Cities Press shows what is possible. In its analysis of what city managers should look at it notes that the Empire State Building in New York reduced its energy consumption by 38% after installing a smart monitor. Additionally, the building saved $4.4 million in a year, supporting other technological advancements.

Although the concept of smart cities has become almost a buzzword around the world, South Africa included, global research giant Gartner stressed in a recent report that improving the lives of citizens is what it should be about. “Smart cities can only be successful if local government engages with citizens, opening up a dialogue to meet their needs,” according to the report. “Developing IoT programmes without consulting the community is the wrong strategy. Smart cities are no longer just about optimised traffic patterns, parking management, efficient lighting, or improvements to public works, but should instead be about a community-driven approach to deciding local priorities.”

“IoT.nxt is currently rolling out smart city applications in several territories that monitor air quality, track energy management, manage streetlights, reviews traffic flow, detect abrupt noises and provides real-time information on a single platform to city managers, who can now take immediate action when alerts are received. Proactive city management goes hand in hand with smart city initiatives, leading to enriched community satisfaction,” Alberts says.

Many of the IoT.nxt projects currently live focus on energy management. One solution implemented in the US has connected all the streetlights of the city. Stakeholders can now see remotely on a single dashboard which streetlights are on or off, which are dimmed, and which are faulty. As each individual light is monitored, intelligent alarms are raised in real-time allowing service teams to address whatever needs to be changed. Dimming lights during times of no activity on a road switching lights off when natural light is sufficient (as opposed to using a timer system) drives significant cost savings. “There was a time that efficiency was driven on these lights with replacement of more efficient light sourcing, but even that has reached its limit. Thus, the new age of asset management is crucial for things like lighting to drive even more efficiency The data also provides the city with seasonal trends allowing for adjusted strategy planning for optimum results,” Alberts says.

Another demanding issue for city mangers is traffic management and the related issue of traffic rules infringements. This too have been improved using IoT.nxt technology without requiring the installation of new equipment. By connected the existing infrastructure, specifically the traffic camera network, the city’s traffic manager can monitor traffic volumes as well as traffic flow in real-time and receive alerts about infringement of traffic rules. Improving traffic issues is of real benefit to citizens of cities as it remains a time-draining daily activity. “This proves that making a city smart does not mean replacing key infrastructure and costing the community and city more in managing costs, as the IoT.nxt platform is purpose build to retrofit to gain more from existing infrastructure,” Alberts notes.

Beyond operational issues like traffic and street light monitoring, smart city solutions can also track efficiencies of utilities. Smart metering as introduced in SA, has reduced water wastage as water leaks are detected and addressed in real-time, and it improved readings to deliver accurate billing.