There is quite a bit of discussion around smart cities, today. Much of it, as is the case with 5G, is hype. However, smart cities are going to light up in the next couple of years. Here is why.
Like most government entities, progress is much slower than the private sector. Some of that is because government is a different beast when it comes to agility; and being able to turn a big ship takes time. Other reasons have to do with mentality, financial and regulations. Any of us that have dealt with governments know all about that.
However, when it comes to smart cities, governments have an incentive – money! Smart cities are going to optimize efficiency, thereby saving money. How and when that will happen is still a bit vague, but city managers are seeing the light. Functions like shared data, smart technology, and real time metrics will bring about a fundamental shift in how cities are run. Moreover, they are realizing that smart technology will help them keep track of people – for good or bad is up for grabs.
For example, cash flow can be improved. Cities can offer incentives for having citizens connect and automate certain functions, such as paying various utility bills on a custom schedule for each user.
One of the most vaulted benefits that smart city platforms will offer is around safety. Full integration among citizens, first responders, and support services is many years away, however. In the end, such integration will help to ensure fewer mistakes, more accurate analysis of events, precise resource allocation (emergency responders, hospitals), and a much higher safety level for all.
One of the visions that smart cities will realize is that it will be an umbrella full of use cases. That includes elements such as smart buildings, smart cars, vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure connectivity (V2V, V2I), smart grids, smart retail services, and more – what is often referred to as the “connected life.”
There are two emerging platforms that will determine how fast and advanced smart cities get, and they are closely tied to cities. The platforms are 5G and the Internet of Everything/Everyone (IoX). 5G because, predominantly, the amount of data that will be flowing everywhere. Present wireless network technologies will not be able to keep up. As well, other metrics, such as ultra-reliable low-latency communications (URLLC) will be required to enable autonomous vehicles, for example.
The IoX will be a significant component because “smart” is umbilically tied to information acquisition and analysis. The number of sensors that will be needed to deploy a ubiquitous layer of data points will be monumental. The only platform capable of doing that is the IoX.
This is not to say that 5G and the IoX will determine the success or failure of smart cities. There are many smart systems that can (and some are) be implemented today (smart meters, smart traffic lights, smart utilities) that comes under the smart city heading. For them to reach full potential, both 5G and the IoX will have to play a major role.
A huge component that will be critical in smart city evolution is edge networks. Distributed and edge computing will be a requirement, not an option. Why? Two main reasons – latency and traffic volume, especially in the largest cities.
Additionally, do not forget about AI, and its subsets, machine learning and machine intelligence. These technologies will become extremely important at the edge for local data analysis and traffic management. They will also be important at the core, for dynamic spectrum management, frequency agility and real-time spectrum manipulation.
While 2019 will not see a proliferation of smart cities, there will be movement. All parties involved with smart city technology will move toward a higher level of innovative thinking and collaboration between different agencies, service providers, procurement/contracts offices and community stakeholders.
To wit, The Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA) and the IoT Community, recently, signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to collaborate on a set of initiatives regarding smart buildings, manufacturing, connected vehicles, intelligent transportation, healthcare, and more. They will share commercial, technical, and standardization insights and explore opportunities for collaboration on technologies, exchange information and expertise. These will lead to solutions that, in turn, will accelerate the development of the IoX. This is the kind of movement that is needed for smart “X” to gain traction. Hopefully, this is the beginning of such a trend.
The groundwork is being laid but there are many challenges and related technologies that will determine how quickly smart cities approach real “smarts.”
This article ran in the Issue 1, Spring 2019 issue of Applied Wireless Technology.