Virtualization Technology News and Information
Build It and They Will Come: The Pivotal Place of a Top-Notch Network in the Cities of Tomorrow


Article Written by Craig Badrick, President and CEO of Turn-key Technologies

"Smart cities" will become increasingly prevalent as more and more people flock to urban environments, but these urban centers won't be able to thrive without universal internet connectivity that's as powerful as it is secure.

In 1950, roughly 30% of the world's population lived in or around a city. By 2014, this figure had risen to 54%. By 2050, the United Nations predicts that a full two-thirds of the world's population - projected to be nearly 10 billion people - will live in an urban setting. As suburban and rural citizens make their way towards urban centers, they will place immense pressure on cities' existing infrastructures. Building and maintaining efficient, livable, sustainable cities will only become more difficult as these trends continue.

Enter: smart cities. Broadly speaking, a city becomes "smart" by investing in, deploying, and slowly structuring itself on smart products, devices, and infrastructure. According to growth consulting firm Frost & Sullivan, a smart product or device "is characterized by an intelligent sensing technology that is increasingly being integrated with internet technologies, thereby allowing [it] to react to and communicate with the changing environment around it."

In short, urban intelligence depends first and foremost on city-wide applications of Internet of Things (IoT) technologies. This approach to digitally-driven urban infrastructure is still in its infancy, but Frost & Sullivan predicts that smart cities initiatives will generate $1.57 trillion of market value by the end of the decade.

The Future Has Already Begun

Different experts have different ideas about what a city must have in order to be considered "smart." Still, things like digitally-managed advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) for utilities, automated, energy efficiency-minded lighting and temperature controls in buildings, and an advanced electric/telecom grid are all consensus must-haves.

Moscow, for instance, has already undertaken a range of smart initiatives, especially in its transportation sector. "All of our city vehicles, including public transport and municipal vehicles, are now connected to a centralized platform that makes it possible to monitor their operation," explains Eldar Tuzmukhamedov, the head of Moscow's Smart City Lab. "Public transport is also equipped with sensors, and mobile operator data is used to analyze its speed and location and optimize routes and schedules."

Here at home, cities like Boston and New York have also begun investing in smart infrastructure. As far back as 2014, the Massachusetts capital was experimenting with solar-powered benches that both enabled residents to charge their electronic devices and gathered environmental data for research purposes. In the Big Apple, the city government's LinkNYC program has transformed former payphone stations into 510 "communication hubs" featuring free gigabit-speed WiFi, phone charging outlets, and national calling.

Laying the Groundwork for Truly Smart Cities

Ultimately, the myriad benefits of the futuristic smart city can only be unlocked once cities achieve reliable, universal connectivity. That's why the city of San Jose, California, has partnered with Facebook's Connectivity Lab to pilot Terragraph, a wireless broadband infrastructure that uses a 60 gigahertz radio frequency to deliver gigabit speeds.

"It's a new technology, and we are the first ever at-scale deployment on the globe," explained San Jose Deputy City Manager for Civic Innovation Kip Harkness when the pilot was launched last spring. "We've just finished putting 50 devices up on poles and traffic lights around the core of our city...If this works as we're hoping, you could be downtown watching a 4K high-def movie on your laptop and be walking around and never hit a glitch."

Forging Public-Private Partnerships

Designing, implementing, and managing a sprawling network that supports millions of IoT sensors, personal devices, and critical pieces of infrastructure in a complex urban environment will require a substantial amount of networking expertise.

As things stand, the vast majority of city IT departments are nowhere near properly equipped to handle such an endeavor. As such, as Tuzmukhamedov concedes, "Smart cities must be a public-private partnership."

The shape of these partnerships will vary from locale to locale, but as long as city governments are willing to acknowledge their skills-shortages and hire the right third-party expert for the task at hand, a smarter urban future might be closer than we think.


About the Author

Craig Badrick 

Craig Badrick is President and CEO of Turn-key Technologies, a leader in networking, communications, and security services for more than 25 years. In addition to his leadership responsibilities at TTI - which include identifying new wireless initiatives within the healthcare, industrial, education, and hospitality sectors - Craig is an active writer and publishes regular commentary on wireless technology and connectivity trends. To read Craig's other articles, visit TTI's Networking Solutions blog.

Published Tuesday, April 03, 2018 7:36 AM by David Marshall
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