November 17

Big Data’s Role in Smart Cities

Based on UN projections, approximately two-thirds of the global population will live in urban areas by 2050. This means big cities must start planning for this expansion using big data analytics in smart cities. The advent of the smart city is based on various advanced technologies, such as IoT, AI, and 5G, which facilitate the flow of big data that offers valuable insights into the performance and effectiveness of various municipal services.

How Big Data and IoT are Shaping Smart Cities

Before we go further into smart technology as it relates to cities, let’s look at what exactly makes a technology “smart”. The primary layer of technology that defines "smartness" is the tech base of sensors and IoT devices. The second layer involves the deployment of smart technology that produces big data. Lastly, the third layer reflects the widespread adoption of the system by customers.

The concept of smart cities relies on smart IoT technology that gathers information about system components. Similar to the business world, the use of big data analytics in smart cities has become the key to cutting wasteful costs and tasks. Data collection devices can, for instance, help analysts and managers make adjustments in real-time that prevent disasters.

Examples of smart cities are when local governments use multiple IoT devices to streamline services. It has already proven to be very useful for electric and water utility plants. Big data platforms are used to discover system vulnerabilities, such as leaky pipes or malfunctions in traffic lights.

Studying analytics in real-time can lead to quick problem-solving, which minimizes losses in resources and revenue. Previously, water utilities had to take losses after months of searching for leaks. Now, leaks can be detected right away, and the organization can make repairs before serious damage occurs. Big data can also be used to evaluate indoor air quality, which can alert officials to improve ventilation, ultimately reducing health risks particularly during a pandemic.

Another major use of big data by smart cities is sustainability planning. Businesses and the public increasingly want greener solutions in their neighborhoods, since pollution can be damaging to health. More and more, smart cities are implementing solar and wind solutions to ensure environmental sustainability, while also cutting energy costs.

Additionally, insights gathered from big data can be used to monitor room occupancy, temperatures, humidity, smoke, and fire. Ultimately, it can be used to create safer homes and workplace environments.

What Big Data Is Doing for Smart City Projects

Smart cities rely on big data for improving city management, which can be broken down into the following segments:

  • Energy - One of the biggest challenges for smart cities is to manage energy as efficiently as possible. With the population rising, local governments must prepare for increased demand, while also ensuring reliability in the face of extreme weather scenarios. The use of renewable energy can also help provide backup power to account for energy shortages during peak periods.
  • Transportation - Big data has become highly useful for transportation companies to monitor their fleets of vehicles. By tracking vehicle speed and mileage, IoT devices can provide data to headquarters on elements, like fuel efficiency and driver behavior. This information can be used to help lower fuel and maintenance costs, as well as evaluate employee performance.
  • Infrastructure - The use of smart sensors placed strategically at multiple points in building infrastructures is the key to gathering actionable data. One of the ways this information can improve quality of life for residents is by streamlining garbage truck routes, ensuring efficient pick-ups and, essentially, cleaner communities. It can also help reduce traffic congestion by using traffic monitoring devices.


The advent of big data analytics in smart cities has become the key to improving the quality of life for urban residents. The more data a city can collect, the better opportunity it has to provide residents with better standards of living and working. Gathering data from a multitude of sources such as IoT devices will help smart cities thrive over the next decade.


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