Beyond streetwise: smart cities have a lot to learn

Wealthy city dwellers may dream of country estates, but the fact is that most of the population is moving into town – with 80% urbanisation predicted for the developed world by 2025.

And we can expect a hundred new cities with a million plus inhabitants to be built in the next ten years – most of them in the APAC region.

It’s a crowded space, representing barely 2% of the earth’s surface and yet responsible for 75% of the world’s energy consumption. So small gains in efficiency, and reduced wastage, will go a very long way. A potential global saving of $22 trillion is one big incentive to make our cities smarter, says Stephen Douglas, Solutions & Technical Strategy lead, Internet of Things, Spirent Communications.

Stephen Douglas, Solutions & Technical Strategy Lead, Internet of Things, Spirent Communications
Stephen Douglas, Solutions & Technical Strategy Lead, Internet of Things, Spirent Communications

There are other more immediate benefits for the cities themselves: from reduced pollution to improved quality of life; from reduced traffic congestion to better use of human and other resources; from greater competitiveness to boosting community spirit and a sense of civic pride.

Citizens will appreciate these benefits and will also enjoy better public transport, smart parking management, improved healthcare and lifestyle services, greater security from more responsive emergency services, and extended educational benefits. Meanwhile the linking and harmonising potential of smartphones and wearable devices could usher in new levels of citizen engagement in local government and planning.

It could be utopia. Or it could become an Orwellian nightmare.

The Internet is already a cybercrime playground: expand that attack surface with millions of Internet of Things sensors, smart gadgets and monitors and the Wild West will soon look like a vicar’s tea party. Shared personal data could forge one big happy family, or it could invite Big Brother into our very bedrooms.

Nor is the path to smartness a smooth one. Retrofitting existing un-smart cities is tough, and expensive. Lack of universally accepted platforms and standards could lead to technological gridlock, while interdepartmental rivalry or divergent priorities would increase the risk non-integrated silos of smart functionality. A smart but schizoid city.Digital World in Blue

This is a whole new scary territory for today’s city planners and local governments. And yet it is business as usual for the network industry. For decades already we have been wrestling with cybercrime, meshing proprietary data siloes, integrating non-standardised interfaces, and exhaustively testing the most complex physical and virtual systems for both functionality and performance.

OK, the growth of smart cities will increase the complexity and diversity of those systems manifold, but the necessary skills and experience are already available. We understand the need for common APIs and a consistent abstraction layer to create an open Big Data platform. We have long experience of cyber-security, of how to test against attacks and how to manage complex connectivity. We also know about test automation and remote management of scattered populations of devices – maintenance and upgrade without expensive and time consuming truck rolls.

Car Abstract Concept
Car Abstract Concept

It’s a whole new learning experience for our cities – and a potential $1.56 trillion market – but Spirent has what it takes to make IoT adoption simple, safe and secure.

Spirent IoT Enablement includes solutions for developers, for test and security, connectivity, Big Data and service assurance, remote device management – and years and years of experience.

Welcome to our world.

The author of this blog is Stephen Douglas, Solutions & Technical Strategy Lead, Internet of Things, Spirent Communications

About the Author:

Stephen works for Spirents strategy organisation helping to define technical direction, new innovative solutions and market leading disruptive technologies which make a real difference. With close to 20 years’ experience in telecommunications Stephen has been at the cutting edge of next generation technologies and has worked across the industry with multiple Service Providers, Start-Ups and tier 1 OEM’s helping them drive innovation and transformation. Stephen is an ardent believer in connected technology and strives to challenge, blur and break down the silos which prevent innovation and business success.

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