#DataSmart Resources: Internet of Things

By Data-Smart City Solutions • June 23, 2016

Our #DataSmart Resources series curates links and examples for those looking for an introduction to a particular civic data topic.

The Internet of Things (IoT) — connected sensor networks between once-passive objects — is rapidly becoming a hot topic for cities. More and more cities are beginning to deploy IoT initiatives ranging from air quality sensors to smart trash cans. IoT initiatives can provide cities with massive amounts of data, which can be analyzed and leveraged to improve city programs and residential life. This post contains curated resources for cities looking to begin or expand their own IoT initiatives.

Introductions & Case Studies

Here on Data-Smart, Laura Adler wrote a helpful intro article, covering the basics of IoT and how it has been used in the urban environment. The article explains current and past IoT initiatives in different parts of city government — ranging from public transit to energy — along with the growing government support for IoT initiatives and pressing challenges. She also published a follow-up piece, detailing how IoT has helped cities better manage their water resources.

The Guardian published a piece titled “How the Internet of Things Could Radically Change Local Government,” focusing specifically on the value for government in IoT initiatives. The article describes a variety of potential initiatives and the myriad benefits to government, including smart energy and new traffic mitigation strategies that could lead to a more efficient city for all residents. The piece also touches on the importance of developing standards and the utility of partnerships to help deploy the needed technology.

Cisco’s Internet of Everything report profiles a number of cities’ IoT initiatives specifically using Cisco’s technology. Amsterdam’s smart lighting, Chicago’s digital planning, New York’s interactive platform, Busan’s new cloud-based infrastructure, and Nice’s smart city pilot are all described in detail, from the beginning of each project’s implementation to the results seen so far. The report also contains detailed considerations for cities launching IoT initiatives, including new governance models, collaborative data ecosystems, and social engagement.

GovLab published a report in Deloitte’s Future of Government series exploring the potential for IoT in the public sector. The report covers emerging IoT technology and current IoT usages in government with a focus on education, public safety, utilities, privacy and security concerns, along with concrete steps governments can take to begin implementing IoT. The last piece — important considerations and first steps when beginning IoT initiatives — could be particularly useful for cities looking to successfully launch an IoT project.

A June 2015 McKinsey report explored the untapped potential of IoT, which they predict could generate over $1.5 trillion per year for cities by 2025. The report analyzes over 150 use cases, from private companies to current city initiatives, and concludes that cities can benefit massively from IoT initiatives. McKinsey found seven ways that emerging IoT applications could be particularly useful for cities:

  1. Smart energy grids — quickly detecting system failures and improving efficiency

  2. Water systems — detecting breaks and regulating flow

  3. Traffic management — improving congestion by automating signals

  4. Autonomous vehicles — using driverless cars to reduce traffic and fuel usage

  5. Public transit — providing accurate location, wait time, and route data to passengers

  6. Pollution — more accurately monitoring air and water quality

  7. Crime prevention — alerting officers to public safety problems more quickly

Leading City Examples

Many cities are still working to determine how to best leverage IoT, but a few cities are leading the way with their recently-launched initiatives described below. The specific initiatives vary based on the needs of residents, demonstrating just how versatile IoT can be throughout cities.

Chicago, IL is partnering with Argonne National Laboratory and the University of Chicago to launch the Array of Things, a connected network of sensors that will be deployed throughout the city. The sensors will collect data on environmental factors such as air quality, noise, and climate, which can then be used to discover hidden problems and develop targeted policies to improve city life. For more information on the project and its development, read “The Internet of Things in Chicago: Collaborative Action for Smarter Cities” here on Data-Smart.

Kansas City, MO, in collaboration with Sprint, Cisco, and Think Big Partners, launched a Smart City Corridor in the heart of city’s downtown. The initiative uses IoT to connect its interactive kiosks, smart lights, and dynamic traffic signals. Future additions could include water sensors, upgraded infrastructure, or smart parking. “Road-Testing the Internet of Things in Kansas City” provides more context for Kansas City’s growth as a smart city and the evolution of its current initiative.

New York, NY recently published its citywide IoT guidelines online. The guidelines are broken down into five categories: privacy and transparency, data management, infrastructure, security, and operations and sustainability. One of the city’s goals in publishing these guidelines is to provide a common framework for other governments looking to develop and improve their IoT practices; NYC’s model could be a great resource for cities looking to do just that.

