The Road to the Smart City: A Strong Foundation

Pivot3 Smart City Blog Part 1

The process of building a city has followed the same path for hundreds of years. Looking back to Medieval Europe’s evolution, leaders sought out key attributes for any potential city site. These included a permanent, resilient site; defense plans; expansion opportunities; and reliable, robust services.

Fast forward a thousand years or so, and these elements are still very much the same. What has changed is a city’s ability to build smarter, resilient and scalable infrastructure that are not only designed to meet today’s needs but also easily expand into the future. In this four-part blog series, I will outline how the essential pillars of any city are key to achieving the goal of a smart city and provide insight on how to make sense of the often, overwhelming technical platforms that serve as the backbone of intelligent cities.

But first things first: let’s look at the basics of city development and how these play a role in today’s Internet-of-Things (IoT) deployments. First, a solid foundation is critical. Ideally, you built your new city on solid bedrock — a reassuringly permanent geological platform that is resistant to earthquakes, subsidence and other natural phenomena that could cause your city to collapse. You built your city to last hundreds of years and made significant investments to ensure a livable, prosperous environment for citizens. Now, you look to technologies to extend your capabilities, services and communications. Just as you built your city on a solid foundation, you now must take a similar approach with your infrastructure expansions.

We live in the promise of the connected world and a majority of municipalities today want to take hold of the benefits of this approach, which is powered by the IoT. Smart cities are built on IoT networks and these comprehensive solutions must have a feeling of permanence, just as your city’s primary buildings do. Your IoT platform, where the data your connected sensors generate is sent to, should be incredibly resilient, be able to withstand multiple hardware failures without losing service. Cities never sleep and your technology investments must be designed to keep up with 24/7 operations.

Defense was a critical part of the creation of cities in the 10th and 11th centuries in Europe, and leaders often spearheaded the development of motte-and-bailey castles to protect their leadership and sovereigns. Access was controlled at multiple layers, and numerous defensive techniques were used to ensure a high level of protection.

My how things have not changed. Resiliency, security and protection are still key functions in today’s risk-filled world. Converged infrastructure on the market today is designed to protect your city’s security and the data your IoT devices are generating like the mottes and high walls that were designed to keep physical assets safe.

Just as defense was important in the past, it is of even more importance in smart cities. Citizens want to be certain that the collected data is not being used in an unethical or socially detrimental fashion. With that in mind, it is of paramount importance to protect that data with solutions that run from the sensor itself, all the way through the data center, and that operate at multiple levels.

The goal is to prevent access by bad actors; eliminate unauthorized access; encrypt data to make sure that if it does get compromised, the data is useless to anyone without the correct authority; and keep detailed and auditable records of activities involved in managing the IoT environment.

Expansion is also key to the growth of a city, and that means having the room to grow both the population and the geographic area. Your IoT infrastructure should be no different. The ideal solution takes into consideration the project-based nature of IoT; you’re not going to deploy everything simultaneously and you’re not going to stop adding to it at any point. Your IoT platform should be modular and able to grow without disruption as new projects and new funds become available – this is the most efficient use of public funds, as you are able to take advantage of the latest technology when it becomes available, rather than being tied into hardware that may be out of date shortly after its deployment.

The final piece of the puzzle is access to services: water, power and food; in short, all of the critical infrastructure pieces that enable your citizens to survive and your city to remain livable. These can be translated into the IoT world as being the critical services that your IoT environment needs to function and optimize operations in the future.

This is part one of your IoT journey: the need for a solid foundation to build your infrastructure upon. We look forward to continuing the discussion in our next edition.

Mike Beevor .jpg

Mike Beevor is the technical director at Pivot3, where he leads the company's safe city and smart city strategy. A 15-year industry veteran, Mike has held a number of technical roles across a wide range of startups, both in the field and in marketing organizations. He regularly presents at Pivot3 industry events and participates in industry panels, as well as performing the technical evangelist role for EMEA and APAC. A keen technologist, he has a specific interest in all of the ways that IoT and analytics can be combined to build the ultimate smart city.

Chelsea CollierPivot3