make life much easier in ways most of us probably take for granted. From decreasing our collective carbon footprint to monitoring air quality, IoT can do so much more than merely tell you what the weather is before you leave the home.

Below you will find some amazing examples of how advances in IoT are altering cities for the better.

Smart streetlights

Stargazers delight! To assist reduce light pollution, towns are starting to deploy smart streetlights that automatically adjust light levels depending on the time of day and traffic and road conditions. A handful of states in the U.S. — notably California, Georgia, and Michigan — already have them.

More importantly, these lighting help preserve energy and use it more efficiently. Yibai LED Lighting, a business that supplies smart streetlights, boasts that their tech has decreased energy consumption by over 60% in cities in Germany, India, and the Netherlands. Some smart streetlights also come with motion sensors that base light intensities on human presence, cutting energy usage and CO2 emissions even further.

In the near future, smart lighting could potentially be utilized to assist emergency services and prevent crime, according to Intel.

Smart roads

Traffic isn’t just frustrating to sit in, it’s also expensive. One study predicts that traffic congestion cost the average U.S. driver $564 in wasted time in 2021, according to Inrix. That’s one of the reasons why more and more companies are tackling the issue by producing smart materials that can be applied to roadways to make them safer and more efficient.

Smart Pavement from Integrated Roadways, for example, is concrete with embedded sensors that identify accidents and highway conditions as people drive in real time. The information and input is subsequently shared with other drivers, central processing hubs, and emergency services.

Technologies like Smart Pavement can quite literally save lives by contacting first responders as soon as an accident happens. In the U.S., you may find these smart roads in Colorado and Kansas.

There are also revolutionary new technology like Studio Roosegaarde’s Smart Highway. These solar-powered smart highways charge by day and illuminate by night, affording drivers improved visibility and a very futuristic ambiance.

5ways smart lighting tech is improving cities
Smart energy management

The U.S. government is coming up with new ways to utilize energy more efficiently and help people analyze and control their domestic energy use. You may have heard of “smart grids,” which use communication technology and control systems to assist prevent and reduce power outages. They also allow consumers better access to their data, empowering them to make more educated decisions about how they utilize energy on an individual level.

The U.K. is making similar efforts with the broad implementation of smart energy meters. These smart meters enable a more accurate measurement of people’s energy use, down to each specific appliance.

This makes it easy for users to monitor and manage their energy usage(and hopefully cut down on their electric bills). According to Forbes, they’re projected to be spotted in every house and small company in the U.K. by June 2025. If you live in the U.S., you might already have one – The Edison Foundation shows that they’re already integrated into 75% of houses as of 2021.

Smart garbage management

IoT technology is also being used to keep our cities clean.

In 2019, San Francisco introduced smart garbage cans throughout the city with sensors that detect when they’re near-full and immediately contact trash pickup providers. Not only has this helped keep waste off the streets, but it also potentially saves carbon emissions by expediting trash collection.

Seoul, South Korea, obtained similar results after introducing their own smart trash cans, Clean Cubes. Since installation, garbage overflow was eliminated, street litter has dropped dramatically, and the city saved collection costs by 83%.

Smart air quality sensors

To address air pollution, towns are employing IoT devices to gather data and measure residents’ levels of exposure. With this data, cities may better identify locations with poor air quality, examine the association between pollutants and diseases, and potentially push policymakers to take action.

In portions of Chicago and Barcelona, for example, lampposts and park benches include air sensors that are used to check air quality and identify contaminants, Harvard writes. There are also mobile sensors that attach to Google’s Street View automobiles and swiftly evaluate air quality as they drive around cities.

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