Making smart cities a reality

Source: Shrikant Shenwai, ITProPortal

Smart cities have the ability to drastically transform the way we work, live, and play. From the way traffic is regulated to the disposal of waste, the opportunities smart cities provide are endless. Whether it is developing countries in Africa or Asia, or connecting the ‘urban unconnected’, smart cities will not only change the way communities operate, it will make huge inroads into improving the quality of life.

On the face of it, the benefits of the smart city vision are abundant, yet making a smart city a reality goes far beyond simply deploying networks and sensors. Those responsible for realising the smart city vision need to consider how to adapt existing city assets, as well as establishing the public and private partnerships required to manage connected services. Underpinning all of this is the issue of licensed and unlicensed network technologies being used to knit the smart technology together.

There has been much debate around licensed vs unlicensed spectrum and whether these technologies can coexist. While there are concerns over the network interference that coexistence will bring, the use of public WiFi and unlicensed wireless technologies will be an integral building block for smart cities. Not only is WiFi reliable and cost-effective, it is also widely available and easy to deploy. Ultimately, in our vision an effective convergence between licensed and unlicensed technologies will result in cost effective high quality broadband access for all.

WiFi: A given

Given how often consumers are already using WiFi, it’s become an almost expected service. Whether in coffee shops or out and about, consumers are increasingly expecting to use WiFi hotspots to keep themselves connected. Take London Underground for example – WiFi on the tube is now considered the norm, with access available at 250 stations. Intrinsically linked to this is having robust security protocols in place to protect data. Particularly to garner consumer buy-in, getting the security deployment right will help foster further adoption of smart city concepts.

This rise in connectivity will also have a positive impact on communication services from telecoms providers as well as cable and satellite providers, but it is important to assess which services are currently in-place, which need to be improved and which services are missing. Developing smart cities will help improve the overall communications infrastructure and as a result, lead to improvements in broadband connectivity throughout cities.

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