Get Smart: Why the Future of Your City Depends on Smart Infrastructure

The single biggest factor in determining the fate of your city’s digital future is its technological infrastructure. Because we live in an internet-based, digital age, if your city wants to be at the forefront of progress, economic development, growth, and relevance – it must invest wisely.

The right kind of infrastructure – high-speed fiber and wireless broadband – is essential. By comparison, the strength of a building lies in its foundation. A poorly constructed foundation can’t be counted on to support the load of the entire structure. Likewise, your city’s broadband infrastructure must be a rock-solid foundation so it, too, can provide the critical platform to deliver enhanced services, innovate and enable a smart city.

Those cities that have invested in a broadband infrastructure view it as an asset, just as valuable to their community as its other public infrastructure – water, streets, sewer lines, or gas/electric utilities.

Today, incumbent carriers aren’t upgrading networks or extending broadband services fast enough for unserved or underserved smaller and rural communities. As a result, many communities are left to lease aged, copper-based networks. Unfortunately, these communities’ economic fates become dependent, in part, upon the incumbent carriers’ network modernization timetables. By not being able to take control over their destinies, many cities adopt a wait-and-see approach which puts them at a big disadvantage to other, more proactive cities. It puts the city and its residents behind the technology curve and forces them to play the catch-up game.

Modern cities require modern infrastructure. In order for your city to solidify itself as economically viable, competitive, and a desirable place to live, you must undergo a digital transformation. Doing so is the catalyst for a fundamental reshaping of your city’s digital future. With a modern broadband foundation, you will have the primary building blocks for cloud infrastructure, sensors, smart services and applications. All of which give your municipality an edge as you evolve toward a smart city – a smart infrastructure with the connected connectivity, data, artificial intelligence (AI) and the enhanced capability to solve pressing civic issues.

The Drawbacks of an Outdated City Communications Infrastructure

Being deprived access to the most up-to-date technology can make your city feel old-fashioned and pose an inconvenience to your residents, anchor institutions, and businesses. A leased, copper-based network can be rife with challenges, including limited bandwidth capacity, a lack of intelligence to inform, and interoperability complexities when rolling out smart city technologies. Not to mention that copper can carry far less data at far slower speeds than fiber – which means many of the cloud- or Internet-based technologies associated with smart infrastructure cannot effectively be operated or hosted.

Bottom-line, an outdated infrastructure is a limiting factor. For example, it can be a deterrent for attracting outside business investments, tourism, people migration, and job growth.

How can a City Leverage Smart Applications?

Connected applications offer your city numerous possibilities to take advantage of a smart infrastructure. Your city personnel can use the data you’ve collected from connected infrastructure to make informed decisions about what makes your city run best – and this is what ultimately makes a city smart.

There is a wide range of smart city applications available today, including:

  • Active security: Increase your level of smart protection with technologies like facial and license plate recognition, gunshot detection, perimeter patrolling, and crowd counting. They give your security officers greater situational awareness on recognizing potential hazards, understanding when a situation is escalating, and knowing how to respond appropriately.
  • Parking and Transportation: Smart parking technology can detect parking space availability, automate metering, dynamically price spaces, issue tickets, and collect payments.Also, by leveraging connected cameras coupled with AI, traffic engineers can better manage traffic flows and synchronize signals. This capability provides the smarts necessary to lessen congestion, reduce air pollution, and ease commuting stress.

Co-creation Brings it all Together

When you’re ready to make the bold step forward on your digital transformation journey, you don’t have to go it alone. As your innovation partner, we’ll take a collaborative approach to plan, design, integrate, and implement your vision from concept to reality – whether that’s building a multivendor broadband network from scratch or upgrading it with smart infrastructure, including operating and maintaining it. Working together, we’ll co-create a unique solution that delivers real outcomes – real success to your community, including public safety, economic opportunity, operational efficiencies, and civic engagement.

WHAT IS A “SMART CITY?” PART 2

In Part 1 of this article, we talked about some of the characteristics of a smart city, including hyperconnectivity, people-centric technology, and increased efficiency of city-provided services. But although those things are critically important, they’re not the end of the smart cities story.

Economic development is an important driver for most cities considering an upgrade to “smart” status, with most cities looking to attract new businesses to their community. But how? In 1942, economist and social scientist Joseph Schumpeter coined the term, “innovation economics,” which, he argued, meant that innovation was a major factor in spurring economic growth and change as it created “temporary monopolies” when new products and technologies were invented, that then encouraged the development of competing products and processes, thereby creating beneficial economic conditions. He further believed that government’s most important role was in creating a fertile ground in which these innovations could occur. In this sense, the smart, connected, and efficient city is the technological soil in which the seeds of economic growth will be planted, yielding profits and benefits that will in turn enrich both individuals and society at large. Therefore, the cities that are at the forefront of smart cities transformation will reap the largest benefits from this explosive, and in many case much-needed, growth.

