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smart infrastructure glossary

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Energy & Electricity

Streetlights that are connected on one cohesive, digital system to optimize energy efficiency and maintenance needs. Smart streetlights may utilize sensors or cameras to detect motion, allowing for lights to dim when no activity is present and brighten when activity is detected. Some smart streetlights are monitored via software, allowing for quick detection of maintenance needs and collection/analysis of data to determine pre-set brightness levels. The use of LED lights, as opposed to standard high-pressure sodium lights, also greatly increases energy efficiency.

Smart Electricity Meters

Electricity meters that have a two-way connection between the consumer and the supplier, typically - but not always - managed wirelessly. Smart meters allow for real-time monitoring of energy usage, allowing for utility companies and customers to better understand their energy usage and adjust accordingly. The utilization of smart meter data can result in dynamic pricing (charging more during peak energy usage times), controlling power plant operation based on peak usage times, quick response to outages and other service interruptions, and customer adjustment/regulation of personal energy usage.

Smart Thermostats

Thermostats that are connected to the internet, allowing for remote control of heating and cooling. Through sensors and wireless internet connections, smart thermostats not only employ scheduling features, like programmable thermostats, but also allow users access to the thermostat from anywhere, and are capable of turning HVAC systems on or off based on room occupancy, with the goal of ultimately increasing energy efficiency.


Smart Grid

An electricity grid that utilizes digital technology to monitor and control energy usage. The smart grid allows for two-way communication between the supplier(s) and the consumer(s), as well as sensors and monitoring points along the way -- all connected via one system. This monitoring and communication has the potential to increase efficiency, reliability, stability, and security of the power grid.


A localized source of power generation with the ability to operate independently of the larger power grid system. With the options for operating independently - on “island mode’” - or plugged into the larger utility’s system, microgrids allow for the integration of renewable energy sources, optimize energy efficiency, and stabilize the power grid overall. 

District Energy

An energy system in which a network of buildings share a heating and/or cooling distribution mechanism, increasing efficiency. Often, district energy systems utilize combined heat and power (CHP), geothermal, or other innovative and sustainable methods of energy generation. 

Combined Heat and Power (CHP)

Utilizing “wasted” heat energy from power plants to heat and cool buildings. 

water & waste

Water & Waste
Smart Trash Containers

Trash bins that utilize sensors to measure trash volume and instruct garbage truck routes, ultimately increasing collection efficiency. 

Smart Water Meters

Water meters that have a two-way connection between the consumer and the supplier, typically - but not always - managed wirelessly. Smart meters allow for real-time monitoring of water usage, allowing for utility companies and customers to better understand their water consumption and adjust accordingly. The utilization of smart meter data can result in dynamic pricing (charging more during peak usage times), quick detection of leaks or fraud, and increased customer awareness of personal water usage -- ultimately leading to reduced consumption.

Smart Sewage Sensors

Sensors located in sewer systems that can be used to monitor and control stormwater, redirect sewage, report on needed pipe maintenance, and even test sewage for foreign substances. 

Water Level Sensors

Sensors that monitor water levels, used for flood warning systems. Monitoring technologies include ultrasonic level sensors (using sound waves), pressure transducers (measuring the weight of water), and radar level sensors (using radar and electromagnetic waves). Sensors are typically located in rivers, lakes, reservoirs, and ocean coastlines.

Smart Irrigation Systems

Irrigation controllers that can monitor conditions in the weather and soil and automatically adjust watering schedules accordingly. Smart irrigation systems reduce water waste and increase efficiency.

mobility &


Mobility & Transportation
Smart Parking Systems

A variety of data-informed systems in place that utilize sensors and digital payment systems to ease parking and reduce traffic congestion. Systems include sensors in parking spaces and structures that guide drivers directly to available spaces, kiosks with digital payment systems, and apps with digital payment systems.

Public Transit Tracking

Real-time public transit tracking technology, including digital signage or mobile apps, used to alert riders to arrivals, departures, and delays. 

