IoT is the glue holding our smart cities together

The robust communications that smart cities are built on requires systematic evaluation and benchmarking to ensure effective delivery of public services.

The modern-day space race for metropolitan areas to earn the title of “smart city” is in full swing. Among the world’s top contenders are Barcelona, Singapore, Seoul, London and New York, which are leading the way in the introduction of smart technologies and applications to improve sustainability, system automation, quality of life and other key areas critical to urban centers and communities.

It’s predicted that 60 percent of the world’s population will live in a metropolis by 2030, prompting much conversation on smart technologies and the roles they’ll play in these growing urban centers. The media paints exciting images of futuristic concepts and cities that are deploying smart city apps today. What’s glossed over, however, is the internet of things “glue” holding these smart cities together:  in particular, the robust, compatible networks specifically designed to enable communication across a myriad of sensors embedded in nearly everything.

Along with IoT networks, benchmarking (read: performance measurement) is necessary to check status, monitor upgrades and ensure IoT stability and performance. Routine testing and monitoring of these networks are critical to catching faults before they impact any service that a municipality provides to residents and businesses. In addition to measuring the health of the current networks, benchmarking also tracks performance before and after new component additions and software upgrades.

New, modern cities will apply technological innovation across energy, transportation, social, environmental and other key sectors. For example, smart cities, vendors and service providers are bringing to life the latest transportation systems with electric powered transit and autonomous vehicles. Cities such as Columbus have received funding to integrate smart technologies (i.e., driverless shuttles, connected vehicles and smart sensors) into their transportation networks to better manage traffic flow, connect communities and increase overall efficiency of moving around town -- which, in turn, fuels social and economic growth.

Today’s mobile-first society depends on wireless connectivity. In smart city, networks are integrated and always communicating; as a result, reliable connectivity plays a significant role in the efficiency and effectiveness of various systems that make up such cities. The accumulation and analysis of information collected from the networks -- from end-user behavior, sensors and other telemetry sources -- facilitates business and residential solutions, as well as public policy.

Reliability is critical to success and the delivery of what smart cities have to offer. Take the previous example on mass transit; integrated machine-to-machine communication with a stable connection is a key operational component. Connected trains must seamlessly transmit signals about status, delays, schedule changes or closings to deliver the core service of moving people and goods. Further, reliable M2M will be a cornerstone of the autonomous vehicle revolution where cars will require constant, always-on guidance to prevent congestion and ultimately ensure road safety.

The IoT will play an important role in how smart cities manage their energy consumption. IoT systems can very effectively monitor and control heating and air-conditioning systems, lighting and other energy consuming systems. For example, many cities are installing connected LED lighting fixtures with sensors activated based on pedestrian presence, further demonstrating how IoT connectivity can reduce power consumption and cost.

The definition of a smart city is constantly evolving; it’s been a much discussed, futuristic concept that is now approaching critical mass. The continued evolution and deployment of smart city technology are very much dependent on the growth and integration of the many systems and networks that connect all the elements of a smart city. These transmission paths must be reliable and robust, must interconnect between networks and must be monitored. Systematic evaluation and benchmarking of the smart city’s connectivity will ensure that these metropolises are effectively providing public services. In the race to outfit cities across America with such technologies, it’s imperative that such an important system of checks and balances isn’t forgotten in the fervor of municipal advancement.

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