Proving the Business Case for the Internet of Things


Smart Cities: IoT's Biggest Opportunity

If one accepts the premise that global warming represents a huge, tangible threat to our planet, then it follows that the creation of smart cities represent a huge opportunity to do something about it.  In fact, it is probably the biggest single opportunity since cities consume over two thirds of the world's energy and generate over 70% of global CO2 emissions. They are responsible for the majority of our harmful greenhouse gases, but also they are also the places where the greatest efficiencies can be made.  Moreover, the transition to smart cities would stimulate economic growth and lead to a better quality of life. So, does it represent a win, win, win development?

The answer is a qualified yes, but there is no ambiguity about the objective.  From a city administration perspective smart cities represent efficient urban transport networks, upgraded water supply and waste disposal facilities, and more efficient ways to light and heat buildings. That is a top-down approach.  Bottom-up reflects the needs and concerns of its citizens. They want to witness improvements in services and an infrastructure that lead to a sustainable environment that provides job opportunities and a good quality of life. And they don't want to wait.  

Therefore a more meaningful question: what is the best way to proceed?

The European smart city model focuses on users' needs: it enables incremental, but significant improvements, i.e. the creation of IoT-enabled smarter cities. For example, start with smart lighting systems.  The goal of the Humble Lamppost Initiative is the adoption of 10 million Smart Lampposts across EU Cities and the business case is compelling. A 50%+ saving on energy costs, and maintenance costs could be used to develop a solution that includes both lighting and smart services such as monitoring air quality and traffic flows. 

Despite the compelling business case for easy, pragmatic solutions, a defined European smart city model does exist, although there is EU Smart Cities Strategy.  Examining this strategy is beyond the scope of this blog, but I shall be returning to this topic in my next blog, which will look at the so-called ‘quadruple helix' European model in a way that combines the advantages of the top-down approach (safeguarding public interests) with bottom-up steered creativity.