Smart cities: technologies for sustainability


According to the Internet of Things Observatory of the School of Management of the Politecnico di Milano, the most growing areas in 2020, relating to the IoT market, were smart agriculture, smart factories, smart logistics and smart cities.

If on the one hand the pandemic has developed a growing interest in the topic of smart cities, on the other it has inevitably increased uncertainties about investments.

Smart city and IoT: data

The Observatory has collected a series of extremely interesting and significant data, which accurately and precisely capture the state of the development of smart cities in our country.

89%: Italian municipalities with more than 15,000 inhabitants who consider the issue of smart cities to be relevant (+9%), with 47% considering it even more priority after the emergency represented by the pandemic.

16%: Italian municipalities that have started new projects not previously planned.

37%: Italian municipalities where uncertainties have arisen regarding the decisions to be taken.

4%: Italian municipalities that have slowed down already planned projects.

59%: Italian municipalities that have activated at least one smart city initiative in the three-year period 2018-2020 (in the three-year period 2017-2019 the percentage was 42%).

46%: the projects analysed which are still in the pilot phase (+15%).

54%: Italian municipalities that have launched stable programs involving also other municipalities and third parties (+8%). However, only 11% of these projects are coordinated with an extended group of municipalities, while 35% are carried out by individual municipalities.

⭕️ The main obstacles in starting smart city projects are:

  • lack of skills (+7% on 2019);
  • scarce financial resources (+8% on 2019);
  • poor ability to use data (65% of municipalities have started to collect them, only 14% share them with other public and private companies, one third do not use them and 29% have no intention of doing so even in the future);
  • excess bureaucracy (for 30%, -8%);
  • internal resistances (16%);
  • difficulty of coordination between municipalities and other actors (16%).

⭕️ In carrying out projects, municipalities create collaborations with:

  • municipal companies (35%);
  • law enforcement agencies (32%);
  • universities and research centres (26%).

⭕️ In perspective, municipalities are mainly aimed at:

  • other neighbouring municipalities (40%);
  • innovative start-ups (32%);
  • service providers (28%).

The pandemic blocked the growth of the IoT (which had recorded +24% in 2019 and +35% in 2018) even if the Italian market holds up with only 3% of decline (the average trend in the main western countries oscillates between -5% and + 8%). Here are some data.

93 million: IoT connections active in Italy, of which 34 million mobile phones and 59 million relating to other technologies (including Low Power Wide Area – LPWA networks).

+4%: the growth of services related to connected objects, for a value of 2.4 billion euros.

+8%: the growth of smart city projects (for a value of 560 million euros) initiated by municipalities and through public-private partnerships.

Smart cities: investments and technologies for sustainability

The concept of smart city was born above all to respond to two needs: rapid urbanization and the need to use new and increasingly sophisticated technologies to improve the lifestyles of the population.

But it is necessary that administrations, entrepreneurs and citizens use technology to achieve the set goals, with the widest possible public involvement.

🔵 According to IDC’s “Smart Cities Spending Guide”, by 2022 the annual financial expenditure dedicated to smart city initiatives will reach the figure of 158 billion dollars.

🔵 It is therefore necessary to implement strategies aimed at optimizing the impact of smart initiatives, while at the same time reducing the costs of installation and commissioning (the so-called deployment), perhaps using, where possible, existing infrastructures.

🔵 Problems related to traffic congestion, for example, can be reduced by an effective combination of mobility strategies and smart parking technologies.

Smart parking: present and future

The three key elements of a smart city are represented by sensors, connectivity and data analysis. The IoT infrastructure, the real “nervous system” of a smart city, has the task of reuniting them.

➡️ An IoT device is normally connected to a local network through a connection of various types. In this case it is necessary to choose the best protocol able to adapt to each specific situation.

➡️ With the introduction of 5G, it is possible to benefit from high speed, extended bandwidth (to connect more devices) and reduced latency time, thus opening the field to new horizons for smart devices.

➡️ Many forecasts indicate that the number of connected devices by the middle of this decade will be between 20 and 30 billion. It follows that the enormous amount of data generated and transmitted via the Internet must be processed and analysed to obtain useful information.

To create efficient urban planning, it is therefore necessary not only to have accurate data, but also to carry out an in-depth analysis.


The management of this data is essential in a smart parking system that allows to identify free spaces and offers guided navigation to them. All the components of the system must communicate in an extremely efficient and precise way to achieve the expected results and make our cities truly smart.

Source: “Automazione Oggi” – Maggio 2021: “City o smart city?” – Antonella Cattaneo – pp. 42-43 | “Smart city: la promessa di stili di vita migliori e più sostenibili” – Mark Patrick – pp. 44/46


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