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Enabling smart cities, by Dr. Shane Rooney, executive director, GSMA

A vital part of smart city development is Low Power Wide Area networks (LPWA)

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Enabling smart cities, by Dr. Shane Rooney, executive director, GSMA

Any city has the potential to become a smart city. With the right applications of technology, existing infrastructure can be transformed into a smart, intelligent ecosystem. By analyzing data from across these vast networks, city governments can introduce new initiatives that benefit their citizens directly. From transport, to healthcare, to education, a connected smart city can improve quality of life for all.

Smart cities aren’t just a nice concept. They are a modern necessity. The reality is that we’ll need these kinds of connected infrastructure in place to support our rapidly growing urban population. According to Forrester, 70 per cent of the world’s population will live in cities by 2050. A growing population puts aging infrastructure and public services under considerable pressure, as cities struggle to keep up with demand. But by embracing smart city technology today, cities can ensure they have the right infrastructure in place to handle this influx and maintain crucial public services in the years to come.

In the coming years, millions of connected devices and crucial infrastructure will be brought together in cities around the world. But it’s vital to ensure that the right security measures are in place to protect these immense networks. Without it, citizens’ data and the security of the smart city itself may be at risk.

Smart cities are one of the most exciting developments from the rise of the Internet of Things. But as with the rest of the IoT market, the standards for connecting smart city technology is only just being finalised. Secure, robust connectivity is essential to ensuring the successful development of smart cities on a wider scale.

A vital part of smart city development is Low Power Wide Area networks (LPWA). LPWA networks are designed to support devices that are located in remote or difficult to reach locations, need long battery lives and have a low-price tag per unit than traditional M2M devices. Battery life is particularly important here, as these batteries are expected to last for years rather than a few days or months. Moreover, they are designed to power occasional status updates without the need for human intervention, repair, upgrade or even a regular electricity supply.

There are many applications of this technology available today, and the possibilities for the future are endless. These technologies cover everything from smart meters and environmental sensors that monitor pollution levels, to transport and logistics tracking, to make a cities transport newtork more efficient.. It can also be used to remotely activate devices, such as sprinklers, lights and air conditioning. But the availability of network solutions is the largest limitation.

To help accelerate the commercial availability of LPWA solutions, the GSMA instigated the ‘Mobile IoT Initiative’ with the support of the world’s leading mobile operators, device makers, OEMs and infrastructure companies. This has succeeded in standardising two complementary LPWA technologies through 3GPP, the cellular standards body: Long-Term Evolution for Machines (LTE-M) and Narrow-Band Internet of Things (NB-IoT). This standardisation will enable the industry to achieve economies of scale and interoperability.

Crucially, the initiative focuses on solutions in licensed spectrum. Licensed spectrum is a reliable choice, offering a better quality of service than unlicensed -- which, while freely available and therefore superficially appealing, has a number of significant drawbacks. Unlicensed is free and open to anybody to use but consequently subject to interference and congestion, and cannot be relied upon to deliver a pre-defined quality of service.

For smart city development, licensed solutions help to mitigate the risk of insecure connectivity, which at the very least could cause poor quality of services for citizens. When it comes to critical infrastructure, the risk of underperformance, and issues that come alongside that, may greatly outweigh the benefits of adopting freely available options. Choosing licensed solution means you get coverage where you need it, not just in the areas where you have repeaters.

When it comes to smart city planning, it’s easy to get carried away by the benefits of connected technology. But cities have a duty of care to their citizens and businesses. There is much for governments, city planners and digital service providers to consider in their quest to deploy connected solutions and create cities that are truly smart. With the right network security measures in place, we can ensure that the benefits of a smart city are accessible and enjoyed by everyone.


Shane Rooney is an Executive Director at the GSMA on the Internet of Things Programme. Bringing together strategies and synergies across the M2M verticals and the wider IoT ecosystems, he has a wealth of experience in Mobile Communications particularly in Enterprise Solutions and M2M having global experience in a number of operators including Etisalat , Vodafone and Hutchison. In addition, he worked at Ford Motor Company innovating and pioneering Telematic Solutions and developing new revenue opportunities. He also been involved in some new innovative M2M companies working on prestigious projects with Motorola, Zumtobel and Aston Martin. He holds a PhD in Communications Engineering from Lancaster University and Business Marketing from IMD Switzerland.



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