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Cities Are Rapidly Taking on Internet of Things Technology

In 2015, 61 percent of cities participating in a national survey project said they were considering the Internet of Things in their IT strategic plans. This year, that number reached above 90 percent.

It may still be an emerging technology, but in U.S. local government, the Internet of Things is everywhere.

According to survey data from the 2018 Digital Cities survey, a Center for Digital Government* project, 92 percent of cities participating in the program said they were considering the potential of IoT in their strategic planning.

That’s not necessarily a representation of all cities in the U.S.; the data simply reflects survey participants. But the trend in that question is undeniable — the annual project has been asking participants this question for years now, and since 2015, the percentage of cities answering affirmatively has risen from 61 percent to 92. That rose steadily each year the question was asked.

IoT involves connected sensors of any kind, such as air quality sensors or pedestrian-counting cameras. One particularly popular local government IoT project as of late has been smart street light upgrades, where a municipality will swap out old, inefficient lighting for LEDs. As they do so, many cities opt for lights that are dimmable, can change their color and are outfitted with connectivity hardware that allows them to remotely control the lights and add on extras like cameras, computers and sensors.

The question is worded somewhat vaguely, so it's possible some of the participants involved are simply stating that they are thinking about how they might use IoT, as opposed to actively testing it and using it for operations.

But there are definitely some using the technology in real-world settings. Take Coral Gables, Fla., a city in the Miami area that won first place in its population category in Digital Cities 2018. Coral Gables’ IT strategic plan lays out several projects the city has undertaken since 2017, including air quality sensors, pedestrian counters, smart street lights and online dashboards to aggregate all the data together.

This data is part of a larger infographic based on Digital Cities 2018 data to be released in the coming weeks.

The Center for Digital Government is part of e.Republic, Government Technology's parent company.


Ben Miller is the associate editor of data and business for Government Technology. His reporting experience includes breaking news, business, community features and technical subjects. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in journalism from the Reynolds School of Journalism at the University of Nevada, Reno, and lives in Sacramento, Calif.