For many city governments, ensuring the safety and security of their residents remains the most enduring and critical responsibility
It has become quite clear that there is a multitude of paths that cities can follow in the quest to become ‘smarter’ and to achieve the promise of more ubiquitous, connected and automated delivery of essential public services. Some might argue there are too many paths, and many governments are asking themselves, ‘what’s the best place to start?’ and ‘what technologies make the most sense to deploy at the start of the process?’
These questions are perhaps best answered with another question — what are they looking to accomplish? For many city governments, ensuring the safety and security of their residents remains the most enduring and critical responsibility. As a result, modernising the infrastructure needed to coordinate and manage emergency responses becomes an obvious priority.
At the heart of any emergency response system are communications networks. However, the networks that governments have relied on for decades are no longer state-of-the-art and, in many cases, are approaching obsolescence. Therefore, many governments are evaluating how best to approach the much-needed modernization of their communications infrastructure. For many, the first step in the process is the renovation of their data transport and backhaul capabilities – often with some combination of packet microwave transmission and Internet Protocol/Multiprotocol Label Switching (IP/MPLS) technologies.
In many ways, this approach is about far more than supporting public safety. Many cities have found the benefits of upgrading their data transport networks (typically with IP/MPLS technology) so compelling that they are now using those networks to support a variety of municipal services. It is because these networks can support multiple services simultaneously, which is initially the reason they made the investment in the first place – rather than the traditional approach of deploying individual networks for each service. Ultimately, this move helps lay the groundwork for smarter city services across the board.
Of course, meeting cities’ public safety needs will take more than just upgrading their data networks. There is growing recognition around the world of the benefits that mobile broadband can offer in terms of supporting newer capabilities such as real-time, two-way video connections, the delivery of very large files such as building schematics and even tracking the location and vital signs of first responders. Progress around the deployment of LTE networks to provide first responders with mobile broadband connections has also been accelerating, with the FirstNet initiative in the U.S. rapidly gaining momentum and similar projects in countries including South Korea, the UK and Dubai progressing quickly as well.
True mobile broadband can dramatically enhance operations, particularly in terms of the improved situational awareness resulting from services such as the real-time delivery of multiple HD video streams from an incident scene. While these kinds of services are commercially available today, for truly mission-critical applications networks must be extremely robust, resilient, secure and deliver exceptionally low latency and equally high quality of service. Today’s IP/MPLS, packet microwave and LTE technology can deliver these capabilities, and support a range of new public safety services as a result, while laying the groundwork for the introduction of 5G — which is just on the horizon.
These networks also set the foundation for the implementation of the internet of things (IoT) platforms and devices, which are certain to play an important role in smart city implementations. Billions of sensors and other connected devices will be providing mountains of data that can be shared over a common mobile broadband network to support services such as more intelligent roadway and traffic management, or tracking of water levels to warn of potential flooding. The same network deployed to support public safety needs can and will support these and a raft of other, more routine city services; from management of waste collection, reading of meters, parking management and beyond.
What we anticipate is a network that begins as a part of the public safety infrastructure, but grows to become, effectively, the brain and nervous system of the city. Many municipal governments have started down this path, and who knows — your city may already be getting smarter.
Arnaud Legrand leads Nokia’s public sector marketing efforts, educating government entities on the advances and benefits of telecommunications to improve the services they deliver to their citizens and businesses. When he’s not studying the latest market trends, you can find him recharging his batteries kite surfing and conquering the waves.
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