View source: Jean Pilon-Bignell

Vehicles are undoubtedly one of the most pressing concerns for large, sprawling cities facing growing pollution and traffic problems, but they are fast becoming part of the solution thanks to telematics technology.

Chronicling urban growth over the decades, the United Nations (UN) reports that city populations have ballooned collectively from 751 million in 1950 to 4.2 billion in 2019, a number reflecting more than half the world’s population. Among the most densely populated, the surge in both people and industrialization has resulted in tremendous challenges to infrastructure, citizen engagement, safety, sustainability and the environment. Globally, the World Health Organization estimates that poor air quality is a way of life for 90 percent of the planet, with pollution causing 7 million premature deaths a year while accounting for $225 billion in lost labor and trillions more in health-care spend. With staggering statistics like these only set to rise as urban areas are predicted to become home to two-thirds of the earth’s inhabitants by 2050, municipalities and entire countries are investing in new programs and technologies to enable smarter cities. A concept introduced by IBM amid the economic crisis of 2008 with its “Smarter Planet” vision, smarter cities are being defined by intelligent power grids and health-care solutions, as well as water, food, public safety and transportation systems all built on a foundation of data, cloud, mobile, social and security — and interpreted with sophisticated analytics and algorithms driving smarter decision-making.


Vehicles are undoubtedly one of the most pressing concerns for large, sprawling cities across the globe that face growing pollution and traffic problems, but they are fast becoming part of the solution thanks to telematics technology. The state of California has introduced several green initiatives targeted at improving fleet operations and reducing the harmful impact to the environment. To measure success, ensure effectiveness and improve overall state, municipal and county fleet efficiency, the state’s Sustainability Roadmap implemented a centralized telematics program to help reduce fossil fuel usage, improve vehicle utilization and reduce operating costs.

California is among numerous states and cities around the world utilizing telematics not only to optimize fleet operations but also provide regional governments with unprecedented access to a leading-edge computing and analytics platform that can put connected vehicle data to use within a myriad of smart city and smart state initiatives — making them even smarter. In addition to improving road safety, traffic flow and parking efficiency, data collected from roaming fleets — both public or private — assists in monitoring external factors such as weather conditions, identifying hazards and predicting traffic patterns, as well as planning electric vehicle (EV) infrastructure, including optimal locations for charging stations.


As urban population growth continues to outpace rural, smarter cities across the globe are diving deeper, using data and analytics to identify and ultimately drive downstream improvements in health and safety, mobility, efficiency, environmental sustainability and more, all with a common goal to improve the quality of life for constituents.

With most smart city initiatives dependent upon statistically significant data-driven insights, imagine the transformative capabilities of an IoT mobile sensor network connected to telematics devices mass-deployed in vehicles to capture valuable citywide data. In its 2018 report entitled “Future Fleets: The Potential for Vehicle Based Pollution Mapping,” the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) and Geotab examined the potential of public and commercial fleet vehicles in revolutionizing the way air pollution is monitored and measured across the United States. By combining mobile air quality sensors with telematics technologies, the findings suggest that city vehicles utilized for animal control, waste management, public health and beyond could provide hyperlocal data and insights that inform solutions to health, economic and climate challenges associated with air pollution. Focusing on finding the right partners, cities and states can start measuring and mapping daily exposure to air pollution and provide actionable steps on how to minimize car journeys, avoid polluted streets, ventilate homes and choose options such as an electric vehicle or car club for future transportation needs.

While there is not one single blueprint for emerging as a smart city, many of the world’s best are already adopting new policies that will position them for efficient and sustainable growth. What the future holds depends only on how far we can stretch the imagination. As smarter cities become trailblazers, telematics and related connected vehicle technologies are likely to serve as key enablers to this revolution that is pushing boundaries in every direction, making the impossible not just possible but life changing on a global scale.