Smart cities may not exactly be like those sci-fi movies that portray flying cars but they’re definitely going to be light years away from the cities of today. The question is – Are cities fully equipped to transform themselves? If not, what are the major challenges blocking their way to the promised land? Let us find out the challenges in IoT implementation in smart cities.
With all things connected via the Internet of Things (IoT), smart cities will seek to make lives easier and more livable. However, the more we draw closer to the fulfillment of that vision of smart cities, the demand for smart technology development, a tighter and solid network, and skilled IT professionals only continues to grow.
Challenges Involved in IoT Implementation in Smart Cities
Cities need to navigate their way through the following challenges in order to become smart –
Privacy and Security Concerns
According to a report published by IHS, smart devices are expected to reach a whopping 1 billion units by the year 2025! Such devices will transmit huge volumes of data on a real-time basis. Notwithstanding that this data will hold valuable insights for smart cities, they will pose a threat to privacy and security of personal information. After all, these devices will collect data from parking lots, CCTV cameras, EV charging units, GPS systems, etc. – extremely confidential information. Any breach of privacy can have ghastly consequences on the security of the citizens.
And the main cause of concern is that misuse of privacy is possible since not every connected device is cyber-resilient. An era where everything; from the toaster to refrigerator to cars will be connected, developing a solid hack-proof system is a must.
That is not all. Another concern is the feeling of “being watched 24×7.” Surveillance cameras and sensors installed in every corner of the city may be there for a good cause but they are definitely going to generate some very uncomfortable emotions in citizens, some even turning plain paranoid because “big brother is watching.” This has raised questions whether the benefits are really worth the price that needs to be paid.
Lack of Proper Infrastructure
Technology may have disrupted every aspect of a city; however, the infrastructure remains unchanged. The obsolete 19th century infrastructure will never be able to meet the needs of an IoT-enabled smart city. For example – To fully deliver their value, IoT cameras and sensors require solid infrastructure and innovative hardware but how can such infrastructure be developed when most cities in developing nations are struggling with providing basic infrastructural facilities such as electricity, internet connection, and water pipes?
Successful infrastructural changes are imperative and they can be brought about only through proper resource allocation, generous funding, and government support.
Currently, most of the world’s operations run on a 4G LTE network. Though such a network works fine for downloading a one-hour long movie in 10 minutes, the same will not be able to support the level of connectivity required to sustain a smart city. After all, a smart city will have billions of connected devices with gargantuan volumes of data being transmitted in real-time!
A strong 5G network may then be the answer. Not only will 5G be incredibly fast, the major reasons for its use in IoT implementation would be its lower latency, higher bandwidth, greater density, and network slicing. However, creating a solid and error-proof 5G network means installing cell towers every 200 meters. This is a tedious and long process and as of now, no such fully connected network exists, though efforts are in full swing.
Also Read: How AI and IoT are Building Smart Cities
Dearth of Adequate Funds
The issues of connectivity and lack of proper infrastructure directly stem from the insufficient funds invested by governments. Hence, a dearth of adequate funds can be labeled as the most challenging hurdle in accomplishing the vision of a smart city. Governments must ensure that proper revenue models are set up for their smart city initiatives so as to get a clear idea of where the money needs to go.
Some such areas would be – deployment of smart and complex infrastructure and thousands of smart devices across the cities, hiring of skilled tech experts and city planners, network requirements, to name a few.
City-Vendor Lock-In Issues
The current scenario with regards to IoT implementation in smart cities, is such that there are no usable standards or an interoperable vendor ecosystem for an IoT-enabled smart city. As a result, cities are unable to stick to a specific solution without having to heavily depend on a single vendor. This generates the fear of vendor lock-in, which could be a hurdle for future expansions as significant system integration expenses may be incurred. Hence, cities are unwilling to make any large investments in smart infrastructure for the development of smart cities.
Quantifying the Overall Benefits
While it is clear that the IoT implementation in smart cities, will have a considerable economic benefit, that is not all that there is. Several social and environmental benefits are also involved in the mix. But, where computing the economic benefit in terms of cost savings and financial return on investments is easy, the socio-environment impact cannot be quantified.
This ambiguity is making governments hesitant in investing massive funds in the implementation of IoT in smart cities.
People are naturally resistant to change. Every form of normalcy was once revolted against. There can be no doubt that no matter how wonderful an impact IoT and smart cities may promise, people are not going to buy it, at least during the initial stages.
For this, the citizens need to have a solid understanding of the many benefits and transformative potential of smart cities. Initiatives must be undertaken to raise awareness and generate engagement among citizens through email campaigns, in-person meetings conducted by local government authorities, printed handouts, etc. so that embracing change becomes easier.
What is the one thing that is common in every unsuccessfully implemented initiative? Social inclusion! Meaning, failing to implement a particular initiative for all categories of citizens. For example – A city may choose to not implement a healthcare initiative for the elderly or the physically and mentally challenged members of the society because they may not be able to use the advanced technologies.
Hence, it must be ensured that smart city initiatives are implemented for all citizens of the society, not just those who are well-off or more familiar with technological devices.
No matter the hurdles involved, the horizon of success is near. It is beyond the sea of challenges wherein lies the fulfillment of the vision; the vision of smart cities. And governments across the world are rigorously carrying out measures to bridge financial gaps and remove resistance to change so that all-inclusive smart city initiatives based on IoT can be implemented.