Smart City: Fitting the pieces together

Freight tracking in the port of Hamburg

Smart Cities do not take shape from one day to the next. They are formed more like mosaics. The initiatives of individual departments, for example, need to be connected in order to realize the full potential of the Internet of Things and create synergies. Which other obstacles might occur and how they can be solved is the topic of the second part of Ralf Nejedl’s blog post about the future of our cities.

The Smart City is on its way. Its aim is to connect all areas of municipal infrastructure – parking lots, street lighting and traffic lights, even garbage cans and entire stadiums. Amsterdam, Dubrovnik and Budapest belong to the pioneers, as you can read in the first part of this blog post. The city of Prague has similar plans. The Czech capital uses mobility information generated by the Rodos Transport Systems Development Centre to optimize the city’s integrated public transport system. By combining data from mobile networks and traffic monitoring the initiative has been able to build a complex mobility model. Anonymized signaling data from mobile networks enable planners to observe, with full respect of privacy regulations, the distribution of people in time and space and how they move around. This data is combined with several other data sources like Floating Car Data (FCD), toll stations, census data, digital maps and sensors from traffic monitoring. The wide array of possible use cases ranges from urban planning and improving public transport to acquiring tourism statistics and optimizing retail networks.

 

What all these Smart City applications have in common is the simplification and reorganization of administrative processes. Municipalities are not only cutting their operational costs in this way but are also able to provide a better service to their citizens. This is especially helpful because nowadays cities are in competition with each other. They are in the paradoxical situation of facing major challenges due to massive population growth while at the same time depending on this very growth. They seek to attract people and businesses in order to strengthen their economic position, create jobs, and ensure prosperity.

 

Meet the challenges ahead

 

In order to achieve this, some challenges have to be solved. The more areas of a city’s operations benefit and rely on ICT-based applications, the more important is the security of all systems involved. Every single component of Smart City solutions has to be safeguarded – from the applications running on smart devices and the communication network to the backend server. With its reliable networks and highly secure data centers, Deutsche Telekom can provide cities with the trustworthy foundation for an integrated security concept. To ensure the protection of personal data, the data centers comply with the strictest interpretations of local data privacy regulations. Furthermore, connected solutions must provide the greatest possible degree of transparency about the data collected while maintaining the anonymity of users.

 

Another important challenge for the implementation of Smart City concepts is that the initiatives of individual departments cannot remain cut off from one another. They must be connected in order to realize the full potential of the Internet of Things and create synergies. These include not only cooperation between different departments but also participation of citizens in innovation processes. To build such bridges, open platforms and open standards must be used.

 

 

A common language for urban infrastructure

Cities thereby solve another challenge at the same time because connected devices range from traffic lights and signs to parking spaces and waste bins. For managing such a diverse set of objects horizontal platforms are essential. They establish a common language for all the connected parts of the urban infrastructure. Even though today’s application platforms provide basic functionalities for analyzing the data collected, more elaborate and powerful evaluation methods for continuously growing data sets are becoming more and more important.

Evaluating these growing data volumes presents a special challenge. Cities often lack the resources to evaluate them meaningfully. That is why many cities and local authorities are starting to make these records available to citizens and local firms free of charge. The aim is to mobilise the innovation potential of the masses while at the same time safeguarding the privacy of individuals.

Collaborate with reliable partners

Wellington E. Webb, a former mayor of the city of Denver, once said: “The 19th century was a century of empires. The 20th century was a century of nation states. The 21st century will be a century of cities.” To make this happen, the challenges named above must be solved. Cities should look for partners that are experienced in large scale rollouts at both infrastructural levels. Partners should ideally cover a wide range of services from providing city administrations with consulting services to realizing projects. Deutsche Telekom is able to provide cities with suitable products, solutions and the necessary professional expertise. A local presence across Europe enables Deutsche Telekom to operate closer to the country-specific needs of a city. This makes Deutsche Telekom the right partner for successful smart city projects.

 

It will take time before cities harness connected infrastructures, applications and services in a similar way to the port of Hamburg. What already works in these micocosms is much harder to transfer to cities as a whole due to the larger scale and the sheer number of use cases, stakeholders and interests. But the move to Smart Cities is inevitable in the long run to tackle the challenges municipalities are facing today and in the near future. Since it concerns both citizens, visitors, authorities, businesses and manufacturers, a city only becomes smart if everybody involved can share and participate in technical solutions in equal measure.

 Want to learn how integrated infrastructures enable the digital transformation of urban space? Check out our white paper on the future of our cities. Download it now.

Tags: ICT , infrastructure , public transport , connected city , Smart City , Smart Cities , Internet of Things , Machine-to-Machine , M2M , IOT , urban living

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