Smart city: collaborate to progress

May 4, 2022
When we look at what refers to the term Smart city, we find out 3 main focuses: Public Safety, Mobility, Environment and Sustainability.

For my own amusement, I was looking for the meaning of Smart City in Google and there is a variety of definitions oriented toward the same concept. The one that stood out was from the European Commission, which goes like this:

“A smart city is a place where traditional networks and services are made more efficient with the use of digital solutions for the benefit of its inhabitants and business.”

Here we can see that Traditional Networks and Digital Solutions are the two distinct concepts and this is what I wanted to reflect on and share with you.

The question is: how do we couple those two concepts to assure sustainable and efficient solutions for cities?

By looking at the back end of the legacy infrastructure and considering them to be part of the solution, not the problem. If we first want to assure sustainability and scalability, legacy system, or Operational Technology (OT) needs to be considered by IoT solutions contributors. The most important is the collaboration between IT and OT to guarantee proper communication and secure data flow. IoT devices can be truly helpful in collaborating with water treatment plants or power utilities but if a security breach occurs this could mean great disaster.

It is believed that by 2050 more than 68% of the population will be living in a city. This trend is a large piece of the puzzle for cities that must implement future-proof infrastructure while adapting their existing infrastructure and technology quickly and efficiently. To this phenomenon, we can easily add other challenges such as climate change, labor shrinkage, rising criminal activity, and many more changes to come.

How can cities be ready to adapt to these changes and simultaneously converge with the digital transformation?

Technology serves us well and has the unlimited capability, but is limited to the extent of our knowledge, easily becoming impossible to manage if not planned or deployed with strict rules and conformity. Systems that were traditionally closed, proprietary, and communicated with their own language and protocols now need to be integrated into an ecosystem of hundreds, if not thousands of other systems. Such an ecosystem requires careful planning and development, or risks failure under the weight of its own technological burden.

The convergence of IT and OT is unpreventable yet expected to add a great value to a city’s efficiency. Here are a few examples of increased efficiency and increased public significance.

As connectivity and cloud services become commonplace even for small to medium businesses, the ability to converge individual business’ security and surveillance systems to a larger organization, such as a city’s or police service’s Operations Centre offers additional coverage, intelligence for the city, while also offering benefits to local business owners and neighborhoods.

As power demands for cities increase, a benefit to power suppliers is the ability to connect to each building to understand peak hours, demand loads, and status of each building’s power systems, so that power delivery can be fine-tuned and adjusted to prevent system overload.

Convergence happens and we see it all the time in technology. However, to perpetuate a collaborative flow of information, the new system must be seamlessly capable to integrate with existing infrastructure.

Perhaps reflecting on the collaboration method while keeping scalability and sustainability in mind would offer that edge?

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