Smart Cities Concept Faces Standards, Cost Hurdles

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    The “smart city” covers a lot of real estate — literally and figuratively. It involves myriad systems and subsystems, all with their own standards and other distinguishing characteristics. Some are far more advanced than others. For the expansive version of the smart city concept to work, however, all of these must communicate instantaneously, when necessary.

    For instance, say a cardiac patient is being rushed to the emergency room in the least amount of time possible; the street lights must automatically be set to green in the direction the ambulance is going. To do this, however, the traffic and hospital systems must be tightly integrated. That involves two silos of connectivity.

    Deep coordination is one of the many challenges that smart cities face. It’s a tall order. RCR Wireless points to five advances that auger well for the future of the smart city. Lower power wide area (LPWA) networks are increasing connectivity; sensors, actuators and switches are coming down in price; and edge computing is growing more sophisticated. Efforts to standardize interfaces and increase interoperability are increasing and data analytics is becoming less expensive.

    Veli-Pekka Luoma, a Comptel IoT specialist, thinks that telecommunication network operators are just the group to confront the complexities of smart cities. Luoma writes on The Stack that collecting and making sense of huge amounts of data collected from multiple disconnected sources — horizontally, in other words – is something that operators do. Extending this skillset could end up meeting the challenge:

    After all, IoT-enabled devices are just like every other source of data, such telco networks or mobile apps, which operators already tap for customer insights. Operators have the chance to be the glue that stitches data from separate IoT applications together, and the smart city is one such use case. Ultimately, operators can serve as managers of the platforms cities use to aggregate and analyse disparate IoT data in real-time, to the benefit of everyday citizens.

    While there is reason for optimism, the battle is far from won. Machine Research, in a study about the status of Internet of things (IoT) standards, points to incremental costs of a non-standard world. Business Intelligence reports that Machine found that deployment of non-standard IoT devices would add $341 billion to smart city deployments by 2025. Smart city projects without standardized systems during that period would be $1.12 trillion. The cost with standards in place would be $781 billion.

    Even in the universe of predictions that reach out almost a decade in the future, Machine Research’s predictions are extremely speculative. The company is piling assumption (the speed of smart city rollouts) atop assumption (the cost of compensating for the absence of standards).

    And perhaps more important is another assumption — that building smart cities would be possible at all without comprehensive standards.

    Carl Weinschenk covers telecom for IT Business Edge. He writes about wireless technology, disaster recovery/business continuity, cellular services, the Internet of Things, machine-to-machine communications and other emerging technologies and platforms. He also covers net neutrality and related regulatory issues. Weinschenk has written about the phone companies, cable operators and related companies for decades and is senior editor of Broadband Technology Report. He can be reached at and via twitter at @DailyMusicBrk.


    Carl Weinschenk
    Carl Weinschenk
    Carl Weinschenk Carl Weinschenk Carl Weinschenk is a long-time IT and telecom journalist. His coverage areas include the IoT, artificial intelligence, artificial intelligence, drones, 3D printing LTE and 5G, SDN, NFV, net neutrality, municipal broadband, unified communications and business continuity/disaster recovery. Weinschenk has written about wireless and phone companies, cable operators and their vendor ecosystems. He also has written about alternative energy and runs a website, The Daily Music Break, as a hobby.

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