Education and collaboration will transform cities from dumb to smart in quick succession

Aaron Partouche, Marketing & Business Development
director at Colt

Smart cities promote numerous advantages for the public and organisations alike, improving communication response, remote control potential and innovative interactive experiences for public and private services. We have seen the emergence of smart city innovations beginning to take shape throughout central Europe, with a leading example stemming from Amsterdam. The city deployed 40 projects ranging from smart parking to the development of home energy storage for integration to a smart grid, with great success.

The number and type of available assets that can enable cities to offer smart capabilities is continuing to grow at a great pace. We are already seeing various type of advancements include a wider amount of potential city furniture’s, connected buildings for indoor coverage and even rooftop developments that maximise coverage throughout a building and surrounding location, says Aaron Partouche, marketing & business development director at Colt.

The outdoor deployment of wireless antennas across cities is expected to hit huge numbers over time, however is being limited due deployment and operational challenges, that have to be addressed. So to enable cities across the world to transform themselves to host connected capabilities, a first step is to ensure market incumbents begin communicating effectively and developing relationships for the future.

A desirable relationship of today could combine 3G and 4G mobile providers, with dark fibre enablers and non-profit organisations such as The LoRa Alliance (non-profit organisation dedicated to promoting the interoperability and standardisation of low-power wide area network (LPWAN)). Without sufficient partnerships in place cities will struggle with a lack of cohesion between technology providers and distinct gaps in deployment attempts and strategies.

If these technologies can be effectively amalgamated, a powerful, viable and efficient connectivity standard can be offered to public and private sector organisations, enabling and accelerating smart city project roll outs.

When conceptualising 5G technology, it is expected that 3GPP mobile technology (4G) will smoothly integrate with IEEE Wi-Fi wireless technology. When 5G is integrated into the mix, Wi-Fi will act as another radio layer in the same way that small antennas are integrated in our urban landscape today. This is set to further boost the connectivity strength and reliability potential, however reliant on the supporting infrastructure of those chosen city or district.

What is necessary to make the ‘dumb’ cities of today smart?

Outdoor small antennas are required to enable smart locations throughout any city, and this puts a new set of requirements on the infrastructure itself. Some of the requirements stem from the “small cell” deployment requirements and others from implementing and managing the radio technology itself. Common issues in this area include:

  • Site access: This is the number one challenge to overcome for any fibre provider who will have to make partnerships with site and/or street furniture owners. Candidate sites include bus shelters, lamp posts or building sites for example.
  • Power supply: Electronic devices need a power line, which the site owner will typically provide. This can work relatively smoothly on sites with existing power such as bus shelter and lamp post, however can prove more difficult in more remote, less connected locations.
  • Streetscape: Electronic devices that will be installed outdoor on sites need to be compact, hardened and weather-proof type to enable them to work effectively on site. This is a new requirement for providers who traditionally deploy devices in a controlled indoor environment. In addition to this, the site owner themselves and the backhaul provider will have to collaborate and overcome other integration issues such as housing, cooling and dimensioning. This can represent a significant coordination effort and potential challenge as partnership with a number of site owners and technology providers will likely be needed.

    Smart City 2
    Image credit: JCT600. (See link below)

It is now fundamental for government institutions and regulators to truly encourage and enable market incumbents to develop relationships with organisations that can enable these solutions to occur. Without fibre network providers, wireless service providers could not host the connection speeds necessary for these solutions.

The same demand is placed with fibre network providers, who would struggle with reach and flexibility without collaborating with mobile operators. Therefore, mutual agreements and solutions need to take place that can draw the best from both worlds and enable smart city strategies to be created.

Aside from applying pressure, it is also paramount that regulators and governing bodies educate the wider market on how to best utilise network availability and smart city project involvement. Within the UK the City of London have created a digital infrastructure toolkit, named Wayleaves.

The Toolkit gives broadband providers, SMEs, landlords and developers the documentation they need to deliver digital infrastructure in a fast and effective way. This incentivises the development of improved connection standards and can act as a useful resource for smart city project conceptualisation.

Partnering now for the future

Multi-factor partnerships can be the key to smart city roll out throughout European cities, bringing together incumbents, regulators and government to ensure both the supporting infrastructure and technological capability can enable such innovative projects to be considered.

We must see more initiatives such as Wayleaves being rolled out globally to accelerate this process and educate the market of potential options for inclusion in projects. If all three parties are in tune, dumb cities will become a thing of the past, with connected and intelligent cities becoming the norm.

The author of this blog is Aaron Partouche, Marketing & Business Development director at Colt.

Image credit (above): For more information go to JCT600

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