Smart City: How IoT Creates Intelligent Built Environments

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Smart Cities

IoT coupled with 5G are the key foundations onto which the smart city will be built. From transport to personalised services, a data-rich environment is taking shape

The smart city has been in development for the past decade. Smart City 1.0 consisted of sensor components including smart meters and intelligent lighting etc., offering advanced control, but little connectivity. Smart City 2.0 evolves these systems to deliver personalised services to everyone, as they move through the city space.

According to Deloitte, the Smart City 2.0 is already taking shape. A good example is Santander, Spain. The city has installed 20,000 sensors that connect to the Pulse of the City app citizens use to access information and, provide feedback to the city developers. Using the collected data, the city can adjust energy usage based on consumption. Citizens can also access real-time traffic information to more efficiently plan their journeys.

Closer to home, Hull has announced it will become the UK’s first city with an operating system. The platform developed by Connexin and Cisco, uses IoT to create what the developer’s call CityOS. “Developing Hull, as a Smart City will give us the opportunity to work with public and private sector partners to deliver real benefits to communities, businesses and visitors to Hull,” said Councillor Daren Hale, deputy leader of Hull City Council.

With Furqan Alamgir, founder and CEO of Connexin also commenting: “Our platform will enable Hull to become a ‘programmable city’ and move from outdated siloed service driven technologies to a central platform to improve service delivery, reduce costs and to make the most of new technologies such as IoT, AI and machine learning algorithms.”

Speaking to Silicon, Kevin Hasley, head of product at leading 5G/IoT analytics firm, RootMetrics said: “We’re on the cusp of a future where our communities become increasingly connected. In these connected communities, end-users will move seamlessly from one activity to another, all the while expecting strong performance, network reliability and ubiquity of coverage for all of their devices.

“From the factory floor to daily commuting to home and work alike, IoT sensors will be built on a foundation that requires a combination of increased capacity, coverage, and speed. Challenges still remain, from data and security concerns to an ability to assure that varied network technologies all work together as needed—our connected communities will depend on a fluid blend of 5G, LTE, Wi-Fi, and more.”

Collective intelligence

The smart cities that IoT will create, are more than collections of sensors. Smart cities take vast quantities of information they can collect and use this data to deliver more efficient services. IoT becomes the foundation onto which all of these services are built.

IoT also embraces a wider set of technologies, all of which are needed to deliver a smart city. Data needs to be analysed and understood. Here, AI and machine learning are being used. Edge computing is enabling transport systems and future autonomous vehicles to become a reality. And predictive analytics, which can take the masses of data generated by a smart city and see a pattern of usage amongst its citizens and, predict their behaviour – something that is critical to ensure services are available on demand.

As KPMG states: “Connectivity is the foundational lever for Internet of Things, allowing things to communicate continuously. Mobile internet has met the demands of bandwidth requirement along with speed. With the onset of 5G and various short-range wireless technologies the footprint of Internet of Things grows.”

The smart city must also operate with high levels of security. When key infrastructure services are connected together and, with more personal data about citizens being collected, security becomes a critical component of all smart cities. Standards and interoperable devices must all be developed with security in mind.

“Many of today’s connected objects do more than simply provide information at your fingertips – they make use of sensitive data, gather information and even impact the physical world, in many cases in critical ways,” comments Kevin Gillick, GlobalPlatform Executive Director.
“Implementations requiring the highest levels of assurance may require security certifications in line with relevant standards, whereas others may not. It’s important to remember that the level of security of each implementation will depend on your risk analysis; there is no one size fits all. But businesses are not alone in this fight and much work has already been done to help them implement trust in a cost-effective and scalable way.”

Data and standards

To create a smart city, technologies must work seamlessly together. Here, standards and protocols are vital as Rohit Gupta, vice president and head of Manufacturing, Logistics, Energy and Utilities – Europe, Cognizant explained to Silicon:

“One of the biggest challenges that IoT developers are currently facing is access to proprietary data, such as those generated by IoT devices, organisational data on businesses, or personal data on citizens. All of these offer higher value for richer, smart city services, but are not readily available or released to developers for analysis. Added to this is the quality of the data that developers do have access to, which, when retrieved via APIs from IoT infrastructures and other sources across cities, are often plagued with non-uniformity.”

This is echoed by David Fraser, Tech Specialist, Intel: “Standards such as those developed by the 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) for 5G will ensure the devices deployed in smart cities can communicate and send data back to an appropriate aggregation point. It is at this point where the data will be processed and analysed with the same or even greater reliability, we all enjoy with our smartphones today.

