The Internet of Things: Changing Urban Areas

Internet of Things Urban Areas

Right now, in 2016, more than half of the world’s population live in urban areas. By 2050 that number is expected to multiply so that two-thirds of us will live in cities. That means that by 2050 there will be 2.5 billion more people living in cities who need housing, employment and transportation. Imagine 2.5 billion people living in our cities right now.That would be a nightmare as we are already facing traffic, global warming, overcrowding, crime and many other issues. However, technology that is currently in the works will help the cities of the future better cope with this mass population increase.

Traffic lights

Currently, you may have to wait a really long time for a green light even if there are no cars in the other direction. That will all change. Video sensors are being embedded into traffic lights to adjust their greens and reds according to where the cars are. This is a huge improvement on two fronts. The first is that it will reduce congestion and unnecessary waiting times. The second is that it will reduce smog, since vehicles that are idling at red lights burn up to 17% of the fuel consumed in urban areas.


In Barcelona, they are already using sensors to help with parking. Sensors in spots relay information in real-time to drivers via an app to tell them which spots are available so they don’t have to drive around looking for something. While this is great, it requires drivers to be on their phone while they are driving which is dangerous. Frankly, this could be done more efficiently. Recently, Siemens gave a grant to a startup that is looking to build parking drones that could guide cars to available spots. This would reduce congestion a great deal, as up to 30% of congestion is caused by drivers that are roaming the streets searching for a place to park.

Designated lanes  

Right now many cities have designated bus or carpool lanes that are supposed to be reserved for these vehicles only. However, many people don’t abide by these rules. In Tel Aviv, they have installed sensors in hopes of stopping this problem. Sensors in the lanes designated for certain vehicles scan the license plate number of the vehicle and automatically charge the owners credit card at a rate that varies depending on how busy the road is.

Solar-powered garbage cans

In many urban areas garbage is a huge problem. It is just left out on the streets, sometimes overflowing and not picked up. In Philadelphia they have started to build something that is working to help resolve this issue. Big Bellies, as they call them, are solar powered garbage cans that crush waste and send a message to a dispatcher requesting a pickup when they are full. This will reduce the amount of overflowing garbage on the streets as well as lower the amount of times that garbage trucks need to make rounds to potentially empty garbages. Since implementing Big Bellies, which run for $4,000 apiece, Philly has been able to reduce the number of weekly garbage collecting shifts from 17 to just three. They have also saved $1 million on fuel, maintenance and labor costs in the past year alone.