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IoT Scenarios for Smart Cities and Smart Buildings


In this step, we’re going to look at examples where cities are using IoT to improve infrastructure and operations, making services more reliable and cities safer and more efficient.

Smart Cities

In an article for Microsoft, Peter O’Dell of Swan Island Networks relates the following example of how IoT can be deployed to make the transportation of hazardous materials a bit safer. He writes:

‘Take a simple example of an inexpensive sensor that can replace the current signs and decals that appear on hazardous materials containers, particularly tanker trucks. This sensor transmits its status and identity every 60 seconds, but it can also be activated by readers at electronic toll-collection points. The city can collect and process data from the readers in real-time to gain a highly accurate understanding of where hazardous materials are located throughout the city, particularly on transit points like major bridges’.

In critical scenarios such as a major storm or police action, this data can help emergency services respond more efficiently.

The Economist Magazine created what they call a Safe Cities Index which attempts to define how 60 cities across the world define security. One segment of this feature titled, “Unlocking the potential of Iot” which covers everything from data management to applications of IoT in the security space. The segment includes a white paper titled, “A City Planner’s Handbook to Public Safety” in which they attempt to define how traditional methods along with digitization can help rapidly growing urban areas maintain high safety standards. The executive summary outlines the following key areas of focus–many of them involving IoT technology:

  • Biometric identification systems, which have the potential to reduce human error and processing time at borders, will enhance citizen services and immigration control.
  • Facial recognition systems and other predictive technologies will shift law enforcement from reactive to proactive.
  • Automated surveillance systems will reduce the dependence on human labor and provide round-the-clock monitoring of critical infrastructure such as power, water and telecommunications services.
  • Electronic security measures will protect sensitive public administration services from virtual risks, while data analytical tools can predict disease outbreaks. Strong information management, through enhanced security measures and data protection schemes, will help institutions and corporations defend against cyber-attacks.
  • On-demand systems that integrate information, analyze the data and communicate with first responders and the public will help governments respond to emergencies and disasters.
  • Technology platforms will facilitate efficient collaboration between different branches of the government, enhancing inter-agency collaboration.

Many of these types of systems are being deployed in cities around the world and as the technology advances and IoT services become more readily available, more city planners will be looking to IoT to help them manage their responsibilities.

You can read more on each of these items by downloading the whitepaper – NEC Safer Cities Report.

Improving Field Services

Alert: Pothole Ahead

In this simple automobile illustration example, drivers using their phones as an IoT device to send data can alert the municipality of Selangor in Malaysia of a problem. The city uses the information to address roadway problems.

The popular driving app Waze enables drivers to report problems such as an accident or roadway issues. Selangor is using Waze data to learn about potholes and fix them. According to an article in Malaysian technology magazine Vernonchan, when a pothole is reported, ‘the Selangor State Local Authority will patch the pothole within five days.’ While the reporting mechanism is not fully automated at this stage, one can imagine cars fitted with sensors and AI image recognition technology that can detect roadway issues and automatically report those problems to authorities.

Follow the Water

In another example, Microsoft describes how the Miami-Dade County Water and Sewer Department (WASD) has the task of managing more than 6000 miles of pipes for that region. The county had a system in place to collect large amounts of data but struggled to analyse it quickly and holistically enough to predict problems and address immediate issues.

The county went from being able to analyse three years of data on one metric of a single station at a time to analysing 22 years of data from more than 1000 stations in just a few seconds. This provides a much more holistic view of the system as a whole which can tell the county much more about how things are operating.

Smart Buildings

Smart buildings are a particular example within the general topic of smart cities but they do deserve a mention of their own. Smart buildings are not merely about enabling operational efficiency. They’re also about comfort and providing a better environment for their inhabitants. Let’s look briefly at a couple of examples.


Engineers no longer need to manually inspect and tune buildings to run more efficiently. ICONICS smart building software collects and analyses IoT sensor data from building management systems, giving owners visibility into their property’s health which improves energy efficiency and results in lower costs. Based in Foxborough, Massachusetts, ICONICS relies on Microsoft Azure Digital Twins to boost software scalability and rapidly deliver innovative capabilities to customers, such as occupancy and spatial analytics.

ICONICS smart building software has run on Microsoft Azure since 2015. ICONICS software acts as an integration hub for building management systems that control heating, ventilation, lighting, and more. It also collects and centralises each system’s sensor data. ICONICS’ proprietary technology performs visualisation and historicisation of this data, whilst artificial intelligence rules predict when a machine will fail or use more energy than required. It also predicts which issues will have the most impact on energy usage or cost so that building managers can prioritise remediation.

‘The Microsoft Energy Smart Buildings program has saved Microsoft 20 percent of its energy bills’ says Russ Agrusa, president and CEO of ICONICS.

Read the full story here – ICONICS partner professional services with Azure IoT.


Based in Essen, Germany, thyssenKrupp Elevator is a worldwide leader in elevator technology, and the company is taking its knowledge of urban mobility to the next level with help from its partner, Willow. At its Innovation Test Tower in Rottweil, Germany, thyssenKrupp Elevator is using Willow Twin—a digitalised virtual model of the physical building—to revolutionise the way buildings are maintained and enhance the experience of tenants and visitors. Willow Twin is built on Microsoft Azure using a wide range of Azure services, including the recently released Azure Digital Twins.

‘A digital twin is a virtual replica of the spaces, devices, and people within a building’ explains Joshua Ridley, cofounder and chief executive officer at Willow. ‘The digital twin takes in live data from IoT sensors that are monitoring all of the building’s systems—from lighting and elevators to heating, ventilation, and air conditioning—along with data about the way space is being used and occupied. It makes all that data available to owners, managers, and maintenance staff in real-time. They can identify problems, track usage patterns, and gain new insights into the way they operate the building and the way people use it. This opens the door to new and better experiences for tenants and visitors.’

As today’s cities grow and change, the concept of urban mobility becomes an increasingly important consideration for the people who plan, design, construct and run the offices and residences that make up those cities. Urban mobility isn’t just about the way that people move around the city, it’s also about the way that people move within and interact with the buildings where they work and live.

‘Real estate owners and managers are always seeking ways to reduce costs and increase tenant satisfaction’ says Professor Michael Cesarz, chief executive officer for Multi at thyssenKrupp Elevator. ‘We believe that putting intelligence into the building that improves facilities management and analyses how occupants and visitors use the building is the best way to fulfil their needs. We’re employing digitalisation, AI, and IoT technologies to optimise usage at every level and make the building a pleasant place to work, visit, and live.’

Creating Change in the Workplace

IoT, advanced computing, virtual reality and artificial intelligence are all technology trends that are creating change in the workplace and how we live our daily lives. As Steelcase and Microsoft collaborate to build the Smart + Connected Workplace, Microsoft director of Azure IoT, Sam George, spoke to 360 about how the two companies leverage each other’s strengths to create a secure network ready to adapt to the changing ways in which people are working.

Read the full story here – Powering Smart Buildings.

Additional Resources

When you’ve had a look at the additional resources above, mark this step as complete.

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Microsoft Future Ready: Fundamentals of Internet of Things (IoT)

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