GRC Viewpoint

Lampposts: A Connectivity Platform for Smart City

As the world becomes increasingly connected, the concept of Smart Cities has emerged to make urban living more efficient and sustainable. The idea behind a Smart City is to improve the quality of life, enhance safety and security, and manage resources effectively through advanced technology. While indoor smart technology has advanced significantly over the past decade, outdoor smart technology has not kept pace. As a result, real Smart Cities are still few and far between, and the establishment and maintenance of a “smart” status for cities requires investing in a platform for Smart City applications.

To fully harness the benefits of a Smart City, it is essential to have a robust platform that can support the various smart applications making  up the city’s infrastructure. A connectivity platform is critical for scaling the deployment of edge-connected devices, facilitating the exchange of data between them, ensuring accessibility to citizens, as well as accommodating future needs and demands of municipalities and control centers. Without a reliable platform, the full potential of a Smart City cannot be realized.

When constructing a building, electricity and communication points are expected on every wall in every room, connecting people, machines, and the outside world on one platform. The same should be true for smart outdoor technology, but the deployment process is often different. However, the current approach for deploying smart city infrastructure involves mapping usage and needs before deploying the necessary communication infrastructure. This approach is not scalable for large-scale deployments and doesn’t support future smart city projects. To achieve the full potential of smart cities, a more practical and scalable approach to deploying infrastructure is needed.

So, how can we overcome the obstacles to outdoor smart technology deployment and make Smart Cities a reality? It is first crucial to recognize that outdoor systems require a totally different approach to indoor technology, incorporating small-form-factor components that are easy to deploy with minimal resources, supporting a wide variety of standard devices on an exclusive platform without a single point of failure, and the use of outdoor components.

What makes a city smart?

The idea behind a Smart City is to improve the quality of life of its citizens, enhance sustainability, and optimize city operations through advanced technology and data. For instance, a Smart City using data analytics to monitor and optimize energy consumption can reduce its carbon footprint and promote a cleaner environment. Smart Cities can also use IoT devices and sensors to monitor and manage waste disposal, further reducing their environmental impact. With real-time data on traffic flow, Smart Cities can optimize traffic signals and improve public transportation systems, reducing congestion and improving commute times for residents. The potential benefits of these types of Smart Cities are immense, yet building one is an ongoing task that requires constant implementation of new technologies and upgrades to existing ones, even if immediate benefits are not always apparent.

So, what’s stopping us? The lack of connectivity platforms to support edge connectivity is the main hurdle in the transition to a comprehensive Smart City platform. Edge connectivity refers to the reliable and efficient network of interconnected devices, sensors, and infrastructure that can gather and disseminate data in real time. This connectivity allows for the seamless integration of various systems and services, including traffic management, security, waste management, energy management, and public safety. With an interconnected platform to facilitate swift connection between various devices, edge connectivity can perform at its peak.

However, the implementation of Smart City applications can be a costly endeavor due to the large number of outdoor devices involved that must consume and produce data, as well as the need for reliable and high-performing data channels. Continually undertaking large-scale urban projects every few years to keep up with new innovations is not feasible for most cities. While wireless solutions offer some advantages for specific applications, they are not always a comprehensive platform solution. Similarly, industrial switches and communication rooms can provide edge connectivity, but require significant resources and are not always practical for mass deployment.

Smart Cities hold endless possibilities for innovation and efficiency through the use of technology, but the true potential may be difficult to predict. For example, a camera that detects violence and dispatches police or a proximity sensor that controls street lighting may only be scratching the surface of what’s possible. As we continue to progress, there will undoubtedly be a constant influx of new ideas utilizing sensor data to produce valuable outcomes. As we strive to create more efficient and effective cities, managing the expenses of implementing Smart City applications remains a critical challenge.

As cities become smarter, the need for reliable and high-performing data channels has become increasingly apparent. However, the implementation of Smart City applications is not without its challenges, particularly the high cost of installing cables and networks throughout the city. The solution to this problem lies in leveraging existing infrastructure, such as lampposts, to create a connectivity platform that is easy to deploy and can support endless devices and networks. Lampposts are already used for camera installations, sensors, Electric Vehicle (EV) charging devices, drone nests, and more.

An emerging Tech company, ACiiST, serves as a great example for tackling the absence of connectivity platforms in Smart City deployments by capitalizing on underutilized real estate. The company employs small network boxes installed in lampposts, daisy-chained and meshed, to create an easy-to-deploy edge network. These units leverage a technology known as “Software Defined Network” (SDN) to manage the many small network units, supporting mass city deployment for various devices via one connectivity network to further increase reliability, performance, and functionality.

The use of lampposts and existing infrastructure creates a sustainable system, reducing the need to trench roads and sidewalks or install metal cabinets throughout the sites. Removing barriers such as costs and deployment setbacks, the integration of lampposts into the communication system proves an encouraging solution. Moreover, this approach requires approximately 10% the amount of cabling compared to systems of similar performance and functionality, without the need to compromise on either.

Investing in a platform for Smart City applications is critical for creating a truly Smart City that not only supports present-day solutions, but also future proofs the city for forthcoming urban applications. ACiiST’s solution is not only innovative, but also cost-effective, enabling cities, campuses, and highways to implement Smart City platforms today for tomorrow’s applications. With the right infrastructure in place, the possibilities for new and innovative uses for technology in smart cities are endless.

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By Iris Ganz, VP Business Development at ACiiST

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