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Ultra-broadband networks empower smart cities

Smart cities are 21st-century hubs where government, businesses, and citizens intersect and are empowered by ultra-broadband networks. With these, governments can deliver real-time, enriched citizen services anytime and anywhere. As a result, citizens can enjoy greater security, economic stability, and enhanced quality of life.

The drive for change

Immediate and looming challenges are facing today’s state and local governments. These challenges—in addition to the requirement to capitalize quickly on the broadband economy—are compelling public administrators to act. And they want to do it before other jurisdictions get out front.

Forward-looking governments recognize the importance of building out an ultra-broadband network—one that drives economic development while delivering citizen-rich services. That’s important because, by 2020, it is estimated that more than half of the global population will live in cities. This is putting enormous pressure on governments to maximize service delivery efficiencies in advance of the coming wave of infrastructure investment.

Do more with less

The “do-more-with-less” mantra has become even more important as central governments continue to download responsibilities on state and local administrations. What’s more, aging networks urgently need upgrades to support new capabilities, such as real-time video surveillance in order to protect critical infrastructure.

With ever-shrinking budgets, governments are also looking to reduce administrative costs while increasing citizen engagement. Implementing a bi-directional services model using an ultra-broadband network can address this challenge. This model would reduce not only the administrative burden but it would also encourage citizen participation on important civic issues.

Then there’s the challenge of skyrocketing information and communication technology (ICT) overhead. In the quest for operational efficiencies, governments need to wrestle these costs to the ground. Consolidating multiple services to serve multiple public agencies on a single, city-owned ultra-broadband network could help cities address this problem. At the same time, it would allow each department to retain control over its own dynamic pool of resources.

Another dimension to the smart community challenge is the proliferation of machine-to-machine (M2M) devices. Because they are digital and wirelessly connected, they interact and can be remotely controlled over the Internet. This is the so-called Internet of Things.

From smart cars to smart meters, the number of M2M devices is expected to reach more than 40 billion by 2020. The sheer volume of connected devices, together with often high bandwidth demands, requires a high-performance wireless network.

The road to a smart city

With such a lengthy list of drivers, there can be as many responses as there are issues. In this case, the path chosen depends on where the administrators start and want to end up.

At the highest level, administrators typically take one the following approaches. To become a smart city, they can build and manage their own digital infrastructure, rely on hosted services from service providers or, choose a hybrid approach.

At the same time, public administrations recognize 3 principal goals in order to become smart cities. They need to:

  • Realize operational efficiencies
  • Enable citizen participation and e-gov service delivery
  • Create connected communities that will benefit from full participation in the broadband economy

Figure 1 illustrates these 3 goals in a communications networks context that enables the broadband economy.

Figure 1. Smart city services and the networks that empower them

Operational efficiencies abound

Let’s take a closer look at how public administrations can meet their goals. They can provide enriched communication services to their urban and rural communities using a single, multiservice ultra-broadband network—one that supports different traffic types, including high-speed data, video, and voice services.

A unified multiservice network dramatically simplifies operations and improves efficiency across the board. This is largely due to unified network and service management, which should have the following key attributes:

  • Service-aware management with an easy-to-use GUI to simplify and speed provisioning
  • QoS management with priority settings for mission-critical services such as police, fire and ambulance
  • Centralized operations center for device and asset management across both wired and wireless networks to enhance provisioning, troubleshooting, device configuration, and enable “bring your own device” policies

In a unified network, data centers are shared and optimized. This reduces or even eliminates annual leased line costs. And for even greater efficiencies, broadband interconnection points with service providers can be consolidated. For their part, fiber optic resources are used more efficiently, with excess capacity being dedicated to enhancing citizen services or generating additional revenues for the city.

Cloud power

Government cloud architectures can also serve as key enablers of smart cities. Whether these architectures are owned by the city, hosted by a service provider, or a combination of both, they can enable the administration, sharing, and securing of digital assets from a common distribution point.

