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Creating smarter, safer and more sustainable cities requires shared network infrastructure, says Gary Holland, IP Optical Networks (ION), Nokia

Shared network infrastructure improves operational efficiency and shares costs between multiple departments and organisations

Creating smarter, safer and more sustainable cities requires shared network infrastructure, says Gary Holland, IP Optical Networks (ION), Nokia

As the world focuses increasingly on issues of the environment and security, it is sometimes surprising that cities, not national governments, are taking the lead. And with technology playing a key role, “smart cities” has become a rallying cry for transforming our world into a safer, more sustainable place.


Cities need to become smarter, in part, because the world’s population is rapidly urbanising. Yet, despite this general trend, some cities will be winners, while others, losers. Engines of economic growth, cities compete with each other for businesses; and businesses, hungry for younger workers, prefer cities that attract the best and the brightest.


Attracting the next-generations of workers is not a given. They like interesting urban centers with a vibrant culture, clean environment and good job opportunities. They need to be constantly connected, prefer public transport over driving, and expect the systems and services with which they transact to be as simple as the apps on their smartphones.


Many companies are moving back to the urban core because they want access to these younger workers. They expect efficient transportation, a supportive innovation culture and, of course, ubiquitous fixed and mobile connectivity. They gravitate to hubs where they can tap into deep pools of talent, suppliers and partners. Both businesses and workers have high expectations regarding social values, environmental friendliness, safety and mobility.


Thus, city planners can meet a number of requirements by building a smart city:

  • Attracting business and talent
  • Managing environmental impacts
  • Reducing traffic congestion and improving transit
  • Ensuring safety and preparing for natural disasters
  • Social responsibility


There are two technological axes of a smart city:


1. Automation: Many of the systems and processes at work in a city are capable of being automated, especially taking advantage of IoT. For instance, some systems, such as traffic signaling, already exist but could be far more efficient and safer using sensors, cameras and connected signage for better traffic engineering. Other systems, such as waste management and recycling, are still relatively low tech and open to innovation.


2. Open data: cities collect large amounts of data that can be shared to improve systems and services. Smart cities are finding ways to open access to less sensitive aspects of this data allowing innovators to design better systems. For example, access to key transport system information has allowed app developers to integrate transport information into smartphone mapping and routing applications. Data can come from city agencies, crowdsourcing, embedded sensors on smartphones, or various embedded IoT sensor systems.


One of the foundational systems for making both automation and open data possible is a ubiquitous ultra-broadband network that is scalable, secure and shared. It must be scalable because many applications will start small, but can grow very quickly as citizens and businesses adopt them. As they scale and spread, smart systems will also offer larger targets for disruption, so they must be secure. And they should be shared, so that all citizens can access common capabilities and open data can be exchanged across interconnected sub-systems and applications.


Starting from the ground up, here are the smart city shared network building blocks:

  • Mobile and fixed access and IP backhaul
  • IP/MPLS edge and core
  • Software-defined networking and data center interconnect
  • Secure device and connectivity management
  • Data collection and management and application enablement


Many cities will choose to build this shared network infrastructure themselves. Some will work with telecom providers to create a public-private hybrid. Either way, built on top of this shared network platform, the smart city can implement a common city cloud to link devices and sensors across the city and enable the delivery of smart city applications and services.


As well as providing scalable, reliable and secure bandwidth for the smart city, shared network infrastructure improves operational efficiency and shares costs between multiple departments and organisations. It helps to provide sustainable and productive urban environments that improve quality of life and bolster economic growth by attracting talent, innovation and new business activities. These factors enhance the way people live and work each day—making the smart city more productive, safe and sustainable.



Gary Holland is responsible for marketing Nokia’s IP and Optical Networks (ION) portfolio to enterprise, industries, government and public sector verticals, both direct and through Global Alliance partners. With more than 25 years’ experience in the telecommunications industry, Gary has held senior roles in corporate, portfolio and product marketing, partner and business development and product line management with technology companies including Alcatel-Lucent, Riverstone Networks and Digital Equipment. Gary brings a combination of marketing, partner development and technology expertise to his current role at Nokia.



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