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The Human Side of Smart Cities: Sensing the World Around Us

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Bita Milanian is the ultimate connector, bringing together her experience in technology marketing with her passion for humanitarianism and philanthropy, traveling globally for Ribbon Communications (where she is SVP of Marketing) while advocating continually for human and civil rights. Having spoken for years on the future of IoT, focused around the intersection of connecting people and things, next month she will present at the Smart City Works Infrastructure Week seminar in Washington, DC. Her topic? How physical infrastructure can be built with digital underpinnings that can make cities safer, healthier and more sustainable.


“Investing in infrastructure for a better future is critical,” Milanian said, “and as the US moves forward with plans to improve our physical cities and towns, we have an opportunity to think comprehensively about how we embed technology that can have a significant impact on people’s lives. With every street, we can light that street more efficiently and make that street safer at night for citizens, while reducing the consumption and cost of energy. With every bridge or tunnel, we can include technologies that help control day-to-day congestion while also ensuring efficient evacuations in case of emergencies. With every new government building or school we build, we can build in software and networks that make those buildings less expensive to operate while also making them safer.”

Milanian sees the millennial world as a realist and idealist.

“Nearly every teenager and adult in the US carries a mobile device with them, and that makes it possible for those citizens to interact with government agencies in exciting new ways, particularly with alerts and notifications that harness data generated by sensors and systems and can warn us about anything from weather alerts to Amber alerts,” Milanian said. “When we leverage the Internet and private networks, cellular and WiFi, and the availability of cloud computing and communications, the opportunity to create applications that bring together machines with humans to solve problems is unlimited.”

Milanian is particularly enthusiastic about the potential for the blend of machine and human real time communications to support first responders in cities, including those which are targets for terrorism. “We are seeing and contributing to amazing projects, working with the private and public sector, which make surveillance affordable on a large scale. Combined with analytics, including AI, smart city roll outs that include real time communications coordinating law enforcement agencies, police, fire, paramedics, hospitals, trauma centers, schools and more securely and reliably.”

Milanian was a communications director at one of the world’s largest telecommunications companies when the World Trade Center was attacked on 9/11/2001 and reminds us that IP networks proved to be extremely resilient as cellular and other networks failed. “We learn from every tragedy,” Milanian said, “and it is our obligation to continually innovate and improve critical communications infrastructure and applications, particularly important when we need to respond to terrorist attacks or natural disasters. Our team is passionate about this and honored to be working with some of the most advanced cities in the world, including Los Angeles.”

Milanian lives in LA, but travels around the world, and speaks on the opportunity to advance how we communicate to improve and save lives. A refugee from Iran, and very active in the Iranian American and global Iranian diaspora, particularly in the technology world where so many Iranians have built large, successful tech companies, Milanian has spoken twice at iBridges summits.

“We truly are all in this together,” Milanian said, “and communications unites us, as does art. In fact, I like many women in technology, see our work as an artform. Women are excellent connectors and have an intuitive feeling about how and when to communicate, and how communications contributes to stronger, safer and more supportive societies.”

Milanian’s popular BtheChange. blog often features women and girls in technology and telecommunications, and creative applications including “panic buttons” for women’s safety, using mobile devices.

“It’s a very exciting time,” Milanian said, “with advancements in software and networking, as well as economics that now make wide-ranging communications systems possible. We’re scaling the public Internet every day, finding better ways to spin up secure private networks using the Internet as the ultimate infrastructure for digital life. We’re adapting to the next generation of always-on humans, who live connected all day long, in increasingly natural and contextual ways.”

Milanian was part of a team that rebranded the combination of two companies – GENBAND and Sonus – into Ribbon Communications last year. “We see our lives intertwined with other lives, and we are building technology that weaves together people and machines, and networks that can support tremendous growth in data transmission – whether that is through the human voice, through voice activated applications, through software systems that keep us connected across the span of living. Let’s apply this to our biggest problems knowing that the more we connect, the more we learn, and the safer and healthier we can keep even the most challenging urban environments.”

Milanian will be presenting at the Smart City Works Infrastructure Week seminar in Washington, DC on May 15th (limited free admission and more information on the event is available here), alongside other “Women in IoT” we will be profiling as part of this series.

For more on bringing the humans into Smart City solutions, register now for The Smart City Event




Edited by Ken Briodagh

Contributing Writer

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