Hon Kit Lam, Vice President, Global Network Services, Tata Communications
Smart cities area trending topic across conversations. Globally including countries in the Asia-Pacific region are looking at ways to evolve into a so-called smart city, for enabling everyday life, be it for city dwellers or enterprises. But what are the key ingredients to the success of building smart cities is the question.
Connectivity is the Key
This recent wave of smart cities is largely driven by the Internet of Everything (IoE), which is enabled by advances in cloud technology, security, mobile connectivity and Machine-to-Machine (M2M) communications. All this is facilitated by seamless connectivity and access to real-time information, in order to more efficiently manage the relationship between citizens, service providers and administrators.
In order for a city to be smart and intelligent, data has to flow freely and to the right areas so it can be properly processed, analyzed and acted upon. High-speed connectivity further pushes the big data and adjacent service domains under the Internet of Everything to add to the intelligence of a smart city.
However, long-term success of a smart city depends on how well all its stakeholders – including dwellers and workers – use its data networks. Additionally, how applications are able to integrate and ignite the required power to handle the unprecedented amount of data being spewed out of all types of devices – from smartphone’s to streetlights – is another essential element.
To encourage interaction and communication, a combination of wireless connectivity technologies should be used. Going with only one type of technology could be unnecessarily costly and potentially limit interaction. A mix of wireless connectivity technologies including cellular and Wi-Fi makes the most sense to quickly and reliably set up Smart City networks, without having to start major urban construction projects requiring fixed cable and wired infrastructure.
The result will enable game-changing improvements to the life in a city. But when cities have established a large area network that they can utilize, they must take measures to safeguard the security of the interactions and the data that is transferred. Robust, secure, scalable and global infrastructure is required to ensure seamless connectivity between different elements involved in creating and functioning of smart cities.
A report by International Data Corporation suggests that worldwide spending on IoT will grow at a 17% compound annual growth rate from US$698.6 billion in 2015 to nearly US$1.3 trillion in 2019. Asia Pacific is the leader in this regard, with more than 40% of worldwide IoT spending in 2015 coming from this region.
Organisations that own critical parts of the infrastructure (including networks and connectivity) are in a good position to lead the growth of the IoT industry and deliver new-age IoT solutions under the smart city project. On the back of their infrastructural capabilities, they can enable innovative services through their customer relationship management, data centres, and operational and support systems.
These organizations can also take advantage of their specific capabilities and partner network to adopt a number of approaches to enable IoT applications or offer innovative IoT solutions that target specific industry verticals. Organisations all across the globe are focusing on investing in IoT technologies and platforms, with a view to increasing revenue contributions from IoT-related offerings.
Data drives Smart Cities
Cities have a greater opportunity to collect analyze and connect data. Common application areas within smart cities include transportation, energy, healthcare, education and security. For example, we see the impact in logistical areas (such as traffic tracking to reduce gridlock) or inspirational changes (such as increasing citizen participation).
Telecom companies are well positioned to provide solutions through a good connectivity network to offer an integrated suite of solutions. Players like Tata Communications, that offer smarter networks, need to announce to the world of the need to move to a completely digitised environment under which they can offer a comprehensive suite of solutions. An example here is the Low Power Wide Area Network built by us for the IoT applications. It is a scalable and cost-efficient solution for data centres and the cloud to secure large amount of data storage and analytics and create an ecosystem of a robust network of connected devices, to create interoperability that describe a smart city.
The future of building a smart city looks promising, however turning this dream into reality requires much more than the technological advances. Strong leadership coupled with a collaborative mind-set of people is a critical component to help realize the vision.