Likewise, Seattle published its thorough privacy policy online. The policy explains in clear and simple language how the city will collect, use, share, retain, and protect residents’ data, along with giving context for the policy’s history and guiding principles. Seattle is one of the first cities to publish such a detailed citywide privacy policy in an accessible way that is easy for residents to understand; cities looking to strengthen their own privacy policy, particularly when launching data-intensive initiatives like IoT, could find an admirable model in Seattle.

Best practices & strategies

As IoT becomes more ubiquitous throughout city governments, so does the need for best practices and strategies. Even the most advanced IoT cities are still struggling to develop ways to handle the massive amounts of data, address privacy and security concerns, and integrate IoT initiatives into older data initiatives and city government as a whole.

As part of Brookings’ Smart Cities paper series, they published “Getting Smarter About Smart Cities,” containing key themes for successful smart city initiatives. The paper grew out of a smart city workshop by Brookings’ Metropolitan Policy Program and Barcelona’s ESADE Business School for city officials from Europe and North America, and provides a broader context for IoT initiatives within smart cities. Four key themes present in successful smart city initiatives are discussed in detail: the importance of beginning with an economically-driven and technologically-focused vision; addressing productivity, inclusivity, and resiliency; reforming government to allow for economic development; and balancing the risk between project scale and risk tolerance.

For another policy perspective, the Center for Data Innovation has 10 policy principles to help cities produce value from IoT initiatives. The report aims to specifically address IoT from a policymaker perspective and provide guidance in that realm, instead of the typical tech-based perspective. The ten suggested principles cover all aspects of the policymaking process, ranging from finding partnerships to help overcome technical barriers to using data from IoT initiatives throughout government to solve pressing problems.

For cities looking for advice on IoT strategies, Government Technology wrote a helpful article explaining the need for an IoT strategy and catalogued helpful resources. The lack of cohesive IoT plans is blocking implementation and growth in many governments, particularly within the US. The article surveys successful international models that could serve as inspiration for governments looking to adapt IoT, with a particular focus on the successful IoTUK model for the UK, and compiles helpful recommendations from industry as well.

Stephen Goldsmith addressed five strategies cities should consider when implementing IoT initiatives. He argues that IoT should be approached as a rich data source that can feed analysis and insights when analyzed and incorporated into broader efforts, and should be integrated into broader city data plans. The five mentioned themes are: leveraging existing physical assets, engaging local data ecosystems, employing clear data-management strategies, addressing security and privacy concerns with transparency, and turning collected data into action.

Security and privacy

Security and privacy are two of the most pressing problems for cities when it comes to IoT initiatives. Implementing a new sensor network can be daunting on its own, and ensuring the proper protections are in place to safeguard both the new computer systems and the influx of collected data can be frustratingly difficult.

Harvard Business Review published an article on managing privacy within in the Internet of Things that provides a solid introduction and background on the inherent privacy concerns, exploring common problems and scenarios where security is needed. When data is siloed to a single device or department, it is fairly easy to protect and store safely. But when data is being shared between devices and networks across an entire city, it becomes much harder — if only because no one person has complete control over the collected data.

We published a conversation between Stephen Goldsmith and Chicago CIO Brenna Berman on IoT initiatives within cities, with a heavy focus on security and privacy. Berman explains how sweeping IoT networks such as Chicago’s Array of Things may be the first time cities have to tackle privacy directly. She argues the best way to approach privacy is through resident engagement, as privacy policies need to work for citizens and engaging them is the best way to determine what policies will make them feel comfortable. Berman explains how security can be thought of as the technical implication of privacy principles, built as technical protocols to prevent privacy breaches. For city officials beginning their own IoT initiatives and looking to contextualize security and privacy concerns, this Q&A is a great primer from one of the top city IoT thought leaders in the country.

The Federal Trade Commission’s 2015 report titled “Privacy & Security in the Connected World” provides a number of concrete steps that organizations can take to improve citizens’ privacy and security within IoT. The report’s recommendations come from input gathered from technologists, academics, industry members, privacy advocates, and others; the recommendations range from incorporating security features into IoT project from the beginning to data minimization. The FTC’s report is aimed at businesses, but since so many city IoT initiatives share goals and technology with businesses, the recommendations could be helpful.

Finally, the Electronic Privacy Information Center has a large collection of privacy and security resources related to IoT. The site contains a thorough assortment of updated news, known privacy and security concerns, recommendations, and related resources, from both a policy and technical perspective, which anyone wanting to delve more deeply into privacy and security information might find useful.


To stay updated on the latest Internet of Things news, be sure to follow our Internet of Things posts here on Data-Smart.