Key ways cities are getting smarter - and how the right infrastructure is essential

January 10, 2020


In the coming years, it will be essential for cities around the world to embrace new technologies and connectivity in order to meet a wide range of challenges.


Connected 'smart cities' will be essential in coping with more crowded public spaces, optimising the use of energy and improving the sustainability of locations in the coming years, according to a recent white paper from ABI Research.


This identified a range of new technologies and strategies that are spurring the development of smart cities, with ABI forecasting that spending on smart city technology is set to exceed $61 billion (£54.7 billion) globally by 2026.

However, none of this investment will be effective without the right underlying infrastructure to support it. This starts with fast connectivity solutions such as fibre cabling, as well as the various connectors, fittings and accessories needed to ensure the reliability and performance of this technology.


ABI Research identified several trends that are helping make cities smarter, all of which will rely on strong networking solutions to operate. 


A more resilient environment


One of the key trends identified by ABI Research was the need for greater resiliency within urban spaces to guard against a range of disasters and other unexpected scenarios. The research noted that due to their "dense character", urban areas are highly vulnerable to both loss of life and economic value incidents. 


Cities, therefore, need to be ready and prepared for such events, in terms of areas such as evacuation emergency response procedures and communications. While advanced artificial intelligence and machine learning projects can help better forecast such incidents, it will be vital that connective infrastructure is also robust enough to cope with any major disruptions.


Embracing 'micro-mobility'


ABI also noted that, while driverless cars and electric vehicles will have a key role to play in reducing congestion and emissions in cities in the long-term, mass-market adoption is still many years away. Therefore, in the meantime, urban areas are set to embrace 'micro mobility' solutions, which will include initiatives such as dockless electric scooters and bikes.

This may mean greater dependence on wireless connectivity tools and require the installation of more base stations at key points around urban areas, such as street lights. These solutions are set to be useful hubs for a wide variety of smart city applications, from gathering data from Internet of Things sensors to monitoring pollution conditions and adjusting traffic systems accordingly.


Moving to 'circular cities'


Another key strategy will be the shift from green cities towards a culture of 'circular cities'. Vice-president of research at ABI Dominique Bonte explained: "It is about turning entire cities into circular entities, eliminating their 'outside of the city' footprints entirely by achieving large degrees of self-support and self-sufficiency in areas like energy generation." This will be the 'endgame' for many smart cities' efforts and mean more sharing, recycling, repairing, refurbishing, and repurposing of assets and resources.


From an infrastructure perspective, this will require network deployers to support devices such as water and energy sensors and enable the use of real-time monitoring of assets and systems. This means fast, low-latency connectivity that can handle large volumes of data traffic without slowdowns.


Mr Bonte concluded cities are currently undergoing a revolution when it comes to optimising their use of resources to tackle the fundamental challenges they face as populations become more urban.


"This can only be done by leveraging a range of very advanced technologies, including urban modeling and digital twins, AI and automation, demand-response software, edge/cloud platforms, and generative design," he said.

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