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December 11, 2014

The Internet of Everything Cuts the Cost of Smart Cities

Think about smart-city planning and your mind starts reeling. India alone is planning 100 new smart metropolises in the next decade. Besides bricks and mortar, these and hundreds of other cities worldwide are going to need massive amounts of IT infrastructure. Is it affordable?

The answer is almost certainly yes, and for a couple of reasons. The most obvious is that wiring up a city from day one is likely a lot cheaper than having to rip up pavements and install data pipes later on.

But there is another reason that most city planners are probably not even aware of yet.

Put simply, once a smart city is able to collect data from sensor networks linked to the Internet of Everything, there is good reason to suspect that using that information to power citizen services could cost a lot less than you might expect. Much of it could even be free. How come?

Essentially, it is down to the highly democratic nature of smart city development. Many budding smart cities like Chicago, are making their data available application developers. These, in turn, are creating apps that could be reused in any smart city worldwide.

For city planners, this means providing valuable citizen services could soon be as simple as choosing products from an app store.

“We give the data away for free as it is open source,” explained Paul Doherty, president and CEO of The Digit Group, at this year’s Smart City Expo World Congress in Barcelona, “but each city has the ability to create something that is for them.”

The fact that city administrators could deploy sophisticated citizen services without having to incur major development costs should massively reduce the expense of creating smart cities, while increasing the speed of development.

Crucially, too, many of these services are aimed at improving efficiency and reducing cost. So they could increasingly pay for themselves through the savings they create. Savings do not just happen at the app level, either.

In Europe, for example, a body called Fiware is working to provide a completely open, public, and royalty-free architecture and specifications for smart city apps.

The middleware organization has nodes in 16 European cities, plus Mexico and Brazil, and is eyeing expansion into North America.

“We are trying to help the establishment of a new marketplace,” said Maurizio Cecchi, head of research and development project financing at Telecom Italia in his introduction to the project at Smart City Expo. It is a marketplace that promises to make smart cities affordable for all.

The Apps Coming to a Smart City Near You

  • Hexagon Geospatial has a technology platform that lets smart city administrators create a range of software applications based on geospatial data, such as a Mobile Alert app that allows citizens to report problems with street furniture and other community assets.
  • Smart Parking does what it says on the tin: offers systems that help drivers find a parking space. If it does not sound like a big deal then consider that 30 percent of congestion is due to drivers searching for somewhere to park.
  • In Europe, the Green eMotion project is working to make sure you can recharge your electric car as easily in any foreign city as you can at home. Its search service lets you find your nearest charging point… and check it is vacant and working.
  • Bismart has developed a host of smart city apps, ranging from Smart Destination, which uses Internet of Things data to improve visitor experiences, to its bigov Better City Indicators app for local governments.
  • Mov’Smart, from Mentis Services, helps drivers make their way more quickly through city streets by integrating real-time traffic data, road conditions, parking availability and payment, and local area info in a handy mobile app.
  • With millions of users worldwide, the chances are you may have already used taxi apps such as Hailo or mytaxi. Along with ridesharing services such as Uber, what they prove is that getting a ride from A to B won’t be a problem in tomorrow’s smart cities.


Jason Deign is a Barcelona-based business writer, journalist and author. Besides writing, he is regularly interviewed by the media and has been featured in the UK's Daily Mail and The Guardian, among others. Used with the permission of