Home to more than half of the Earth’s population, cities account for over 70% of global carbon emissions and up to 80% of energy consumption.
In recent years, urban communities have been trying to make cities more livable and less harmful to the environment. Sustainable cities are vital to minimizing carbon footprint, preserving vegetation, and creating more comfortable and balanced living conditions for residents.
The Internet of Things (IoT) is one of the key technologies driving sustainable city development. Investment in IoT-driven smart city tools and platforms may have promising potential for local businesses.
In this blog, we list the eco-friendly IoT solutions for modern city dwellers and discuss why city communities should invest in green tech.
Everyone is talking about sustainability these days, now that global warming and climate change are no longer remote perspectives. Admittedly, though, the sustainable city concept still requires additional explanation.
The most common sustainable cities definition you will come across is “an urban community that is taking practical measures to minimize its environmental footprint”. Think cities with many parks and large green areas, well suited for cyclists and pedestrians, utilizing renewable energy and predominantly electric or hybrid public vehicles, self-sufficient in waste utilization, energy and water management.
Perhaps, one of the best-known green cities is Singapore combining futuristic edifices with robust vegetation and clean air. Dubbed a “City in a Garden”, Singapore leverages modern tech and IoT solutions to create a better environment for its dwellers.
Such settlements are no longer a utopia – communities across the world, large and small are quickly adopting environmentally-friendly technology and practices. Obviously, they are recognizing the benefits of eco-friendly urban planning and are eager to invest in green tech.
So what are the advantages of urban green ecosystems? The numerous advantages of sustainable urban development include:
1. Better living conditions
From cleaner air to reduced crime rates, green cities account for improved living conditions for their residents. Affordable housing and community facilities provide a healthy and welcoming environment for families.
2. Improved mobility
This refers not only to road infrastructure, but also to the overall ease of moving around a green city – be it by bicycle, or public transportation. Residents should also be able to walk everywhere, as smart cities should feature many safe and comfortable pedestrian areas.
3. Developed ecosystem
Green cities are capable of supporting a rich ecosystem and providing a safe environment for a variety of birds and insects. Such cities are not just all glass and concrete but feature a healthy blend of urban constructions with natural environments.
4. Improved water conservation
Sustainable urban planning reduces water waste and helps improve water quality. The water in natural reservoirs is clean, free from pollution with harmful substances, and is also managed properly.
5. Effective energy management
The city’s electric grid is built to ensure its optimal operation. Sustainable urban development encourages renewable and alternative energy use, such as biomass energy.
6. Mitigated environmental impact
Sustainability plays a pivotal role in mitigating the negative effect of human activity on the environment by reducing harmful emissions, preserving animal life, using alternative energy sources, and reducing waste.
7. Consistent economic growth
Healthier and cleaner neighborhoods stimulate economic development and help create new job opportunities. Green cities are better at welcoming tourists and attracting new businesses.
8. Improved public health
Cleaner air, great water quality, and green areas promoting physical activity account for improved public health. Most importantly, green cities’ residents report improved mental health conditions that manifest in reduced levels of anxiety and depression.
9. Enhanced resilience
Sustainable cities are more resilient against natural and humanitarian crises and tend to recover faster from their aftermath. They also tend to withstand pandemics and economic downturns easily.
Overall, sustainable solutions make modern settlements more livable and help maintain a healthy balance between the natural and urban environment.
So how can a city be sustainable? Below is a checklist of the core characteristics that most green cities have in common.
Sustainable cities are built for maximum energy efficiency and utilize alternative and renewable energy sources. If solar batteries and wind turbines are part of your city landscape, it is an indication that it’s embracing sustainable energy systems.
That, along with being bike friendly, are some of the core features of urban green ecosystems. Lots of safe pedestrian areas and well-maintained bike paths, reducing traffic congestion and accounting for enhanced public health are common for green cities.
Lots of vegetation
Green cities are…green. Lots of parks, gardens, and recreation areas open to the public are indications of a city’s sustainability. They also promote biodiversity, generate oxygen and improve the mental and emotional state of their residents.
Accessible public transportation
Eco-friendly cities have reliable and efficient public transport systems that residents can use instead of driving. Public vehicles use electric or hybrid engines that reduce harmful emissions.
