How the internet of things can build more healthy, livable, and walkable cities

The dream of walkable cities and livable downtown areas.

  • Desire by cities to transform themselves into modern high density living environments.
  • Long commutes, concerns about the environment, and changing cultural attitudes are spurring an interesting downtown living.
  • Design of cities is changing to accommodate these cultural shifts. However, cities lack the data to inform the design.
  • Lots of potential information which could better inform how the city is planned is currently being lost.

The technology behind the system

  • Arduino Board
  • Particle Electron Board
  • Light and Photoresistor
  • Humidity and Temperature Sensor
  • Sound Sensor
  • Gas Sensor
  • Various data mining and file management software.

Use case 1: improving walking traffic flow

  • Tracking the movement of walkers could provide many useful insights into traffic patterns.
  • How do varying levels of noise impact walking? How about rain? Temperature?
  • People avoid a certain dark area at night, it may seem sketchy and unsafe.
  • This tracking system is anonymous. It doesn’t record who it is passing by.

Use case 2: measuring noise and air pollution

  • Noise pollution can reduce the value of properties, can harm hearing, and can discourage walking. However, little noise pollution data is collected.
  • Air pollution and bad smells can negatively impact the health of walkers. Carbon monoxide and methane are especially problematic and common compounds which would be hazardous.

Use Case 3: Detailed city environment maps

  • The gas sensor detects several gases dangerous to human health such as methane and carbon monoxide.
  • Could be correlated with everything from littering data to levels of heat/cold, which matters for environmental planning.
  • Could be used for bridge lifespan analysis, giving the city detailed information about bridge usage and environmental conditions


While eager to take advantage of the new technology which the internet of things offers, cities have yet to embrace the technology on a massive scale. SmartSteps could introduce cities to the potential of sensor technology while providing them with the information they need to effectively transform their downtown areas into the highly livable and walkable areas.

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