Smart Cities

How IoT is Increasing Citizen Engagement


IoT (the Internet of Things) is the connectivity of millions of items throughout the world to the internet. Increasingly, almost everything you use in your everyday life not only has a connection to the internet, but to other devices. Both government and private business are increasing their use of IoT in a variety of dramatic ways to engage the public and improve their lives. These types of connections are increasing citizen engagement in several important ways.

Improving Public Transportation

Whether you’re looking for a taxi or coordinating train schedules, the internet is constantly improving how public transportation works. The following are several specific ways IoT is improving public transportation.

  • Connecting Trains – Using your smart phone, you can easily find out when trains are arriving and departing from each station. GNC states that GPS systems on trains can provide specific locations of all vehicles in real-time. Each citizen can more easily plan and organize their transportation schedules. The internet is also connecting buses to make it easier and quicker to travel throughout the city.
  • Interpreting Data – When there is a high level of connection between trains and buses, this leads to the gathering of more information regarding the effectiveness of transportation connectivity. Public transportation experts can study this data and make the necessary improvements.
  • Providing WiFi – Trains and buses will increasingly have WiFi connections that will increase citizen engagement by providing access to strong internet connections while traveling.
  • Improving Passenger Safety – Facial recognition and analytics that examines behavior will make public transit safer for everyone. This is a passive form of citizen engagement that will continue to develop and improve.

Communicating Weather Hazards

Weather alerts are only effective when the information is both accurate and sent in a timely manner. There are several necessary steps that need to work seamlessly and in conjunction with one another in order to produce effective weather alerts. This starts with accurate weather data sent to government officials.

Using the IoT, government agencies can put together systems that communicate between weather sensors and mobile devices. Not only should citizens receive timely weather updates, but they need the ability to communicate with an emergency system. For example, during a flood, the system may offer driving directions with the data from road sensors. Data sensors along rivers can send out information to government agencies, emergency response teams, and citizens that live in nearby areas. The information individuals receive would depend on their exact location.

Internet connectivity works with national organizations as well as local agencies. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) provides a variety of weather-related data that includes flood information and general weather forecasting. Providing coordinated strategies and necessary data to the public in a timely manner is crucial when safeguarding citizens. IoT is constantly improving how all these different agencies can work together to improve citizen awareness and engagement.

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Monitoring and Controlling Pollution

Smart devices can receive information regarding pollution in the same way they do for weather alerts. Weather and pollution often affect one another and the status of each is continually changing. Smart Cities Council states that making this type of information easily available to the public can improve health and overall quality of life.

IoT is enabling the monitoring of pollution without humans having to interact with any of the devices. Data travels directly from the source to a system that evaluates current risks. The data is initially sent to the correct governing officials. They will determine if and when to inform the public.

A specific example of citizens receiving this type of information includes apps that alert those suffering from asthma when the air quality is poor in certain areas of the city. This can help them make informed decisions regarding if they will need to take an inhaler to work or even work from home that particular day.

Increasing Fitness and Safety

Staying active and healthy in large urban areas is sometimes challenging. Providing safety is also part of encouraging fitness among citizens. There are several ways that internet connections can increase citizen engagement by promoting fitness while also keeping individuals safe.

  • Providing Fitness Options – IoT is powering mobile fitness apps, exercise equipment, and wearables, making it easier than ever to exercise and stay fit almost anywhere. Apps and devices can continually track basic data whether an individual is working out at home or running in a park.
  • Providing Health Assistance – Before, during, and after exercising, IoT can monitor basic physical activities such as breathing and heart rate. This can help individuals create the best work out routines and effectively monitor their progress.
  • Shareable Data – Whether it’s for competition, fun, or just getting a good workout, app builders are providing ways for individuals to share their exercise data. According to IoT for all, these new apps can connect people in a variety of ways, including through social media.
  • Wearable Data – Exercising in a gym or running near your home during COVID-19 is a safety concern. Wristbands can alert you if you’re getting too close to others while working out. You can get alerts while you’re exercising if you come within six feet of another person.

Encouraging Park and Recreation Activity

Millions of people aren’t making the most of their community’s parks and recreation areas. Lack of consistent WiFi and other technology issues are part of the problem. Public parks are now including a variety of technologies to increase attendance. Outdoor smart technology includes the following.

  • Promoting Connectivity – Offering free high-speed internet and charging stations throughout a park will encourage more people to visit and stay longer.
  • Augmented Apps – Sea Level reports that augmented reality apps can help increase involvement in park activities. Kids can find these apps on smart phones and take part in games that encourage participating in different activities and learning throughout the park.


  • Geocaching – This is where old fashioned treasure hunting meets modern technology. Using a combination of mobile apps and GPS technology, citizens can look for clues in local parks. Participating in a technological hunt and finding an actual treasure can definitely increase citizen engagement and may even increase tourism.

Reducing Energy Costs

Reducing energy costs is a priority for both individual residents and city officials. Often people aren’t aware of exactly how much energy they’re using until after they receive a statement or a bill. New technology is now changing how individuals can engage on a daily basis with how much energy they regularly use.

According to GovThink, IoT can track water usage and energy consumption in homes and businesses. If individuals are aware of how much water and electricity they’re using, they can make smarter decisions regarding managing their overall use. Smart sensors on appliances are specific ways people can accurately monitor their home energy use. Citizen engagement in this area not only reduces individual energy costs but can help fight climate change and improve the environment for everyone.

There are several home automation tools that individuals can use in their homes to reduce energy costs. Metering systems are another way that residents can view their energy usage and then actively participate in cutting back on how much they use. A homeowner might also use a variety of green energy sources, such as solar panels and wind turbines, that have IoT connections.

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Making Data Analytics Available

One of the first steps toward increasing citizen engagement is making data available for public consumption. Many times, however, it’s difficult to understand or make use of large amounts of data without the proper tools. Data analytics are necessary tools for unlocking the potential in data. Analytics are techniques that include finding patterns and gaining important insights from particular sets of data.

Both business and government agencies can extract and manage large amounts of data. They can provide this data to the public, along with the analytical tools necessary to make informed decisions and improve their lives. Citizens can use this open data in a variety of specific ways.

  • School Performance – Some school districts are posting various data regarding school performance to boost parental involvement. This data might include everything from test scores to what percentage of students are eligible for certain programs.
  • Healthcare Choices – Data about hospitals, what type of doctors are available, and hours that clinics are open can help people decide what type of medical care to choose and what are the best times to make appointments. Easily accessible medical information can help encourage citizens to seek out medical care and improve public health.
  • Local Apps – The Hill reports that in Los Angeles, citizens have access to several free apps. These apps include the ability to report broken street lights and receive information about earthquakes. Providing open data to local residents may also help track potholes or maintain water quality throughout a community.

These are just a few of the examples that show how powerful IoT is for promoting citizen engagement. It is more important than ever for all levels of government, as well as businesses, to make available both the data and the technological tools to use that data effectively.

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