Digital Public Transit Payment Systems

Public transit digital payment systems, including mobile ticketing and touchless smart cards, that improve service efficiency and generate data on utilization.

Smart Traffic Signals

Traffic control systems that combine traditional traffic lights with sensors and in some cases artificial intelligence to route vehicle and pedestrian traffic. Smart traffic signals have the capability to improve overall traffic flow and decrease congestion through timing and phasing lights, dynamically changing speed limits, and/or employing traffic light preemption technology that prioritizes emergency vehicles or busses.

Transportation Infrastructure Sensors

Sensors placed on various elements of a city’s infrastructure - including public transit, roads, bridges, and/or rails - to monitor condition and predict maintenance needs in advance of breakdowns or disruptions.

EV Charging Stations

Infrastructure to provide charging stations for electric vehicles. Models may be publicly available or limited to private use, may be capable of communicating with the grid and/or the public to demonstrate availability, and may vary in charge time. This infrastructure is critical to support the widespread adoption of electric and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles.

Bike Share

A bicycle-sharing system in which bikes are made available for public use on a short-term basis. Bicycles may be available for a low cost, often through a monthly subscription, or for free. Bikes may be connected to a dock or left dockless, and can be locked/unlocked through a mobile app. Mobile apps can also show users available bikes around the city, and data on use is often made available for analysis. Some cities are also beginning to adopt electric scooter and/or moped shares.

health & safety

Health & Safety
Water Quality Sensors

A series of sensors that test the quality of water and allow for real-time monitoring and alerts to the public. Sensors are typically placed in water mains, rivers, lakes, oceans, or other large bodies of water, and can help control for pollution as well as ensure safe drinking water.

Air Quality Sensors

A series of sensors that test air quality and allow for real-time monitoring and alerts to the public. Sensors are typically connected throughout a city, town, or region and record information about pollution levels and possible sources. This information can provide opportunities for cities to take action to reduce emissions and the public to adjust behavior and/or take precautionary methods to protect their health. 

Gunshot Detection System

System that detects gunshots or other weapon fires and, through the use of sensors, conveys location information to law enforcement in real time. Gunshot detection systems are often used to increase officer response time and rate to gunshots, particularly in areas where weapon fires may be underreported.


Crime Mapping

The use of mapping technologies by law enforcement to map, visualize, and analyze real-time crime patterns. Information collected can be used to identify trends, support community policing, and adjust allocation of resources accordingly.

Smart Surveillance Systems

Video analysis technology that utilizes artificial intelligence and/or other predictive technologies to recognize patterns or inconsistencies, with the ultimate goal of reducing crime and increasing safety. Systems can include facial recognition technology, smart closed-circuit TVs, and license plate recognition software. 


Telemedicine Infrastructure

The use of audiovisual technology to bridge gaps in medical care. Telemedicine can take the form of video calls between a patient and a physician to provide diagnoses or monitoring. The use of such technology is particularly beneficial in areas with medical provider shortages, and can increase access to medical care.

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Information & Communcations Technology

information &

communications technology

Digital Citizen Services

Online portal or other internet-connected means for citizens to access government administrative services. Administrative tasks completed through such an online portal could include renewing a drivers license, registering a car, or applying for public benefits.

Civic Engagement Applications

Digital apps that allow citizens to interact with government officials and city affairs, including reporting maintenance needs and other non-emergency issues, reviewing and commenting on policy proposals, and more.

Internet of Things

The Internet of Things (IoT) refers to "smart" devices or systems that would otherwise be non-Internet enabled, but are now connected wirelessly to the Internet, like kiosks, irrigation systems, and package trackers.

Broadband Internet

Internet infrastructure that allows for faster speeds over longer distances. Broadband can utilize fiber-optic cable (“fiber”), which utilizes light instead of electricity to transmit data, or traditional electrical cable. 


The “fifth generation” of mobile network technology, 5G uses more advanced technology than traditional cellular data to offer faster speeds for uploads, downloads, and network connections. 5G is not yet widely available, but has the potential to improve connectivity among internet-connected devices in the future.

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