Cities around the world are increasingly relying on information and communication technology (ICT) and the Internet of Things (IoT) for everyday activities. These technologies are also enabling cities to become more efficient and intuitive, which means Smart Cities are no longer just a pipedream, but a reality.
What is the Current State of Play?
From traffic lights to personal devices, smartphones, wearable devices, and sensors, the telecom industry is quietly collecting data on everyone and everything, laying the foundations for Smart Cities around the world.
The Smart City industry is projected to be a US$1.4 trillion market by 2020. McKinsey research suggests that 600 cities will account for around 60% of global GDP in 2025, with many of them tapping into Smart City projects and structures to support their growth.
Whether it's a small-scale app that allows you to track your health symptoms, or it's the design and implementation of a public transport system reliant on the IoT, Smart Cities enable its citizens to get more out of life. And the telecom industry has a huge role to play in bringing Smart Cities to life around the world.
What Do Smart Cities Look Like Globally?
There is no one-size-fits all Smart City model, with solutions being developed to meet local requirements. Cities around the world are already incorporating aspects of smart cities to improve the lives of its citizens.
In the US, for instance, the City of New York's Smart + Equitable City strategy aims to provide every resident and business in NYC with access to affordable, reliable, high-speed broadband services. It also includes the implementation of wireless water meters, web-based snow plow tracking, and real-time gunshot detection among other things.
Las Vegas is using parking meters to connect people with local businesses through City Connector. The initiative provides drivers with coupons when they pay for their parking, as a way of boosting local commerce.
In Africa, the most pressing need is for efficient transport and infrastructure systems to support rapid urbanization across the continent. Europe, on the other hand, is focused on becoming more sustainable and socially inclusive.
Germany is applying Smart-City functionality to a 350-hectare district outside Munich. The project, which could house up to 20,000 people and provide space for 7,500 businesses, uses geothermal heating from an enormous reservoir of hot water. The new Smart City will utilize electric buses, intelligent street lamps, and real-time public transport apps with easy payment systems.
In Japan, Panasonic has created The Fujisawa Sustainable Smart Town, which is an ecosystem of smart, connected solutions. The town's key offerings include sustainable, technology-based energy, security, mobility, healthcare, and community services for 1,000 households.
British IoT company, Drayson Technologies, has created a hyper-local air pollution information hub that allows people to monitor the air they're breathing. The tool uses IoT sensor networks to track pollution levels across London.
What's Powering Smart Cities?
Smart Cities are powered by a range of technologies. Many homes and businesses are already connected through the Internet, smart meters, mobile technology, data analysis, and automation, making them not only smarter but also more energy-efficient.
Some leading technologies include Intelligent Lighting Systems that are an established feature of Smart Cities given that energy-efficient LEDs and digital communications has been around for some time. On the roads, technology is being leveraged to improve traffic flow through connected cameras in real-time. This is also the time when the first driverless cars are making an appearance-moving from science fiction movies to real world instances.
Taking Smart Cities to the next level will involve integrating data, software, and infrastructure to optimize the efficiency and competitiveness of the environment in which cities operate.
New technologies for communication and dissemination, open data, and the articulation of urban problems, plans, and policies will all require new forms of online participation making use of state-of-the-art human computer interaction (HCI).
How Can CSPs Contribute to Building Smart Cities?
Smart Cities require faster networks, powerful servers, and easy access to technology-all of which the telecom industry can provide. They're built on connectivity-it's the foundation of the system. Service providers can take advantage of this connectivity, in combination with real-time data and smart technologies, to facilitate better utilization of infrastructure, clean energy, and shared services by designing and building new connected technologies.
CSPs need to ask themselves how their technologies can help different industries, such as education, finance, retail, government or tourism in an effort to increase the efficiency and livability of a city and its population. Businesses need to invest in disruptive technology, or build partnerships with companies who have the collateral to implement smart technologies.
The cities, and the technology that underpins them, are changing rapidly. Telecom service and solution providers must continue contributing their assets, innovations, and expertise to drive change on both a local and global scale. Additionally, data centers, open data, analytics, and IoT will increasingly require investment and innovation.
To thrive in the 21st-century economy, our Smart Cities need to be sustainable, dynamic, productive, and accessible, while improving the overall quality life for citizens. Whether it's in the field of transport, energy, mobility or data, future and emerging technologies will be key to staying one step ahead and keeping the momentum going forward.