Wireless Networking Expands Possibilities for Smart Cities & Smart Communities
Local government is a 24/7 enterprise. Constantly changing dynamics and daily emergencies have always put pressure on city governments to be both nimble and cost-efficient. In the digital age, citizens expect cities to respond to their needs and mandates even quicker than before, and they want to be able to access city services conveniently — whenever and wherever. Of course, citizens also still expect cities to make the most of their tax dollars.
We’ve asked our resident Smart Cities expert, Ken Hosac, VP of Business Development, to:
- Highlight some of the most impactful Smart City applications,
- Discuss where the Smart City movement is headed,
- And offer insight into how wireless and software-defined networking (SDN) help cities address their communities’ changing needs.
What exactly is a Smart City?
“It’s the idea that technology and innovation and collaboration can improve the quality of life of citizens and the well-being of its businesses; cities that are smart take advantage of that,” says Hosac. Smart Cities are utilizing the cloud and the Internet of Things. In fact, Gartner reports that more than a billion Internet of Things devices are installed in Smart Cities worldwide, and that number is projected to more than double by 2017.
“Most cities are becoming incrementally smarter all the time. You might not notice it on a day-to-day basis, but over time you see a big difference,” notes Hosac.
Popular Smart City Technologies
Public Transit: Currently, the most widely enjoyed Smart City technologies often revolve around in-vehicle connectivity. For example, many cities are using 4G LTE connectivity to provide WiFi on public transit, in order to attract greater ridership, says Hosac.
Public Safety: Many law enforcement agencies also have come to rely on wireless in-vehicle connectivity. Increased police scrutiny and growing demand for transparency is motivating law enforcement agencies to implement body-worn and dash cameras to give the public greater oversight of their activities. “We’re seeing that not just here in the United States, but in Europe and Africa as well,” notes Hosac.
With wireless in-vehicle Internet, officers can upload footage to the cloud, stream in real-time, and file reports — all without having to make an extra trip to headquarters. Less time performing administrative tasks back at the station means more time for community policing.
Pop-Up Networks: A few cities are utilizing wireless Internet to provide temporary connectivity during elections. The Board of Elections can quickly set up a wireless “pop-up” network just for Election Day, and voters use computers (which can also produce a paper ballot to guard against potential tampering) to cast their votes.
Voters enjoy the convenience and faster reporting of results, while the city benefits from a more efficient elections process.
Data Analytics: Emerging Smart City applications will allow cities to better gather and leverage real-time data. “It’s not mainstream yet,” says Hosac, but in the near future, many cities will, for example, “have sensors in trash Dumpsters that can tell how full the Dumpster is, and combine that information with temperature measurements to help cities determine which Dumpsters to empty each day.” Applications like this will allow cities to save money by limiting energy/fuel expenditures and personnel hours needed to deliver vital city services.
Smart Parking: Smart parking is another application with a promising future. Cities seeking to limit the traffic and pollution impact of drivers endlessly searching for parking use Internet-connected sensors and meters to update parking maps in real-time. Drivers access data through a cloud application that allows them to quickly locate open parking spaces.
In either of the previous two scenarios, Internet of Things devices are organized on a wireless mesh network, with an Internet-connected gateway device stationed on approximately every block.
The Growing Role of Wireless & Software-Defined Networks (SDN)
Today, leading cities are using wireless and SDN to provide connectivity for their Smart City applications.
“Wireless connectivity opens up a whole new range of applications that couldn’t be addressed with wired networks,” says Hosac. “Mobile applications are especially dependent on it, but it’s also making a big impact on temporary locations and pop-up networking. The instant scalability and ease-of-management make it possible for cities to tailor the network to their exact and ever-evolving needs. These technologies provide the flexibility needed to make adjustments quickly as the city’s needs change.”