The Smart City movement has matured beyond single projects—from LED lighting to save money and make streets safer, environmental testing systems, and traffic management solutions designed to ease congestion and keep vehicles moving to broader initiatives across multiple departments and applications.
Over the last two decades, experimental projects have led to enlightenment with proven ROI that is building confidence in more comprehensive implementations, and a growing understanding of the “risk-reward” ratio as more cars, devices, and applications are connected, with implications on security and privacy.
Future Smart Cities—and entire regions—must be ready to address growth and the dynamics associated with urban challenges, including fluctuations in energy demand, requirements for ample clean water, changing health and wellness needs as the lifespan of citizens lengthens, and the unfortunate need to be able to address growing threats in the US associated with gun violence and terrorist attacks.
Network Optimization and Unification Is Key to Supporting Convergence
Grand Review Research predicts the global Smart City technology market will be worth around $2.57 trillion by 2025, with hundreds of different types of solutions, a massive ecosystem of equipment, software, applications and clouds, all which need to be securely connected and comprehensively managed.
IHS predicts that over two billion Smart City device shipments will be made by 2030.
The growth is undeniable: IHS also reported that between 2016 and 2017, the number of Smart City projects launched grew by 64 percent year-on-year. During 2017, their study showed that the majority of Smart City project rollouts were pilot schemes or partial projects, but more extensive rollouts are expected in the coming years, spurred on by the introduction of NB-IoT and LTE Cat-M1 IoT network deployments.
Smart Cities run on data and analytics, and demands for data analysis, data storage, data archiving, privacy and security will continue to skyrocket. Sending increasing volumes of data networks requires more than greater broadband and less latency; while computing power at the edge is being tackled with new edge computing techniques network optimization (economics and performance) should be a forethought, not an afterthought.
While some cities have turned to low-cost SD-WAN to guard against expense growth associated with leased and MPLS lines, early implementations are falling short when it comes to supporting compressed and encrypted data. To improve performance, without giving up economic benefits, and to dramatically enhance security, digital city planners and architects are turning to Software-Defined Networking to protect data while mitigating against quality of service issues including latency and packet loss.
As Smart City projects become more inclusive and coordinated, across departments (from public safety to traffic, population health, energy management, public transportation systems, urban housing, schools, public venues and more), nearly every public service provided by local, state and federal governments can be improved through connected solutions, and this is driving a desire to build more unified, shared, secure network infrastructure which is increasingly virtualized.
Next-generation Smart City networks need to support both machine and human communications and given regulatory and common-sense requirements for data integrity and privacy, need to be secured while data is at rest or in motion.
Next-generation Smart City networks need also to work in harmony with the main energy grid, and microgrids which bring new energy sources to bear (wind, solar, geothermal), making urban areas more sustainable.
The result of adding more and more mission-critical data to networks puts more pressure on network infrastructure, both fixed and mobile, and with the advent of 5G, city leaders are in a position to look at all their options and make decisions that will serve their constituents well for years to come. Private/public partnerships are key, especially with “utilities” (energy, water, telecom, etc.) who stand to benefit from the improved operational efficiencies connected services render (for example digital meters).
While early projects championed by individual agencies succeeded, the sharing of data between agencies and their systems has been limited, and for many good reasons. First, sharing data can cause risks with respect to hacks and pivot attacks, and managers of those systems understand they are responsible for reducing the risk of such attacks. Second, prioritization of network traffic can be complicated when a single network supports multiple applications, and managers want to maintain 100% control. Third, there are often independent third-party suppliers providing applications development, support, hosting and managed services, which adds complexity and drives specific policies and agreements.
Here’s the risk of continuing to propagate many individual networks: cost containment, service optimization and the ability to dynamically scale up and down, depending on seasonal and other requirements.
With a unified approach to networking, and one that is based on Software-Defined Networking (replacing legacy networks with intelligent secure “mission-critical” networks which can be efficiently managed from a unified network operations center), local and regional government agencies have a lot to gain in the near term, while positioning for the inevitability of even more connected applications in the future.
Smart City professionals are now focusing on how to converge the disparate technologies into a more collaborative environment, which enables secure transport, storage and sharing of data so agencies can act together to improve services while reducing risk and costs.
Next-generation intelligent converged connectivity platforms shared by multiple agencies make great sense when there are a clear vision and strategy in place, and the right, proven networking technologies to support that vision and strategy.
The choice is evident: accelerate Smart City initiatives with easier to build, secure and manage unified networks, with understandable costs and software that provides the ultimate in visibility and control—or continue to create multiple networks supporting multiple systems in a fragmented fashion that won’t easily scale as connected applications evolve.