The Internet of Things (IoT) aims to merge the physical and virtual worlds to create smart environments that improve our lives. One environment that has a huge impact on our daily lives is the cities in which we live.
A smart city uses digital technologies and information & communication technologies (ICT) to connect people, processes, data, and things, for the benefit of its citizens and businesses. Using advanced and popularly accepted technologies, smart cities offer sophisticated, citizen-oriented services that catapult outdated public utilities and urban services into the 21st century.
Smart city technology is being implemented in major sectors including government services, transport and traffic management, energy, health care, water and waste. Smart city projects and applications are designed to analyze and respond to real-time, context-specific information to address specific urban issues and challenges.
US Smart Cities Initiatives
Smart city innovators have been encouraged by Barak Obama’s personal involvement in this exciting new trend. Chicago has been active in the smart city space since the election of Mayor Rahm Emanuel in 2011. The City has taken significant steps to achieve the City’s aspiration to create a ‘City-as-a-Platform’ where products and services can be built on city-owned resources, including investment in open, superfast broadband infrastructure; community engagement and inclusion projects; and projects specifically aimed at fostering technological innovation.
Boston also has an impressive smart city initiative. The Mayor’s Office of New Urban Mechanics (MONUM ) in Boston, set up in 2010 by Mayor Thomas Menino, is an essential mechanism for Boston’s innovation in smart city investments. MONUM encourages and enables collaboration with innovative companies and SMEs, and supports other city departments through offering expertise and funding. It adopts a top-down and bottom-up model for innovation, and pays particular attention to good communication both internally and with other cities.
Smart City Technology Trends
Several technology trends are emerging that have an immediate impact on cities as they transition to the smart cities.
- Data sharing and unification of smart city platforms bring benefits
The ability to collect and quickly analyze vast volumes of data is becoming the biggest trend. The unification, sharing and controlling of vast volumes of data leads the trends toward smart cities. Although disparate legacy systems sitting in isolated silos can be connected and shared, big-data collection and analytics can deliver a sudden, pronounced impact.
Commoditization of computer hardware able to manipulate massive data stores, along with the ubiquitous adoption of Cloud computing and storage, empower city systems to exploit the data that enables central management of cross-departmental functions.
- Predictive analysis improvements help us learn as we go
Now that we have the Data Lake well stocked, how do we fish for useful information and services? Prediction is the hook to use. This year we will see an explosion of practical applications that make use of the next level in prediction: systems that automatically learn how to predict based on past successes and failures. This will help cities to plan better based on traffic, population, power consumption and other trends as they occur. Even more interestingly, predictive analytics of city and social media data is proving to be useful in daily operations, allowing instant changes and adjustments to services.
- IoT everywhere
IoT is not just a hot topic. It’s everywhere, and it’s changing our lives. The concentration of people, facilities and services within a city make it a natural benefactor of IoT technologies. Consider the usefulness of sensors that can control everything from parking availability to building temperature to waste-water to bus lines to sports events … there is virtually no limit.
The possibility for services emanating from interconnection between people, things, and systems via IoT is mind-boggling. New, low power, high-speed wireless networks that traverse every facility will have to be deployed and aligned.
- Satellite eyes and city-wide video surveillance
The implementation of satellite sensors, such as advanced imaging cameras for granular management activities at the city level, has proven successful and we can expect a lot more of it. Satellite services are already enabling cities to control planning through precise measurement of buildings via satellite feeds rather than by wasteful dispatch of scarce employees to inspect structures.
Governments use city-wide video surveillance to gather information that can be used in crime prevention, citizen protection, employee safety, crowd control, home monitoring, facility management, and a myriad other uses. Satellite-based video surveillance will soon be ubiquitous and around-the-clock.
- Helping people with open data and personal dashboards
The explosion of available data sources and cheap technology to deliver relevant data to citizens on mobile devices is changing our daily lives. Smart cities will be able to deliver services that use more current data, and provide Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) that can harness the data in helpful ways.
Interactions with citizens will be seamless, irrespective of the channel of communication. Technology will bring the average man in the street closer to city service managers and to each other in the pursuit of smooth consumption of services.
Smart Gigabit Networks – The Smart City Engine
Smart cities require very smart networks able to transmit huge volumes of information, at very high speeds, among people and machines. These networks will enable deployment of new, smart services in a matter of hours, instead of every new service requiring many months to develop and deploy. The new networks will have to offer Internet access at gigabit speed.
Let’s look at three ways that new Gigabit networks will contribute to the smart city vision:
- Multi-Gigabit Ethernet networks enable big data and video services
The imminent impact of smart city services and applications running on city networks is a huge surge in demand for bandwidth. Current network infrastructures will have to adapt to meet this exploding bandwidth requirement. In some cases, entire networks will have to be redesigned.
Low-cost Carrier Ethernet demarcation and aggregation equipment that supports 1Gb ports will have to be upgraded to high-end switches and routers that support 10Gb and even 100Gb. New Carrier Ethernet technologies will have to be implemented to enable differentiation of services that improve performance and efficiency of smart city networks.
- CE 2.0 networks enable interoperability between different devices and services
In the IoT ecosystem, home automation devices, security systems, power grids and all “things” are connected and communicate via the Internet. Similarly smart cities require heterogeneous technology across the board. However, we work on different types of devices with multiple platforms, which can cause interoperability challenges. These issues can be overcome by utilizing unified communication standards, common specifications and open architecture systems. New smart city networks based on Carrier Ethernet 2.0 (CE 2.0) standards will enable standardized and interoperable Ethernet communication among all types of devices, across multiple service providers, with improved manageability.
- CE 2.0 networks enable advanced cyber security and protection strategies
The higher complexity and heterogeneity of smart city technological and communication environments could result in an even higher exposure to cyber-attacks. Vulnerability increases when systems become connected and integrated. In particular, this occurs when an unprecedented amount of additional data (Big Data) is generated by various smart devices (like sensors, meters and cameras) and processed by connected systems.
The network infrastructure, whether broadband, Wi-Fi or satellite, that connects systems and their operators, adds entry points and opportunities for security breaches or human error. New network infrastructures will need sophisticated protection strategies to provide better high availability and failure resiliency support.
We are witnessing the emergence of technologies that are revolutionizing the efficiency of urban infrastructures and transforming our cities into smart cities. As citizens we are beginning to expect smarter services and applications that make our lives simpler, easier and safer. Upgrading urban communication networks to the new smart Gigabit technology will provide the infrastructure to enable these exciting new services and applications to happen.