“Industry standards are the building blocks for interoperability and drive horizontalized eco-systems, which in turn will enable rapid innovation in a marketplace. Today we no longer ask the question, “Will this handset work on this network in that location?” – it just works. As users, our consumer expectations are constantly rising and morphing where customers’ needs are being anticipated and, therefore, better served. The ramp of smart city solutions will be accelerated or limited by the interoperability across devices and vendors. Cellular operators will play a significant role in bringing their expertise in the handset business to a largely new eco-system. Creating this environment based on standard and interoperability is fundamental to ensure the wide-spread adoption of smart cities.”

With Joe Hughes is the CEO at Manx Technology Group describing how standards are developing: “We have been in discussions with several cities and municipalities about the ISO 37122 standard entitled “Sustainable cities and communities — Indicators for smart cities”. The standard provides a range of indicators that a city can use to measure progress and improvements that can lead to sustainable smart city status. As the old saying goes, you can’t improve what you can’t measure. We find many organisations are more comfortable working within a standardised framework, that not only provides a direction of travel – but one that enables them to benchmark compare and even collaborates with other cities with similar sustainable goals.”

It’s vital, then, that standards are adhered to. However, in the rush to dominate this space, proprietary technologies protocols are leading. As smart home technologies are marketed by a range of developers and vendors with little shared communications standards; it remains to be seen whether a set of universal standards will emerge to support the smart city as it evolves.

Pervasive technology

For smart city dwellers, the information network they connect to disappears into the built environment around them. Uses of a smart city won’t be troubled with looking for a Wi-Fi hotspot as the entire city will be a gigantic hotspot that delivers fast 5G connectivity with very low latency.

Says McKinsey: “Smart cities add digital intelligence to existing urban systems, making it possible to do more with less. Connected applications put real-time, transparent information into the hands of users to help them make better choices. These tools can save lives, prevent crime, and reduce the disease burden. They can save time, reduce waste, and even help boost social connectedness. When cities function more efficiently, they also become more productive places to do business.”

The social aspect of the smart city is an interesting one, as to how people react to the services a smart city could deliver need to be understood. Speaking to Silicon, Tracey Harwood, Professor of Digital Culture at the Institute of Creative Technologies, De Montfort University said:
“From my perspective, it’s not so much the technologies but the types of interconnected services they render possible, so it’s the ways they connect and configure that will be disruptive. The research I’ve done (working with the University of Otago in New Zealand) has focussed on how citizens will react to different kinds of IoT enabled services in the home, when travelling and when dealing with wellbeing and health-related services.

“One of the key challenges relates to the current piecemeal adoption of the technologies which presents many challenges to users, however, as more ‘things’ are added, and new smart services evolve, users will have to keep an eye on the increasingly complex system that is being created. Ultimately that means proxies will be required to intervene and implement controls to support and protect users.”

Harwood concluded: “Key to the growth of new services will be the ability of users to transfer their knowledge and understanding of IoT applications to new service contexts – and it will be the lack of experience, social mobility online or opportunities for exposure to new types of services that will hold things back. It, therefore, has to be a priority for smart service designers to keep users actively engaged in the development of systems which are ultimately going to be based on their own performance within the system.”

As the development of Smart City 2.0 embraces the raft of digital technologies that are now available, each space can be transformed. Using AR (Augmented Reality) to deliver unprecedented levels of information into the hands of every citizen, to mass transit systems that transform the infrastructure of a city, the ability to use advanced sensor technology is a key component of IoT when applied to city environments.

Silicon in Focus

James J. Nolan, Executive Vice President, Products at InterDigital
Executive Vice President, Products at InterDigital

James J. Nolan, Executive Vice President, Products at InterDigital

As head of the company’s product portfolio, Mr. Nolan oversees advancement of the company’s market ready technologies toward commercialization as well as manages the company’s existing product portfolio. Mr. Nolan is responsible for, leading Chordant – an InterDigital business focused on IoT Solutions, and Hillcrest Labs – a sensor fusion company. Mr. Nolan is also a founder and board member of Convida Wireless, a Sony InterDigital joint venture focused on research and development and standardization of IoT and 5G wireless solutions.

What are the key challenges facing IoT developers to create smart city environments?

Despite the excitement to create smart city environments around the world, integration and the ability to scale-up solutions still pose a challenge to IoT developers that wish to turn smart city concepts into reality. For example, sensor systems in many cities were initially deployed as stand-alone systems and are not easily integrated into new solutions, especially where these are proprietary or single-supplier solutions.

