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IOT – Make cities livable

Internet-connected “smart” devices can help transform fast-developing cities in Asia and the Pacific into safe and sustainable urban centers.


Advancements in digital technologies, specifically the Internet of Things or IoT, is leading the fourth industrial revolution.The McKinsey Global Institute sees the economic impact of IoT to be in the range of $3.9 trillion to $11.1 trillion per year by 2025.

In urban development, IoT has the potential to help cities pursue a sustainable development path by increasing efficiency in the use of energy and other resources.

Bicycle paths line the banks of the Shing Mun River in Shatin. Across the river are the Sha Kok Estate and Yue Shing Court. Both housing estates are part of the Urban Development Project of the ADB in Hong Kong, China in 1977. The project is ADB’s first in the urban development (housing) sector.

What is the Internet of Things?

Essentially, IoT deals with communication between people and machines, machines to machines, and machines to institutions, and vice versa. Its components include sensors, identified “things” on which these sensors are applied, programming algorithms, and communication equipment and networks (Figure below).

The Internet of Things

What can solutions based on IoT technology do?

Any IoT-enabled solution has the following capabilities:

  • mechanisms to collect data from varied sources, and enable its secured storage, analysis, and decision making;
  • usage of different forms of information communication networks to enable machine-to-machine, people-to-machine, and machine-to-institutions flow of information; and
  • services components for creation and maintenance of software and hardware to execute smart functions.

How can IoT support the sustainable development goals?

IoT started with smart meters and smart thermostats, which are internet-connected devices that send data. Since then, the technology has been used not just in the energy sector but also in other infrastructure projects, such as urban development and transport. For example, the project can be a smart city, smart grid, or intelligent transport, with IoT serving as the central nervous system for the smart technology. ​

In urban development, IoT can help cities become more livable, making them green, competitive, resilient, inclusive, and sustainable. In Asia and the Pacific, where there is rapid urbanization, IoT solutions can enable cities to shift to a more sustainable development path.

In the urban development operations of Asian Development Bank, for example, IoT can be utilized in each of the five urban solution pathways—water, nature, equity, resilience, and digital—to add value and innovation, and thereby further enhance development. Figure 2 below is a schematic representation of the interconnection between livable cities and the Internet of Things.

Capitalizing on Internet of Things can lead to smart, competitive, and livable cities
Capitalizing on Internet of Things can lead to smart, competitive, and livable cities

This article was adapted from content featured on Asian Development Bank’s Livable Cities website through Development Asia website.


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