For example, an unique and innovative display of economic development using smart technology is taking place right now in South Korea. A major grocery retailer wanted to expand business, but without opening additional physical locations. The answer proved to be “virtual shelves” in the city’s subway stations. Wall-length billboards display goods for sale, complete with images and prices, allowing customers to order by scanning QR codes, paying, and arranging for delivery within a day. This optimizes commuter time in the stations, and expands business for the retailer without the expense of a building, rent, utilities, maintenance, staff, and all the other requirements of a physical location. The result is that this retailer has reached the number one position in the online market, and the number two position in terms of brick-and-mortar stores.

Besides these obvious advantages, an area in which smart cities can actually save lives, and one that is top of mind around the world right now, is by helping to deal with natural disasters, before, during, and after the event. Sensors can continually monitor air and water quality, weather and seismic events, and even increased radiation levels, for example, thus providing critical early warnings of disasters about to happen, and can disperse that information to residents via smart phone apps. Once an event occurs, smart data can be used to provide much-needed safety information. During Hurricane Harvey, for example, data collected via connected systems was able to provide residents with real-time information about increased water levels through information from county flood gauges, as well as identify passable evacuation routes and assistance, available shelters, food banks, and more. Drones can be – and are being – used to survey damage and to aid in recovery efforts, reducing the risk for human crews. And this is clearly the tip of the iceberg as regards ways in which “smart” technology will be able to aid in human response to natural disasters.

Of course, these are only a few of the ways in which smart technology can benefit communities. Every city and county has its own needs, especially in the early planning stages of digital transformation. What’s important to remember, however, is that smart cities aren’t coming, they’re already here, and the earliest adopters of this incredible technology will be the ones to reap the greatest benefits from it. Those that delay, or who reject the smart cities model altogether, will quickly find themselves woefully behind the curve, unable to compete with those communities that showed more foresight in these early days. Customers and residents are constantly increasing their demands for bandwidth as the fuel needed to drive their desire for connectivity, and the communities that can provide these services seamlessly and easily win the lion’s share of business and revenue. It’s never too early to start thinking about smart city transformation, so what are you waiting for?

WHAT IS A “SMART CITY?” PART 1

Unless you’ve been living in a bunker deep underground for the last ten years, you’ve no doubt heard talk about “smart cities.” Everyone’s talking about it, and a few truly forward thinking cities around the world are making it happen. But what exactly is a “smart city,” and what does it mean to you?

The short answer is that the smart city concept is the logical and foreseeable outcome of a world in which connectivity has become an integral part of our daily lives. In a smart city, things like utilities, transportation, education, housing, and more are all connected via sensors that provide data in order to improve the quality of life of the city’s residents. Civic leaders use this data to make better, “smarter” decisions for the way the city operates and interacts with its citizens. It’s a way to make infrastructure more efficient, to make government more transparent, and to make day-to-day interactions with technology smoother.

The best smart city improvements are based on a people-centric model, in which technology is merely a tool that improves the lives of those it touches by solving problems that might otherwise be insurmountable. Imagine a “smart” parking lot that can alert you to an available parking space via an app on your phone, reducing or eliminating your time driving around hopelessly looking for one. Or how about  a smart communications system for emergency personnel, able to assess a situation holistically, summon the appropriate personnel, identify and notify the nearest hospital with the appropriate treatment facilities, and even turn traffic lights green as needed for the ambulance en route, thereby decreasing response time significantly.

These aren’t simply concepts found in science-fiction novels, but initiatives actually put in place today in smart cities around the world. By making use of data collected from a variety of sources in an intelligently-connected infrastructure, and parsing that data in useful ways, these smart applications can be used to improve the quality, performance and efficiency of everything from major water utilities to individual home appliances. Europe and Asia have been making these steps forward for some time but America is catching up now in cities like New York, Boston, San Francisco, and even Wichita.

From a municipal perspective, smart technology is being used to streamline city-provided services, and to oversee and regulate services provided by outside organizations in order to minimize frustration and dissatisfaction and to maximize economic growth and development. In Amsterdam, for example, the city has installed “smart” garbage bins, so that trash is collected only when the bin is full, thus making garbage collection more efficient and less costly.

There’s even more to know about smart cities, and we’ll cover that in “What is a ‘Smart City?’” Part 2.