IoT and Smart Cities: What Makes Sense?

Kevin Parmenter, Director, Applications Engineering. TSC, America



Kevin Parmenter, Director, Applications Engineering. TSC, America

The first IoT device is said to be a soda machine in the 1980s at Carnegie Mellon University that could report inventory and temperature. Others say it was an internet toaster introduced at the University of Cambridge in 1990. Either way, this technology has come a long way from its humble beginnings. According to Fortune Business Insights, the global Internet of Things market size was valued at USD 544.38 billion in 2022 and is projected to grow from USD 662.21 billion in 2023 to USD 3,352.97 billion by 2030, a CAGR of 26.1%.

The IoT market covers anything and everything where it’s possible to monitor the status of electronic devices via the internet. In my view, however, a viable application must make economic sense. In other words, the value of the data must be greater than the cost to collect the data. For example, monitoring propane tanks such that they are only filled when needed saves time and money. In this case, it’s worth it to charge a customer a slight yearly fee for the ability to monitor the tanks on their cell phones.

The latest technology mega-trend is to use IoT to monitor entire cities. According to a report by Grand View Research, the global “smart city” market size was valued at USD 656.8 billion in 2022 and is expected to register a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 25.8% from 2023 to 2030, reaching USD 1.12 trillion in 2023 and growing at a CAGR of 8.1%. 

 Cisco defines a smart city this way:

“A smart city is a technologically modern urban area that uses different types of electronic methods and sensors to collect specific data… . This includes data collected from citizens, devices, buildings, and assets that is processed and analyzed to monitor and manage traffic and transportation systems, power plants, utilities, water supply networks, waste, criminal investigations, information systems, schools, libraries, hospitals, and other community services.”

This level of monitoring can evoke ideas of “big brother” surveillance. After all, technology was misused during the cold war, and hacking by bad actors happens today, so privacy concerns need to be considered carefully. On the positive side, IoT can invigorate alternate markets. The LED lighting market, which has seen a race to the bottom, now finds it can enable smart cities by bringing online lighting, cameras, traffic signals, etc. By providing data collection and control, an LED lighting installation can do much more than turn lights on and off at dusk and dawn. 

IoT applications should lead to new data insights that translate into meaningful change. Simply connecting the “things” that were never connected before isn’t enough. The IoT and smart city markets will not only pose an endurance test for legacy systems they will also shape the fate of small and big companies in many different industries. It is expected that more than 100 billion IoT devices will be added globally by 2025. What could you put online to make a difference?