Green cities have sustainable and environmentally-friendly houses, built with recycled building materials, and constructed with energy-efficiency in mind.
Another characteristic feature of sustainable cities is supporting local farmers by establishing farmers’ markets. The city’s food system should mainly be reliant on locally grown produce, making it resilient and self-sufficient.
Sustainable city authorities engage their citizens in decision-making and promote public discussions. They are also educating residents about environmental issues and listening to their opinions on important topics.
So, what does it mean for a city to be sustainable? Summing up all of the above, it means adopting green practices and smart technology solutions to create a livable future for both the current and future generations, without sacrificing comfort and well-being.
How do you make a city sustainable? Below are some sustainable city ideas based on present-day IoT technology.
1. Electric transport and charging systems
Establishing charging systems for electric vehicles could encourage their active usage and reduce harmful emissions. Sustainable communities integrate charging stations with renewable energy sources to reduce the greenhouse effect and promote smart energy use.
Installed in charging stations, IoT sensors help track and control the charging process and can be used for predictive maintenance and energy management. The sensors also connect the fleet of electric vehicles, track their condition and energy levels, and report malfunctions for timely repairs.
Vancouver, a Canadian city that runs on almost 90% of sustainable energy, has charging stations for vehicles installed everywhere. Notably, Vancouver generates the least amount of carbon emissions than any city in the area.
The Norwegian capital Oslo, on the other hand, plans to completely get rid of fuel-based vehicles by 2025. The city provides incentives such as free parking and reduced toll fees to encourage people to buy electric cars.
2. Connected public transport
Implementing a transportation system that seamlessly integrates different types of public vehicles can also contribute to making a city sustainable. The nodes of this system should be interconnected with each other and be within reach of walking and cycling areas allowing the passengers to easily reach their destinations. The transportion schedule available online should also reduce the need for a car-dependent lifestyle.
IoT enables connected transport by collecting, processing, and sharing data between vehicles and systems ensuring efficient routing and scheduling, predicting maintenance needs, and improving traffic management and vehicle connectivity.
In this regard, Zurich is probably one of the most vivid sustainable city examples. This Swiss city boasts a well-integrated public transit network making it comfortable for tourists and residents.
Singapore has also implemented a comprehensive structure of connected public transport, including buses, trains, and a light rail system. The city-state leverages advanced technologies such as real-time data analytics and predictive modeling to optimize routes and reduce wait times. It has also launched a fleet of driverless vehicles to help residents move around the city.
3. Traffic surveillance
IoT-based systems for traffic monitoring and control reduce travel time and traffic congestion, encourage sustainable transportation modes, improve safety and reduce accidents, and support sustainable urban planning.
London, for instance, uses a sophisticated traffic regulation system called SCOOT (Split Cycle Offset Optimization Technique) to observe traffic and adjust signal timings to improve its flow. Singapore has a robust traffic regulation system, which includes real-time traffic monitoring, signal control, and electronic toll collection.
4. Eco-friendly houses
Built from recycled and sustainable materials, eco houses are constructed to use less energy. Such buildings include green rooftops, solar panels, efficient heating and cooling infrastructures, water-saving fixtures, insulation, and low-energy glass.
IoT technology helps track and operate this equipment, including elements like HVAC, lighting, and plug loads. IoT sensors collect real-time data and help diagnose the state of equipment in real-time to ensure non-disruptive performance.
Examples of green cities that prioritize green buildings include the Danish capital Copenhagen, which has set a goal of becoming carbon-neutral by 2025. All new city buildings must meet strict energy efficiency standards, and a range of incentives has been introduced to encourage the renovation of existing buildings.
Another city leveraging smart building systems and low-energy heating is Hamburg, Germany. The city has a plan in place to retrofit all of its historic buildings.
5. Connected streetlights
Also known as smart streetlights, connected streetlights are equipped with sensors, communication networks, and intelligent controls that allow them to capture and transmit data, as well as adjust brightness and other settings. Such systems have been proven to contribute to public safety, save energy, improve connectivity, and can be remotely managed.
