In October, when a large-scale cyberattack disrupted popular websites such as Twitter and Netflix, security problems with the internet of things (IoT) were in the spotlight. Are baby monitors and LED lights the next sources of distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks against critical infrastructure?
But all is not doom and gloom when it comes to IoT technology. There is an upside and much promise.
At the Gartner Symposium/ITxpo in Barcelona, the firm's analysts propose that smart cities start looking beyond what IoT is currently being used for -- mainly transportation and congestion issues -- and begin thinking about a whole new realm of possibilities for the technology, especially around environmental, climate change, and sustainability issues.
With Europe as the backdrop, the Gartner analysts focused on the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference, or COP 21, which was held in Paris last year and led to a new agreement to curb greenhouse gases around the world.
The agreement, coupled with other continental initiatives such as Horizon 2020 (a research development program sponsored by the European Union), will put a new burden on countries, as well as cities, to meet these goals, especially around emissions.
This is where IoT comes in.
"With the Horizon 2020 goals of energy efficiency, carbon emission reductions and renewable energy in mind, many cities in Europe have launched energy sustainability, resource management, social inclusion and community prosperity initiatives," Bettina Tratz-Ryan, a research vice president at Gartner, told the audience, according to a Nov. 8 statement. The show runs from Nov. 6 to Nov. 10.
To that point, Gartner has predicted that many smart cities will start changing their key performance indicators (KPIs) in order to meet these goals. The question is how to employ IoT, data, and analytics, as well as the IT professionals responsible for implanting these initiatives, to meet these new objectives.
The focus on IoT and transportation is a good start. Many cities have started using this data to alleviate traffic and increase driver and pedestrian safety. But Gartner says it's time to take it to the next level.
In addition to making decisions about traffic, IoT needs to be used to reduce the number of cars on the road and take advantage of a new generation of electric vehicles that are coming online. This can also provide a wealth of data to make planning better.
"The uptake of ride sharing, the electrification of public transportation, the support infrastructure for e-vehicles and congestion charging for combustion engines, all of those examples are driving cleaner air, producing fewer GHG emissions and saving energy, while improving the noise levels and ambience on streets," Tratz-Ryan said during the Gartner event, according to the statement.
An example is Florence, Italy, a city that is using electric vehicles as tour buses that take visitors around the city while reducing pollution. The key to all of this is discovering how to use the IoT and the data sensors collect to make better planning decisions.
By next year, Gartner is predicting that smart cities will be using about 380 million connected devices, with about 58% of these being used in commercial building and with transportation. By 2020, that number could jump to 1.39 billion connected IoT sensors and devices.
Gartner is not the only firm bullish on IoT. A recent report from Forrester Research urged enterprise CIOs to get behind the technology, noting that IT leaders need to "create business insights at multiple levels of their organization, and, ultimately, start to bridge the gap between the physical and virtual worlds."
In her talk at the Gartner event, Tratz-Ryan also spoke about using these smart buildings, which are using IoT-connected devices to control lights and temperature, as ways to meet these new environmental KPIs, while proving to citizens that the technology is working toward a greater goal.
"The advantages for cities will be profound," Tratz-Ryan said. "They will not only meet their mandated targets of the Horizon 2020 goals, but also develop greener and more inclusive city conditions that citizens can acknowledge as KPIs."