More people, more bandwidth. No provider needed. Just people. Intrigued? Read on...
Smart Cities are currently multi-billion projects.
Cities took centuries to grow and develop and if we can believe Jane Jacobs, any city project that wants to be half successful better include the community and organic growth as part of the infrastructure.
Looking at the evidence of big IT projects, there is not much hope that those billions will actually produce anything sustainable or useful.
End of last year, I was part of a project that is introducing a very new paradigm into the Smart City realm. The Things Network is an Amsterdam based start-up, which is using LoRAWAN technology to carpet cities with a low bandwidth, but low power and long range, network. They took 12 gateways and six weeks to cover the whole city. Amsterdam is now a smart city for roughly €12K investment.
I met them just before they decided to do a Kickstarter campaign in order to produce gateways, the ‘cell towers’ that make the LoRa network. The aim was to produce them at 30% of current average cost, to be affordable to communities world-wide.
This could have been a hardware project. But it is actually a project that will challenge every network provider.
Imagine your router at home becoming a cell tower. Currently a centralised cell tower provides people and is a single source of bandwidth that every user takes. Now imagine your router not just taking bandwidth, but giving bandwidth. Where people are currently draining a single source, now they are being an additional source. More people, more bandwidth. No provider needed. Just people. Think of the SETI project using unused computer power or FON crowdsourcing Wifi, but for the IoT age.
I joined them to manage their Kickstarter campaign. We went out with that message: “The smart city network that you own”. We reached 47 countries and 180 cities worldwide in 30 days. We reached 200% of our goal and by June, there will be smartness popping up in every major city around the globe.
The London community is growing slowly but surely, attracting attention from hobbyists and companies alike. Gateways are starting to pop up, each one with a range of 5km, a cheap, open playground that really enables innovation and smart city projects. And it doesn’t cost billions. Some of the projects the gateways are supporting are the IoT Launchpad Research and the Vital Project. And the examples are not just popping up in London, but obviously worldwide.
It’s an approach that isn’t that new – ‘Build the streets and they will come’. Apple managed to do the same with the App Store, and that’s where the real value lies in the products and services that sit on top of such a system. The internet didn’t stream video for a long time, but that is not what smart cities need. They need to connect millions of sensors, which run on a few bytes of data.
The mobile network providers don’t have the tech to connect that many devices. Have you ever been at a live concert and tried to make a call? And they don’t get the business model by charging £5 a month per device. It’s unsustainable and very inflexible.
So there we go.
Think about it.
Marcus Kirsch, creative strategy consultant at ResonanceDesign is a .com veteran with nearly two decades of award-winning, international and integrated design and technology project experience. A Royal College of Art alumni and ex-MIT Europe researcher, he has helped create, managed and consulted on an eclectic mix of projects from web and mobile apps to museum galleries, smart vehicles all the way to installations including pigeons and molecular gastronomy workshops. He worked for clients such as BMW, Natural History Museum, Nissan, GSK, Science Museum, Mitsubishi, P&G, Kraft and others.
As ResonanceDesign, he has been working on various service design and IoT projects, such as creative and strategy lead on Telecom Italia’s 75 million re-branding campaign, managing The Things Network’s Kickstarter campaign ending close to 200% of expected goal and leading innovation sprints at the Hive’s Healthcare innovation unit based at the Digital Catapult in London, applying the concept of Zero Friction™.