Smart city ideas and suggestions

In this article we will take a quick dive into the smart city ideas and suggestions you should know

Smart city ideas and suggestions

Smart City Ideas & Suggestions

The Smart City movement is currently one of the most important and innovative topics in technology. Smart Cities are changing the way we live, work, and play. In this blog post, we will discuss key points to consider when approaching a new smart city project, what questions to ask and ideas on projects you can begin implementing into your City today to make it more successful.

What you will get from this article

  1. Where to start?
  2. Defining a good problem
  3. Defining a good solution
  4. How to test to maximise outcomes
  5. Maintenance considerations
  6. List of Smart City project ideas
  7. What to pick?

1. Where to start

With a good problem… 

It may sound obvious, but far too often do we see smart cities investing in off-the-shelf solutions without first defining a valuable problem that needs solving. It is easy to get carried away by the claims of many IoT devices on the market today – each promising to solve all our problems with the flick of a switch. 

However, it is important not to fall into the trap of finding an awesome new gadget and then working backwards to find a problem it can solve.

With all the smart city ideas and suggestions outlined in this article, it is critical to have a clear view of the problem you are looking to solve before making a purchase.

2. Defining a good problem

The first step in defining a good problem is to first narrow down the field by answering the following questions:

  • What are the top of mind pain points of your department?
  • Which of these problems is costing you the most time/money/ headaches?
  • Which of these problems could be solved or reduced through automation or quality data?
  • What will the outcomes be once this problem is solved?

3. Defining a solution

Once a problem has been identified, the next logical step is to determine the viable solutions currently available on the market that will produce the outcomes you want. 

A word of warning; companies’ whose business model is focused on selling sensor units will claim some pretty wonderful things, however, these claims should be taken with a heavy grain of salt. 

Smart city sensors are not magical devices that can solve all of the problems in a certain area, rather they should be seen as tools used to collect data which will then need further processing and interpretation by humans before actionable insights are gained. 

When assessing the solutions on the market; be sure to do your due diligence:

  • What are the claims of the device?
  • What are forums external to the company saying about it?
  • What are the on-going costs?
  • Does the company lock you in and make it hard to switch approaches down the track?

4. How to test to maximise outcomes

So you have defined a good problem, found a viable solution and now looking purchase a batch of systems. Before you send off that purchase order stop, think and test. Smart city projects are expensive, so it is important you are investing in the right solutions that will provide value for years to come. 

The first test would be to look to those who have already purchased the product and implemented it:

  • What were their thoughts?
  • What did they learn from the experience?
  • What sort of results were generated?  

Hot tip: Look up independent opinions external to the company website to get an objective opinion. 

Once you have completed your concept test, it is time to move on to the physical one – testing the claims of the device out for yourself. Order 1-2 samples for yourself and construct a test environment to put the devices through their paces. 

Our team at SAPHI recently completed this for a council in the Hunter who wanted to determine if their cyclist counter lived up to the claims on the website before placing a large order. Fortunately, before the purchase order was signed, our team were able to put the device through a series of controlled tests that uncovered the device was in fact, a lemon. 

This is a highly common story in Smart City projects – the devices look great on paper but when they get out into the field the results tell a different story.

5. Maintenance considerations

Once you have the device configured, connected to a database and deployed – the real work begins. IoT devices are far from set and forget solutions. Much like that veggie garden you have set up and killed several times over the years, the systems you have deployed in the city require constant attention to keep them alive and kicking. 

For this reason, it is vital to have a management team and strategy in place, before you purchase, to ensure your devices stay at their peak and continue to bring value to your city long-term.

6. Smart City Ideas & Suggestions

It’s difficult to say what will work and what won’t. As you know, each city is unique and has different priorities. However, with that said, here are some smart city ideas ranging from quick wins to large scale projects that have the potential for long-term success:


  • Soil monitoring: Smart soil monitoring is a smart city idea that are relatively inexpensive and simple to install. Smart soil monitors are useful pieces of technology for keeping track of the status and health of your city’s gardens.


  • Pedestrian counting: a small scale pilot project for pedestrian counting can be a quick, cheap and easy way to gather data from citizens. This information is invaluable for understanding commuting habits which can inform where the city should focus on developing, upgrading or diverting.


  • Smart parking: Smart parking systems can be installed in a matter of weeks and will enable citizens to access available spaces with ease. Additionally, data on parking habits around the city can indicate to the council where they should focus their efforts on creating new parking spaces.


  • City pothole detection: A simple accelerometer attached to a garbage truck can be enough to give decision-makers the data they need to determine road sections of concern that need attending to. Furthermore, for more accurate results, a basic AI camera system can provide not just alerts, but detailed images of the size and scope of the holes detected.


  • Indoor air quality: Smar air quality systems can be used to detect and assess the air quality within your buildings. With these systems, you will have an insight into the temperature, airflow, carbon dioxide levels and humidity of workspaces so you can make informed decisions to keep your spaces happy and healthy for all.


  • Pollution tracking: In areas where there is a significant amount of traffic, the pollution levels can be troubling. Smart city projects involving air quality sensors that work with to produce detailed and meaningful data on how much pollutants are in the air.


  • Smart alert system: Custom-developed smart alert systems are a smart way to trigger workflows for the relevant council team members when predefined parameters are met. For example; when soil moisture is low or potholes are discovered etc. notifications are triggered by the system and workflow alerts are sent to the maintenance teams to amend the problem. A central, integrated alert system is an invaluable method for reducing the manual labour ordinarily associated with manual checks and workflow requests.


  • Smart street lighting: Smart street lighting uses the latest technology to reduce the energy usage of traditional street lights. Smart lights can automatically adjust their brightness based on periods of inactivity; they can also transmit maintenance information for quicker response times. 

7. The burden of choice. What to pick?

With a saturated market of IoT solutions targeted towards smart cities, it can be a nightmare to nail down the right option for you. 

One thing I am very passionate about having grown up in a small council district is ensuring budgets are not wasted on hollow promises. For this reason, if you need some advice on what would be the right smart city project/device choice for you, feel free to reach out to our team for a chat. 

We are happy to volunteer an hour or so of our time to point you in the right direction, offer some advice on what to look out for and give you some tips on implementation.

Thank you for reading!

Thank you for reading this guide! We hope it gave you a better idea of
which method of communication will work best for you! 


Have more questions?

To find out more about what would work best for your individual circumstance, I encourage you to reach out to our team here for a quick chat. 

Follow our page