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Don’t be an old-style city: plan your communications network

April 27, 2017
Smart Cities Council North America: Corporate

Remember life before cell phones?

“Calls on the go” were made from phone booths … if we had coins. Navigating to a destination while driving? A passenger would carefully unfold paper maps so that they wouldn’t get in the driver’s way. Re-folding maps properly was an exercise in futility. Taking a photo involved carrying a clunky camera and dropping off rolls of film. With a bit of luck and a few extra dollars for expedited developing services, you could even get your paper prints in 24 hours. Imagine that!  

Life is so utterly different now, thanks to the ubiquity of mobile wireless network infrastructure and the ever-expanding set of applications available on smartphones.

Cities are now at this type of “remember when” juncture because of the transformational change enabled by new digital sensor infrastructure. While early generation smart city technology was application specific, new smart city infrastructure benefits a variety of market segments. Below, we will have a look at some industries that find value in new smart city sensor data.

Much like the ecosystem unlocked by mobile wireless networks, smart city digital infrastructure facilitates a new ecosystem of solution providers from various industries that coalesce around the value of this sensor data. Cities that adopt this new smart city technology will operate more efficiently and effectively, surging to the forefront of the world’s most advanced cities.

Optimizing transportation
Americans spend on an average 42 hours per year stuck in traffic, according to the INRIX Global Traffic Scorecard. This ends up costing each city multiple billions of dollars.

Traditionally, departments of transportation have tried to address this dire situation by employing advanced transportation optimization solutions that require the deployment of new dedicated traffic sensors in strategic locations.

Now, there is a more elegant, efficient and cost-effective way of unraveling traffic congestion: advanced transportation optimization solutions, such as PTV Optima, leverage smart city digital infrastructure to gather real-time vehicle speed and count. This high value data enable traffic management solutions to accurately predict traffic flow up to an hour in the future based on different near-term plans of action. The optimal plan of action can then be selected, thus reducing traffic throughout urban environments.

At the end of the day, cities with improved mobility will see their economies grow faster than those plagued by traffic congestion.

Finding that elusive on-street parking spot
After having fought your way through traffic, you finally drive up to your destination, but don’t see parking anywhere in sight. Your appointment is in 10 minutes. Is it worth it to look for free on-street parking or should you just pay $20 to park at the parking lot around the corner?

If you find yourself in a city where smart city digital infrastructure has been deployed, the answer is simple: check your favorite parking app (e.g. Parking Panda, ParkMobile, or ParkMe) for a complete view of parking availability, including both on-street and off-street options.

Later this year, this somewhat futuristic vision will become a reality in San Diego, where real-time occupancy of over 7,000 on-street parking spaces will be exposed thanks to digital infrastructure, providing the broadest on-street parking coverage anywhere on the planet.

Getting cars off the road and into parking spaces can go a long way towards reducing traffic congestion.

Enhancing public safety and mitigating crime
A smart city solution that monitors the pulse of a city also enables advances in public safety by enhancing technologies that help prevent emergencies from occurring and those that efficiently manage responses to emergencies. For instance, real-time sensors can be used to improve situational awareness in security management platforms, such as those offered by Genetec and Vidsys. This sensor data is also valuable in reducing the likelihood of a crime occurring, which is the focus of HunchLab by Azavea and PredPol. Last but not least, ShotSpotter leverages smart city digital infrastructure to expand real-time critical gunfire intelligence coverage areas, which helps make cities safer.

Managing roadway assets
City assets in and adjacent to streets can be more optimally managed thanks to this same digital infrastructure. Before this sensor data was available, cities that received a report of damaged assets had to roll a truck to the location to validate the report and decide on next steps. Now, the reported incident can be validated and prioritized based on data from smart city digital infrastructure. By doing this, cities save money and improve their service levels. Industry-leading asset management solutions from AssetWorks, Cartegraph, and Fugro Roadware are enhanced with digital infrastructure data.

The future is in our hands
We are starting to see the first glimpses of smart city technology that benefits multiple market segments. This new technology will lead to new solution provider ecosystems that deliver technology unimaginable only a few years ago.

Soon, city leaders and urban dwellers will reminisce about how inconvenient and time-consuming life used to be before cities were truly smart. Once you have a cell phone, who needs a pager? Similarly, once you have a multi-application sensor, who needs a dedicated sensor?