‘Smart Cities’ and ‘Connected Cities’ are terms widely bandied around in the industry. But, it means different things to different industry players. The sheer volume of options and opportunities – such as the talk of infrastructure, sensors, IoT, connected cars, smart bins, connected everything – can easily become overwhelming.
Through speaking to clients involved in the Smart City value chain, iWireless Solutions has gained unique insights into some of the key questions and challenges faced by councils and the cities’ decision-makers.
To share the relevant insights, we have simplified and summarised them into 4 categories:
- Starting your Smart City journey
- Procurement – best of breed solution and supplier
- Network Densification – The Process
- Utilisation of infrastructure
We are looking to set the scene by addressing the first part of this Smart Cities series, with the rest to follow shortly.
Chapter 1: Starting your Smart City journey
Multiple factors are driving the transition towards smart cities. Firstly, it is estimated that by 2050 more than 66% of the world’s population will live in urban areas*. This migration implies that in order to provide an adequate quality of life for future generations, councils need to start managing services such as transport, energy and waste more efficiently.
The second key driver is related to climate change; cities are major energy consumers and responsible for about 75% of greenhouse gas emissions**. Thus, it becomes imperative to use natural resources efficiently and reduce pollution. Finally, the advent of new disruptive technologies such as IoT, AI, Big Data, blockchain, 5G and increasingly smarter phones, among others, are progressively changing the habits of city dwellers. They are also opening new opportunities for cities to become starter and for its residents to be more connected.
The majority of the local authorities understand the various benefits of becoming “smart”. However, based on conversations with urban planners, government, consultants and IT managers, the question that remains is what is the first step needed to start the journey to become a smart city. We readily admit that there is no one-solution-fits-all for cities, but in this blog, we aim to use the experience gathered through multiple projects over the last 10 years to help to answer this question.
Transition towards Smart Cities
The transition to smart cities starts with the definition of the approach to be taken by councils and the actual problem that this approach proposes to solve. For instance, a more economic approach may help to revitalize and stimulate the local economy and generate additional incomes and new business opportunities, whereas a more social approach is likely to focus on stimulating the digital inclusion by creating online communities and revitalising social life. Conversely, a more technological approach may focus on providing the right infrastructure to support the implementation of new digital services for the community, such as digital health, smart transport and smart metering. The approach selected will rely on the immediate and future needs of the council and its community, as well as budgetary restrictions.
The technological approach was adopted by many cities and councils around the world when the smart city concept first arrived 10 or so years ago. However, the rapid development of new technologies, the lack of standards and the rise of innovative business models have encouraged local authorities to take the lead. This in turn has facilitated the creation of local ecosystems to define the roadmap identifying risks, opportunities, timelines, milestones, resources and stakeholders. This approach has made the participation of different sectors of the community, such as private investors, SMEs and citizens, more dynamic and interactive.
Smart Cities Architecture:
Regardless of the council’s chosen approach, the digitalisation of the new and existing infrastructure is a tool to provide innovative and improved services to the community (see figure below). This new concept adds three news layers to the traditional architecture of the city:
- The smart layer where the data collected is analysed
- The interactive layer where the user can manage and monitor the data
- The smart services layer where end-users can interact with the infrastructure.
Figure 1: From Traditional to Digital Smart City Architecture
Source: iWireless Solutions
This architecture suggests a common digitalised infrastructure supporting multiple smart services. In practice, there is at least one ecosystem per smart service. Barcelona, for instance, is running more than 22 smart city programs simultaneously with different ecosystems interacting with each other to avoid interoperability issues between their services (source: IGLUS). This architecture also allows adequate dimensioning of the transport layer (wired and wireless network infrastructure) providing resilience, security and the capacity to support thousands of sensors and mobile devices transmitting data uninterruptedly. This layer is not only the nervous system of the city, but a useful source of income for the council. In London alone, some councils have generated £10M+ of additional income with the rollout of small cells and outdoor Wi-Fi.
What does it mean for your council?
By first defining the approach to and objectives of the smart city, councils can start creating the digital architecture to begin unlocking the possibilities a smart city holds. On one hand, the council will face many challenges, such as changes in the procurement process, regulation of new digital services, definition of data ownership and pricing, financing of the digital infrastructure and how to encourage citizens to participate. On the other hand, the council may benefit in different ways, such us enhanced openness, digital inclusiveness, democracy, participation, social innovation and additional revenues that can finance other programs.
iWireless Solutions has extensive experience of working with local councils to help make their city smarter by deploying a wireless infrastructure that connects and enables communication between assets and users. You can find out more about how we can help and discuss any questions raised in this article by speaking to one of our technical specialists by email on firstname.lastname@example.org or phone us on 01342 305038. To make sure you don’t miss the next step “Chapter 2: Procurement – best of breed solution and supplier” keep an eye on our News page or follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn.
* World Urbanization Prospects Highlights – 2014 Revision by United Nations
** Green Buildings for sustainable cities by Bernd Stampfl