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Get Smart: Powering Smart Cities with Network Connectivity

By Special Guest
Chris Mason, Director of sales for Europe, Middle East and Africa, Rajant
November 21, 2017

A smart city aims to improve quality of life for its citizens by harnessing technology to connect infrastructures, resources and services, making the municipality safer and more sustainable, livable, workable and competitive.

If you compare smart cities technology to other major technological developments – for example, the telephone, the steam engine or the light bulb – you can quickly see a similarity: They are all advances in technology that would be ineffective without the underlying transport networks (e.g., a light bulb wouldn’t work without the electrical grid).

Of course, the opposite also applies; any of the networks supporting previous or current innovative applications as standalone entities provide little to no benefits. The relationship between devices and a network is essentially symbiotic; each piece is defined by the collective business outcome or benefit. 

Because of this, an important criterion of any smart city is a high level of city-wide connectivity. The Smart Cities Council states, “Super-fast, high-capacity broadband networks are considered essential to economic growth, job creation and competitiveness.” Smart cities must be able to monitor and automate operations and applications in utilities, buildings and infrastructure in real time. Without a reliable network that allows real-time, mission-critical data transfer, many parts of a city may be running on outdated data, or no data at all – but there can be challenges to attaining that connectivity.

Overcoming Connectivity Challenges

There are several connectivity challenges for smart cities: Cities are never “greenfield” sites; it’s difficult, time-consuming and expensive to install new wired or fixed wireless connectivity capabilities; and often the unlicensed wireless environment is extremely congested.

Additionally, one of the most critical aspects of developing a smart city with widespread connectivity is the need to ensure data security, because the health and performance of a city’s network can impact safety and liveability standards. The trend to connect all city services and utilities to a network creates hazards if a city does not take ample measures to protect against malicious attacks or data breaches. 

To meet these challenges, smart cities require a range of communication networks, each of which has a critical role to play. First, there’s what might be referred to in telco terms as “the last few feet” – from an often low-cost, low-power, low-bandwidth (wired or wireless) short-range device providing data from device to aggregation point. A parking lot sensor providing data to displays on roads entering the city would be a good example; drivers can see how many spots are left at various garages or on streets to help direct them where to park.

Thereafter, when you start transferring larger amounts of aggregated data or imagery from distributed sensors, or more critical data, and deploying across pre-existing citywide infrastructure, more bandwidth, more resiliency and reliability is required, as well as greater distance capability and low latency. 

This means that wireless networks that are flexible to deploy; can load balance across frequencies; offer the highest levels of encryption and security; and can utilize alternative and licensed spectrum will be essential to providing the security, high availability and reliable connectivity a smart city requires.

The Future is Now

The smart city movement represents the practical application of the Internet of Things, where connectivity is truly ubiquitous and generates real benefits to those living and working in the city.

Alongside that is the reality of Internet Protocol version 6 (IPv6) and what that will mean to how we will have the ability (if we choose) to connect everything surrounding where we live and work. The implementation of IPv6 means that every building will have the technical ability to implement devices/components with 18 billion separate IP addresses on a single internet connection.

In the home, every powered device – light switch, bulb, doorbell, battery, central heating control, door or lock device – will have an IP address and therefore be controllable. In the smart city environment, that list of connected devices expands to include every aspect of living and working in the city and being able to manage that environment to make it safer, cheaper and more convenient for its citizens, all of which will require high-bandwidth, low latency, reliable, secure, wireless networks. 

A reliable communication network is an essential part of a fully integrated, truly connected smart city that is safe, sustainable, livable, competitive and resilient, helping us meet current and future challenges head on. 

About the author: Chris Mason is director of sales for Europe, Middle East and Africa for Rajant, a provider of private wireless network. Prior to joining Rajant, Mason worked with British Telecom in a variety of sales, business development and management roles to help worldwide organizations identify IT solutions for common business challenges. Mason can be reached at cmason@rajant.com.




Edited by Ken Briodagh


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