IoT in the smart city – what are the challenges?


There continues to be significant hype surrounding smart cities. In reality, many cities are in the early process of becoming smarter, but cities need to overcome a range of challenges if they are to be truly smart.

Three significant challenges in developing smart city IoT applications

1. Business Case

Smart city solutions promise to offer solutions to specific problems as well as broader socio-economic and environmental benefits. These benefits can be difficult to define, quantify, and achieve. City leaders pay much attention to the business case, as this is typically how they evaluate for example, IT solutions. A straightforward solution, such as intelligent street lighting or waste management, will have a clearer return on investment. Achieving less tangible and quantifiable benefits can prove difficult to demonstrate and so come with a higher risk of not gaining sufficient support.

2. Scaling Up

Scaling up to a full smart city solution from a pilot or demonstrator trial is often difficult. A city may have received funding from central government or other bodies to set up trials and demonstration projects but transitioning to a full implementation requires significant planning and investment, and a robust business case. It is often the case that smart city solutions span multiple city administration departments and convincing these departments to participate (and fund) can be difficult.

3. Integrating legacy systems

Cities, like enterprises, face issues in managing a mix of legacy systems and applications alongside new technologies. Our recent CSP survey showed that some of the largest challenges that larger enterprises face concerns the technical ability to integrate legacy systems and Smart City projects will face similar issues.

Three significant opportunities to drive successful smart city IoT applications

1. Engagement

Engagement with citizens is fundamental to the success of a smart city implementation. It takes time to understand the groups that the solution will target and to educate and encourage them on how to use it. Many more successful solutions are designed with the citizen at its heart where they are co-creators of the service.

Successful engagement will be underpinned by:

· Wide availability

· An application that delivers real benefits with well-designed functionality

· High awareness amongst the target audience

2. UX driven innovation

One of the biggest drivers of IoT applications in the enterprise is to improve their customer experience, and hence build usage, loyalty, and brand values, and the same will hold true for these customers when they interact with a smart city application.

Some of these will require a customer interface of some sort, and there is a major opportunity to think about innovative, effective UX design that will really drive usage and positive feedback.

3. Leverage of IoT connectivity developments

Smart City IoT developments can leverage a wide range of connectivity options. A key consideration, now seen in a number of recent studies, is the rise of 5G connectivity as application leapfrog from older 2G and 3G connectivity solutions straight to 5G.

However, as with all IoT, there is always a need to match current and future connectivity demands to available technology (bearing in mind all the other caveats such as cost, longevity, and ease of upgrade).

Successful smart city implementations have often overcome many of these issues by creating a dedicated team that can develop new processes and operating methods and that has the authority to challenge and change existing practices.

Becoming a smarter city is a complex undertaking and requires tenacity to achieve the objectives of the proposed solution and to overcome the challenges and barriers. The potential upside is significant and successful smart cities are already reaping the rewards.

Andrew Parkin-White is co-founder of independent research and advisory firm, TecFutures

For further insights, contact TecFutures to request their 2023 IoT Market Outlook report

Feature Image Source: on Freepik

Sign up to Smart Classes Digest to receive the latest thought leadership, innovation insights and event updates straight into your inbox. You can also follow us on LinkedIn or follow us on Twitter.

Stay in touch

Sign up to Smart Classes Digest to receive the latest thought leadership, innovation insights and event updates straight into your inbox.

We offer great opportunities for our sponsors, and would love to hear from potential speakers, contributors or new partners.