Copenhagen, for example, has set up a smart lighting system that includes more than 20,000 connected streetlights. The system uses sensors to adjust the brightness of the lights, and can also be used to collect data on traffic patterns and air quality.
6. Weather monitoring
An important component of sustainable city development, weather observation, allows city planners and other stakeholders to understand local weather patterns and conditions, develop strategies for reducing the impacts of extreme weather, cut water and energy consumption, and improve public health.
Amsterdam, Netherlands has introduced a range of weather monitoring systems to support its efforts to improve public health and safety. The city uses air quality sensors to track pollution levels and also uses weather data to inform its flood control strategies.
7. Air quality / Pollution monitoring
These systems measure and analyze the levels of various pollutants in the air. For example, ambient air quality tracking stations located in urban areas measure levels of substances such as nitrogen oxide, and ozone in the urban air.
Copenhagen takes full advantage of IoT technology by installing sensors on sewers and garbage cans and using GPS on buses to monitor the city’s traffic and pollution levels.
Brisbane, Australia, has launched a Smart Poles initiative, installing beacons equipped with IoT sensors to collect data on things like air quality, noise levels, and parking availability. The project also aims to provide infrastructure to support emerging technologies like 5G and IoT.
8. Fire/smoke detection
Fire and smoke detection systems typically use sensors to detect smoke, heat, or flames. These sensors may be installed in individual rooms or throughout a building and can be wired or wireless. Such detectors are also equipped with alarms and communication modules, and may also be integrated with other building systems.
Vancouver, Canada, has implemented a range of fire and smoke detection systems in public buildings and residential properties, including advanced smoke detectors, fire alarm systems, and automatic sprinkler systems. The city also uses advanced modeling and simulation tools to assess the risks of fires and to develop strategies for their prevention.
9. Waste disposal and water control
Sustainable water management technologies, such as rainwater harvesting systems and greywater recycling, can reduce water usage and improve water quality. Waste management involves the collection, transportation, processing, and disposal of waste in ways that minimize the negative impact on the environment.
In waste disposal, IoT sensors monitor the state of waste bins, track and adjust the collection schedules and control the garbage trucks’ routes. In water control, IoT equipment is used to monitor water quality, detect leaks and measure water levels.
Hong Kong has introduced several waste management systems that promote sustainability and environmental protection. The metropolis has a comprehensive waste management plan that includes recycling, composting, waste-to-energy plants, and landfill gas capture systems.
A water recycling program has also been implemented in Olso, Norway. The recycling system treats wastewater, and makes it available for irrigation and industrial processes. Oslo has launched a stormwater management program that captures and processes rainwater to reduce runoff and prevent flooding.
These are just some of the sustainable city ideas to help you build an eco-city using modern green and IoT technology and sustainable urban practices.
As urban communities across the world adopt green practices and become environmentally friendly, they tend to increasingly use IoT technology for sustainable urban planning. IoT has become an invaluable asset in smart waste and energy control, water conservation, traffic monitoring, smart building systems and other sustainable technologies.
Investing in green technology, though, may require additional costs for green infrastructure, renewable energy systems, and sustainable transportation options.
However, in the long run, sustainable urban development can provide tangible economic benefits by reducing operating costs, improving property values, attracting businesses and talent, and creating new markets for green tech.
At Eastern Peak, we can help you develop IoT solutions for urban ecosystems. Looking for a reliable tech partner for urban city development? Get in touch with us now and let’s discuss details!
Frequently Asked Questions
What is a sustainable city and why is it important?
A sustainable city minimizes environmental impact by utilizing environmentally friendly technology and green practices. Such cities are important for preserving the global ecosystem and improving the quality of life.
What is an example of a sustainable smart city?
Zurich, Switzerland, is a smart city with a high emphasis on sustainable urban planning and development. The local authorities have introduced extensive and efficient public transportation systems, sustainable buildings using renewable energy sources, energy and waste management systems, etc. Zurich also promotes sustainable food production.
How can we make smart cities sustainable?
We can make smart cities sustainable by leveraging IoT technology to introduce green practices such as waste reduction, energy, water management, traffic, air and pollution tracking, etc. By using green IoT solutions for sustainable urban planning we can improve the overall quality of life and make cities more livable.