You know the feeling: you’re stuck, crawling along Monday morning traffic, and you’re going to be five minutes late to work—maybe ten if you can’t beat that light at that intersection. You hit the gas to try to catch the light but it quickly changes from yellow to red. You impatiently wonder when the light will turn green so you won’t be any later. That’s your dashboard lights up: “Green light in 28 seconds.” What a relief.

What is this incredible, stress-reducing technology? How do you get this real-time traffic information? Vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) communication, such as Audi’s Traffic Light Information technology or BMW’s EnLighten app, connects internet-enabled cars to networked streetlights for both real-time and predictive traffic information. While this upgrade may not seem monumental, it demonstrates the boundless capabilities of digitizing our modern infrastructure for the future.

This technology is just one small piece of the Smart City idea, a concept state and local governments across the country are embracing. Smart Cities use technology to improve their citizen’s lives by connecting several key city infrastructures via the Internet of Things (IoT). By connecting these infrastructures across the City, employees and planners can monitor for problems, respond to issues in real time, and better plan for city improvements.

According to Navigant Research, the key infrastructures are energy, water, mobility, buildings, and government industries. One example of these infrastructure improvements is smart streets. These are interconnected networks of streets providing live travel updates by continually reading and redirecting information from and to millions of devices. Combined with smart parking management, a system that alerts your vehicle to available public parking spots nearby, these features aim to make transportation in densely populated cities more efficient for everyone.

Security is a top priority for municipalities and implementing new methods like smart kiosks is an innovate method for protecting citizens. Smart kiosks are equipped with 24×7 surveillance cameras that can alert citizens instantly to unsafe areas that have suffered environmental hazards, or may have recently been the stage for criminal activity. Placing these kiosks at popular hotspots around the City can monitor crowds for any potential dangers and alert citizens on their instantly.

As more of these connected devices and sensors come online, cities and companies will have to ensure that all of the data collected is secured and out of the hands of criminals. Most cities implementing these technologies have developed safeguards to ensure that no personal information about citizens is released, but as is the case with anything new, there are always unforeseen issues that arise. Governments will need to develop strong prevention plans and safeguards as well as strategic responses to the inevitable criminal attacks on the system.

Smart cities are most certainly the way of the future and the benefits offered are potentially limitless. The increased efficiency can save taxpayers thousands, possibly millions of dollars; the ability to constantly monitor gathering places and hotspots can lower crime and keep people safer, and the data collected from the connected devices can help governments provide better services for their citizens. All of these will undoubtedly usher in a safer, better future for all of us.