Opinion: The key ingredients for smart city success

Opinion: The key ingredients for smart city success
Stephan led the data network and security solutions strategy for ALE, responsible for overall portfolio management and program execution. He is a distinguished member of the Alcatel-Lucent Bell Labs Technical Academy.

Smart cities are the future of inner-city living. Attracting new citizens and investment won’t just come down to good schools, affordable property and excellent facilities. In the future, the digital experience and the innovative services a municipality can offer will be just as crucial. By using a cutting-edge network of sensors, a smart city can harvest a huge amount of data. This data can form insight to enhance the delivery of existing services to citizens. Moreover, this insight can drive the creation of new services, help to optimise assets, improve resource management and make operations more efficient to reduce cost. 

For example, smart waste management uses sensors in waste bins to detect when they are full. The sensor will notify the management platform when a bin is full; then alert the waste management team to empty to the bin. This helps to streamline the waste collection process, reduce costs and improve hygiene. 

Another important aspect is safety. Cities cannot be smart if they are not safe. Video surveillance systems consisting of a network of Internet Protocol (IP) cameras, along with advanced applications such as license plate recognition, vehicle tracking, facial recognition, analytics and real-time notifications improve public safety. 

While the amount of smart city use cases is remarkable, a smart city still needs an unequalled blend of always-on digital communication services linked to a vast Internet of Things (IoT) network. For this complicated, mission-critical, service platform to achieve optimum operation, robust connectivity and smooth integration are vital. 

Embracing innovation

A smart city is founded on ground-breaking technology. The latest advances are essential to support its calculated digital priorities, enhance efficiency of resources and processes, drive citizen accountability and bolster its economy. The rate of technological development has been truly astonishing. The number of use cases these advances can power is incredible. 

Just take the IoT. This enormous network of connected devices is at the vanguard of innovation for differentiating services to city dwellers. For example, a digital connection to assets enables equipment and employees in the city to be located in real-time. The benefit of asset-tracking is that equipment can be found quickly. If a municipality knows where its assets are and how much they are being used, it can efficiently rationalise its asset portfolio, reducing cost. The IoT can support Location Based Services (LBS), which deliver wayfinding and geo-location for indoor environments, such as public buildings and museums. This allows the city to gather data on the location of visitors and employees. LBS can uncover useful information for tourism and public safety purposes; such as supporting improved crowd management. 

What’s exciting is this is just the start of this journey. The technology driving smart cities is becoming increasingly sophisticated. The number of use cases is snowballing, increasing the number of social benefits and digital services that can be offered to citizens.  

Making it happen

The advantages of technological progression for smart cities are evident; but executing change securely in a large urban environment uncovers some exceptional challenges. These problems must be understood and faced down, if smart cities are to be successful. 

The infrastructure of a smart city is made of up a contrasting and enormous set of technological platforms and devices, housed in a vast IoT network. Successfully connecting and integrating these distinct elements is no mean feat. To achieve this goal, a municipality requires a digital age network. This network provides plug-and-play activation for IoT devices, powerful security, and sophisticated automation. A digital age network is fundamental in enabling the smooth adoption necessary for the shifting needs of an advanced and dynamic smart city.

A digital age network is built on being autonomous. In this context, this means that the network simplifies deployment through the automatic and secure connection of citizens, processes, applications and objects. Above autonomy it offers security and efficiency. A digital age network can onboard IoT devices using segmentation techniques, so the network is not compromised. It also opens up innovation and process integration via workflow automation and open interfaces. This supports increased productivity and removes the potential for human error. 

IoT devices are key to innovating services for citizens, but their huge numbers do expose the edge of the infrastructure to cyberattacks. The dangers posed by these security threats to a smart city are clear. Keeping IoT devices secure needs the multi-level security offered by a digital age network. This method helps to protect the device, the network and, most importantly – the citizen’s device. By using an IoT containment strategy, a digital age network can protect systems by identifying the IoT device and automatically provisioning and applying the right configuration policies. Through the segmentation of a single physical network into distinct virtual networks (containers), IT managers are able to make sure that each application, or service, has its own secure container. This ensures an optimal experience for citizens, improved service integrity and secure, robust operations. 

This network, powered by AI and machine learning algorithms, analyses the behaviour of IoT devices and applications, making sure that they operate normally. Every authorised object is digitally inventoried. The type and number of IoT devices connected to the network at any given time is known. This continuous monitoring is crucial to keeping the network safe. Action can be taken instantly if there is rogue intrusion, or a deviation from standard behaviour, in any IoT devices operating on the network. 

Concentrate on citizens and businesses

Just as important as a digital age network, a smart city requires clear and measurable goals to boost both citizen and business satisfaction. Whether this is related to dealing with climate change, 

sustainable transition, healthcare, education or social integration, a smart city must be focused on what it wants to achieve. It needs to be committed to continuous digital transformation to improve the lives of its citizens and deliver a strong economy to attract investment. 

Achieving this comes down to combining digital communication services and IoT deployment via reliable connectivity and smooth integration. Successfully connecting people, objects and processes cuts through complexity to drive the innovative services which will power cities in the future.

(Photo by Hugh Han on Unsplash)

Interested in hearing industry leaders discuss subjects like this? Attend the co-located 5G Expo, IoT Tech Expo, Blockchain Expo, AI & Big Data Expo, and Cyber Security & Cloud Expo World Series with upcoming events in Silicon Valley, London, and Amsterdam.

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