Government cloud architectures can enable an unprecedented degree of self-serve access. By accessing online services—be it renewal of a license, or program registration—citizens can speed up access to the services they need, take the load off over-burdened staff, and reduce government administration costs.

But for all this to happen, communities need optimized data centers with new technologies, such as virtualization and software-defined networking. This typically requires an upgrade of legacy networks. Otherwise, it’s difficult to reap the economies of scale and smooth the peaks and dips to improve resource use.

With a government cloud architecture, cloud-based services can approach availability levels comparable to those of a dedicated network infrastructure.

Enriched citizen services

A high-performance wireless network connects cities and agencies for highly efficient shared services. The result is unprecedented citizen engagement with mobile and connected citizens using digital apps, allowing them to benefit from and contribute to the broadband economy.

Using a service enablement platform to connect intelligent sensors to the wireless network, a high-performance wireless network also enables the new world of M2M communications. With M2M communications, smart cities can cost-effectively automate and monitor everything from the power grid, to first-responder dispatching and public health services.

Here are just a few examples of enriched citizen services that can be delivered using a high-performance wireless infrastructure:

e-government services for citizens and businesses: e-services engage governments with those they serve, transitioning from passive to active information access for citizen and business participation.

Public safety services: Video surveillance can complement public safety operations. They can backhaul IP video streams from fixed cameras, deployed through the city or the region, or even to transport IP video surveillance from mobile cameras or viewing devices connected to the network.

Cybersecurity: The threat management center takes a holistic approach that prevents and detects vulnerabilities, protects systems, responds to and recovers from cyber threats.

Emergency alerts: Communities are increasingly challenged by major threats caused by nature, industry and technology or even military action. Cell broadcasting can save lives and limit damages by providing government-initiated geo-targeted, real-time and context-aware messages to populations at risk.

A transformation model

Choosing the right transformation partner can make the road to a smart community easier, faster, and more cost-effective. Making the right decisions along the way also requires a smart cities network transformation model—one that relies on network architects and designers, as well as business modeling experts.

When working with an experienced partner, the following 6 steps are critical to a successful outcome:

  1. Learn: Partner works with city staff to understand network challenges
  2. Analyze: Business modelling is used to determine optimal network architecture
  3. Deploy: Field-proven methodologies are applied to ensure network is deployed efficiently and functioning as designed
  4. Manage: Partner monitors network health and provides dashboard for real-time network performance feedback
  5. Migrate: Ultra-broadband backbone build-out allows legacy network services to be carried on a converged network
  6. Innovate: City leverages the network to offer innovative services to citizens and employees with converged broadband network in place

To implement the model, the partner will have demonstrated expertise in multi-technology environments, allowing them to navigate the most advantageous path to an ultra-broadband network. The path should include everything from the initial phases of network planning to integration and operations. An analysis of the total cost of ownership, both current and future, as well as the required funding to transform the network step-by-step should also be included.

The future is bright

Leveraging the benefits of an ultra-broadband network, today’s state and local governments are transforming cities into smart cities. With the scale and flexibility offered by ultra-broadband networks, citizens can enjoy the benefits of self-service, greater security, and real-time engagement on key public issues. Whether communities deliver these services over their own broadband networks or via cloud-based platforms hosted by 3rd parties, (or a combination of both), costs can be lowered.

A unified, ultra-broadband service delivery platform eliminates administrative silos, thereby reducing ICT overhead. And, with cloud services using SDN, resources can be smoothed across the network, increasing availability. A unified ultra-broadband network will also enable smart cities to accommodate and support the coming wave of M2M devices, and to manage them remotely over a carrier-grade wireless network.


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Jacques Vermeulen

About Jacques Vermeulen

Jacques has been Nokia’s Director Future Cities, developing strategy, solutions, partnerships and business since 2009. He is passionate about tapping into his knowledge of ICT, Smart City ecosystems, customer experience and appreciative organizational development and change to help transformations to sustainable urban development, reduce the complexity of the society we live in and offer new augmented services to city’s organizations and the people they serve.

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