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How IOT and big data are driving smart traffic management and smart cities

How IOT and big data are driving smart traffic management and smart cities

Traffic can be a real pain. Check out this post about IoT and traffic management in smart cities!

By Manohar Parakh

A smart city is classified as a place where citizens live well-organized urban life with the help of information and communication technology (ICT) while maintaining sustainability and causing the least harm to the environment. In greater detail, this means living in a city that plans smart infrastructure and urban services to keep them as efficient as possible. Citizens can easily interact with local bodies, thus, playing a larger role in the city’s management.

A smart city is a place where all the city’s systems like water management, waste management, healthcare, policing and governance, smart buildings, education, energy, etc. are managed in an optimal fashion that benefits citizens, government, and the environment. Reduction in cost and resource consumption is integral to the layout of a smart city. And, all this is impossible without this offshoot of ICT — the IoT technology that can offer governing bodies with real-time solutions for all urban challenges.

What Is IoT?

The Internet of Things or IoT is basically a network of interconnected devices, like sensors and smart devices, that pass on information to each other and a supreme console via the internet. It is that way that we interact with our belongings. All these devices generate data that is so humongous in the amount that it will need hi-tech cloud applications to store, process, and mine. This process is conducted by big data analytics. Any smart city project will use big data to capture, store, process, and analyze large amounts of data generated by several sources and to transform the data into useful knowledge that enables better decision-making processes.

How Big Data and IoT are Being Used in Traffic Management

Traffic management is one of the biggest infrastructure hurdles faced by developing countries today. Developed countries and smart cities are already using IoT and big data to their advantage to minimize issues related to traffic. The culture of the car has been cultivated speedily among people in all types of nations. In most cities, it is common for people to prefer riding their own vehicles no matter how good or bad the public transportation is or considering how much time and money is it going to take for them to reach their destination.

Thus, the increased use of cars has caused an immense amount of traffic congestion. Several countries are overcoming this traffic bottleneck by fetching information from CCTV feeds and transmitting vehicle-related data to city traffic management centers to help create improvements. Better-organized traffic systems mean a better flow of vehicles on the road, and it means no idling cars, buses, and trucks in traffic jams. All this eventually translates to lower run times, proper utilization of natural resources (gas), and less pollution. The emittance of gases is the largest during stop-start driving, and this happens in spots where traffic is regulated by lights. Hence, if you go for smart traffic, this helps in pollution reduction throughout the entire city.

However, smart traffic management also involves other factors, like smart parking sensors, smart streetlights, smart highways, and smart accident assistance amongst other things.

Traffic Lights

Traffic lights that use real-time data feeds are being used to smooth traffic load. Sensors mounted at strategic places can use IoT technology to gather data about high traffic junctions and areas diverting vehicles from these places. Big data can analyze this information further and figure out alternative routes, as well as better traffic signaling to ease congestion. Meanwhile, road-side lights can also work according to weather sensors mounted on them. Dimming of light happens not only as a part of the day-night process but also when weather conditions turn murky. Roadside light sensors can pick up these signals and turn them on and off accordingly.

Smart Parking

Parking has become an Achilles heel in the urban planning scenario. Lack of parking spaces, as well as parallel parking, has heightened traffic snarls at important junctions in cities. IoT-based sensors in parking lots can give out real-time information about empty spots to cars coming from a long distance and looking for a parking space. Such sensors have already been installed in European cities like Paris, France, and Kansas in the US. They have all seen remarkable results with a double-digit percentage reduction in parking issues observed in the span of a year.

Smart Assistance

Road accidents have been one of the top causes of deaths across the world. However, what adds to this gloomy number is the untimely help and assistance to victims in these accidents. CCTVs and sensors on roads can help in locating accident spots and communicating these to the nearest emergency rooms. Once this communication is established in time, all else can be better handled. 


All pros become more quantifiable with cons. While IoT and big data present a path-breaking opportunity in smart traffic management and solutions, they also have some limitations. Firstly, current cities already suffer from infrastructure issues like road planning, zoning, and other construction-related issues that could potentially pose problems when implementing IoT technology.

Secondly, all these fancy, hi-tech solutions need high-speed data transfer techniques and, thus, can work only in cities with great internet connectivity. If for any reason, this connectivity is hampered, the entire smart city could fall apart.

Thirdly, the number of devices accessing the central network means more opportunities for hackers to conduct their malicious attacks. An added layer of security, apart from the usual one and another on top of that, will be needed to make an impenetrable hack-proof smart traffic solution. Data privacy will also have to be maintained, looping in lawmakers and engineers.


Traffic is a crucial aspect that determines a city’s livability factor and efficiency status. Population surge will stop mattering if data and sensors are used capably to manage traffic. As smart cities evolve and increase in number in the coming years, IoT and big data will play a key role in the development and integration of services and infrastructure. With passing time, other issues besides traffic, like waste management, energy conservation, etc., will greatly benefit from the growth of IoT and big data.



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