Reader Forum: Laying the groundwork for smart cities
Smartphones, smart cars, smart homes – once enough of the amenities and tools in our lives become “smarter,” it’s only natural that they would pool together into smart cities. And, that’s exactly what’s on the horizon.
The internet of things is rapidly facilitating the growth of smart cities around the world, creating major metropolitan hubs of digitally connected office buildings, billboards, public transit, security systems, streetscapes and mobile devices.
But, smart cities aren’t just going to make themselves happen on their own. Network and telco providers need to lay the foundations for their development. That means not only making strategic infrastructure investments that build in the capacity for smart city functionality, but also listening to each site’s customers and stakeholders so that providers are building a network around their needs rather than forcing them to fit into a predetermined plan.
If smart cities are going to flourish, networking and telco providers need to be smart about the conversations they’re having and who they’re having them with.
Break down silos through market collaboration
One of the major stumbling blocks to smart city development is the sheer number of players involved. From streetscapes and public safety systems to interactive street furniture (e.g. touchscreen maps at bus stops) and smart office buildings, each of these initiatives exist as separate, dedicated implementation projects backed by equally separate providers. They all have different solutions, different backhaul requirements, different bandwidth and latency needs. Once installed, the projects are meant to co-exist together, but the implementation processes themselves are siloed from each other.
We can’t expect these different companies to take the first step in working together; their focus and their responsibility, after all, is always going to prioritize their own project. Networking providers and telcos can be the mediators needed here: providing solutions that harmonize how data is exchanged and transferred between each of these projects, once finished, and ensuring that disparate market players are all aligned within any given smart city. Instead of building a network that shoehorns the participants in after the fact, the network providers need to liaise with these customers so that the network is built around them from day one.
Roll out the dark fiber
Dark fiber is undoubtedly going to be an essential networking mechanism in the very near future, particularly in the widespread adoption of “5G.” Investing heavily in dark fiber-based infrastructure will pay off enormously in in the next few years, mitigating rising backhaul costs, granting providers greater control over their networks and providing the bandwidth necessary for supporting the exponential increase in wireless data traffic that’s to come.
As you can guess, these are exactly the same reasons why dark fiber is going to be an essential component to smart city development, too. Dark fiber can reduce backhaul costs for smart city sites that are otherwise going to see their backhaul expenses drastically escalate. It can also provide centralized sources of very high bandwidth and short latency needed to connect end sites; and, provide an infinitely scalable level of flexibility that smart cities need in order to grow and adapt to their unique set of challenges.
Rolling out dark fiber for smart cities requires taking a proactive approach now. In other words, collaborating with a site’s street technicians to map out cable deployments and factoring in connectivity as part of any new building’s construction (or an older building’s “smarter” retrofitting), so that dark fiber is a part of the design from the ground up.
On-the-ground, localized support
No two cities are the same. From New York to London to Berlin to Tokyo and everywhere between, every city on the planet boasts a different architecture, a different layout and a different culture that developments need to be built around. With the hyperconnectivity landscape of smart cities, these obstacles become even more pronounced.
That’s why it’s all the more important that providers aren’t giving smart city projects a blanket, one-size-fits-all approach to how they target their infrastructure investments. Now is the time for providers to go granular, get involved down on the street level and familiarize themselves with the geographic and architectural ins and outs of any given site. That kind of unique, localized touch not only means you’re letting each smart city’s specific characteristics and challenges drive your decisions, but it also helps to build better partnerships with the site’s other customers and stakeholders. The more of a localized, on-the-ground support system you lend to the site, the stronger those relationships can be.
Smarter conversations for smart cities
The march toward smart cities is on. It’s a question of when, not if, we’ll begin seeing more of the world’s major metropolitans take the plunge into this new level of hyperconnectivity. But, just because smart cities may be inevitable doesn’t guarantee a smooth road to success. With these sites attracting a slew of different stakeholders backing their own dedicated projects, the built-in challenges for smart cities – from integrating different apps together to implementing a 5G infrastructure that can scale to the needs of smart cities – are around every corner.
Telcos and networking providers need to have the smart conversations today about how to collaborate with market players, deploy dark fiber cables and provide localized support for each site in order to properly lay the groundwork for smart cities tomorrow.
Editor’s Note: In an attempt to broaden our interaction with our readers we have created this Reader Forum for those with something meaningful to say to the wireless industry. We want to keep this as open as possible, but we maintain some editorial control to keep it free of commercials or attacks. Please send along submissions for this section to our editors at: firstname.lastname@example.org.