Cities & Regions Connect People, Places & Things While Leveraging Data
Cities and public-sector IT personnel must balance a unique combination of community expectations, budget limitations, and employee capacity. As cities become smarter and more connected, community members financially responsible growth. At the same time, it is common for cities to struggle with budgets and for elected officials to be held accountable by the public to ensure they are investing wisely and in ways that have a noticeable impact.
As technology continues to evolve, cities are evolving in parallel. A Smart City, according to Gartner, is “an urbanized area where multiple sectors cooperate to achieve sustainable outcomes through the analysis of contextual real-time information shared among sector-specific information and operational technology systems.”
Broadly speaking, Smart Cities use technology to collect data, analyze information, share results with different departments, and use those results to drive improvement. They understand how the combination of innovation, technology, and collaboration can truly improve the quality of life and the economic well-being of their citizens and businesses.
The effects of 4G LTE and Software-defined Networking (SD-N) have been profound within this context. The potential for connected people, places, and things has enabled cities to provide a deep and vast array of services in many different areas. Today cities are connecting:
- K-12 public schools, students, and faculty
- Public recreation centers and other amenities, such as golf courses
- Fare boxes, passenger WiFi, digital signage, and surveillance cameras on buses in major metro systems
- Cameras and tracking sensors/RFID tags on school buses
- Police cars, laptops, body-worn cameras, dash cameras, evidence collection kits, and even IoT sensors to a city’s secure, private network
- Search and rescue mobile vehicles, particularly those in remote locations
- Code enforcement and building inspector vehicles, which traditionally serve as remote offices for city employees and contractors
- Ambulances, stroke kits, and first responders to doctors local at hospitals
- Traffic cameras, traffic light controllers, and cameras at intersections
- Public trash compactors and recycling bins, allowing cities to be more efficient in how often receptacles need to be emptied
- Digital signs that provide live route maps for public transportation users
- Payment kiosks for citizens wishing to pay for city services out in the field
- Election machines at precinct locations
- Sensors for large public events that can be used to look for any kind of public safety threat
These services are increasingly essential to a city’s infrastructure. For example, Gartner predicts that by 2020, “streetlamps will be the primary infrastructure for 80 percent of Smart Cities.” While full of potential, these streetlamps can’t fully function as needed without reliable connectivity solutions. Flexible lighting allows city employees to remotely control switches and dimming devices, thereby enabling efficient, timely management. Video cameras and sensors attached to streetlamps also allow cities the ability to track — in real time — which streets have been plowed during inclement weather.
Without reliable 4G LTE connectivity, along with devices such as routers that can withstand the elements and be updated through the cloud, cities may focus too heavily on becoming a Smart City without paying enough attention to the logistics needed to fully get there.
When cities do fully implement reliable and secure 4G LTE and/or SDN solutions, the effects can be tremendous. The City of San Antonio understood the importance of becoming a Smart City and utilized 4G LTE to assist with traffic management. With more than 1.4 million people and further growth expected, transportation infrastructure is becoming increasingly critical to the city’s quality of life. Its Traffic Management Center needed remote access to monitor key applications, troubleshoot problems, and adjust traffic flow mechanisms (such as timers) in real time. In a city of this size, manual adjustments were no longer a reasonable solution.
By installing Cradlepoint’s cloud-managed routing platforms in nearly 700 traffic cabinets and utilizing 4G LTE, San Antonio now has constant connectivity for reliable access, streamlined network troubleshooting and real-time management, easy physical access, and the potential to scale up the network and applications.
The City of Boise helped its police department further advance the city toward Smart City status by updating its in-vehicle systems. The department upgraded its devices and implemented NetCloud Manager to enable central configuration, monitoring, and management. Whereas it previously took the city as many as 160 staff hours to complete network updates for the whole police cruiser fleet, it now takes approximately 5 minutes with remote cloud management. The cost savings, efficient use of officer resources, reliability, central network management, network flexibility, and future-proofing of these solutions allow the police department to evolve its technological infrastructure while demonstrating to the public its responsible use of valuable resources.
As 5G, often referred to as “next-generation WAN,” becomes more readily available, Smart Cities will have both the opportunity and the obligation to explore how a drastic increase in speeds, combined with a drastic decrease in latency, can better empower their infrastructure, services, and personnel.
The ways in which cities become “smart” depends heavily on the wireless connectivity, devices, and networking infrastructure solutions available to and adopted by IT professionals and approved by city leaders. In essence, the effects of 4G LTE, 5G, IoT, and SDN are only as powerful as the solutions that utilize them.
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