The vision of our “smart” or “connected” destiny is often presented to us in broad strokes: self-driving vehicles, connected homes, logistics, wearables – the list continues on with each piece of evolving and maturing technology.
Smart cities have a bright future, and the application possibilities seem expansive, but often lost in the conversation is the technology that actually enables the connected world. Within a smart city – or even at a micro level – within one specific industry deploying smart technology, are a wide range of considerations: How much data are we transporting? How will we transport that data? How can we make our system intelligent? Where do we need to install these intelligence-driving platforms? How can we connect our data, operational technology and information technology to the necessary access points? Who/what has access to this data and control over these machines?
These are only a few of the considerations that companies that are responsible for the industrial services driving cities and municipalities must address. While security is indeed a critical piece of this landscape, before any kind of connected or smart city can be achieved, the physical communication platform upon which that connectivity is deployed must first be implemented in a way that is not only compatible with current technology, but that will also be compatible with future technologies as well.
From our perspective, there are five critical elements behind a smart city connected infrastructure:
- Robust Cloud Services Infrastructure designed to support all consumers of smart city deliverables
- Core Network Architecture that can rapidly expand in bandwidth and reach
- Extended Access Layer network architecture that incorporates a wide range of wired and wireless technologies to reach every sensor and device or that needs to connect to the smart city infrastructure
- A wide range of reporting devices such as sensors, visibility devices and other end-points that create the data that makes a smart city work
- Distributed intelligence technology that allows for local execution of applications at the access layer plus global communication of data/analytics and information
While each one of these tools is important in its own right, there is a common, underlying thread that connects them: each facet depends on a robust, reliable and secure communication platform. For smart cities, these communication platforms must be capable of enabling multiple methods of connectivity, but most importantly, they must be able to provide industrial-strength Wi-Fi. Wireless connectivity is the backbone of communication between the sensors that power all facets of the connected industrial infrastructure and the big data transport that is critical to the analytics that power “smart” enterprise.
Not all industrial Wi-Fi platforms are created equal, and one of the major questions facing the ongoing development of smart infrastructure centres is how to ensure that these networks are secure and compatible across multiple, and sometimes proprietary, technologies. This certainly opens up a veritable can of worms, including the idea of standardisation, but without the driving force of reliable and robust communication technology, most smart city dreams will remain just that – a dream.