Moreover, IoT developers frequently struggle with the lack of coherent standards-based solutions and difficulties in integrating data from solutions built for single use case deployments. A practical example is an environmental sensor solution that might be deployed independently of road sensors or other transport solutions.

As a result, these systems do not communicate with one another, nor are their diverse datasets federated into a data lake where application developers can create innovative applications by combining data across sensor domains. In practice, the unique data from these solutions are often stranded, which prevents them from being analysed alongside other data to identify the causal or correlated answers smart city solutions should provide. The value from city data is only partially realised.

Why is 5G a fundamental component of the smart city?

5G is a critical building block for smart cities. The sheer complexity of an open environment in which thousands of mobile objects move and communicate within a city at high speed will require ultra-low latency and ultra-fast throughput that’s simply not possible with 4G.

5G is a fundamental component of the smart city because the density of IoT sensors it can support—up to one million devices per square kilometre – is orders of magnitude greater than other smart city solutions. Moreover, 5G massive Machine Type Communication (mMTC) can use a network slice of existing 5G radio and core networks to scale solutions based on the demand and needs of a city at different times of the day, favouring smartphones and data intensive solutions during the day and low data sensor-based solution overnight.

While 5G is a fundamental component of the smart city, it will also be a significant benefactor to smart cities and their industries. 5G deployment in smart cities will make use of municipal assets, such as lamp posts and traffic lights, to host new micro cell sites, creating new opportunities to push innovative and collaborative business models across industries to enable smart city solutions.

How is data security being approached as IoT services and systems are used to create smart city environments?

IoT developers have taken a multi-faceted approach to uphold data security and provide secure IoT services in smart city environments. Developers have created techniques to preserve the integrity of connected devices and sensors, like tamper-evident checks through device monitoring and remote updates.

To ensure that data is transmitted and stored securely, there are other measures to encrypt data, to authenticate data providers and custodians as well as policies to control user access to sensitive data. Developers have also created techniques to manage and safeguard data privacy.

These include the anonymization or filtering of personally identifiable information, through IoT systems. Though the methods are varied, it is important to have a common framework of techniques and apply standardized approaches to minimize the complexity and associated costs of ensuring data security in smart cities’ IoT services and systems.

How important are standards and interoperability in creating smart cities everyone can use?

Worldwide standards support a rich ecosystem of product and solution developers and provide them with low cost, low power and easily deployable solutions that can work with existing 4G and 5G infrastructure. These standards are vital to creating smart cities everyone can use while offering a pathway for cities of all sizes to make the best use of their investments. Standards-based deployment – whether for modules, gateway or edge devices, or cloud-based infrastructure – enables interoperability and lower total costs over the life cycle of a smart city, which will likely be deployed for decades at a time.

For example, the evolution of standards-based Low Power Wide Area Networks (LPWANs) will be critical to deploying wide-area sensors into secure smart city solutions that can be implemented anywhere, while the standards-based test and certification program ensures worldwide interoperability and classifications for different devices.

Standardisation is equally important between the software platforms that cities use to manage their connected assets and smart city applications. Open standard platforms allow cities to scale up the range of applications they can support. Open standard platforms make it easier for neighbouring cities and counties to collaborate through smart region solutions to facilitate commuter travel and economic development, for example.

Which IoT technologies will be the most disruptive as smart cities take shape?

As smart cities take shape, we expect the most disruptive technologies will be those that enable the transfer of data like never before. These technologies include data exchanges that provide access to cross border, regional and national data for any smart city application, edge-based gateway solutions that bring cloud solutions closer to end devices like autonomous vehicles, and low-cost, multi-standard devices (LTE-M, NB-IoT and 5G mMTC) that can be deployed anywhere with any type of sensor or data collection device, or technologies that enable the federation of data brokerages between cities.

Data exchanges are an effective vehicle to promote cooperation between cities and private sector service providers, and as such, they will enable new partnerships, innovation, and positive disruption in smart cities.

InterDigital’s experience with smart cities has reiterated the vital importance of standards-based technologies. Moreover, our pilot work demonstrated the importance of engaging operational staff in city administrations to illustrate the significant operational improvements from data-driven decision making while building a long-term business case for IoT-driven smart cities from an early stage.

The dialogue between developers and city administrators helped cities to articulate their capacity for investment, identify challenges in the procurement processes, and develop ideas for everyday services that would take early projects over the threshold from smart city pilot to operational launch.

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