Fifty-six percent of the world’s population now lives in urban areas, making those spaces vital to our global economic recovery. The convergence of intelligent technologies, from IoT to the edge, is already making them smarter, safer and more adaptable. But our possible future is even more expansive and will only be realised with investments in 5G technologies.
As migration intensifies, we can expect 68% of the global population to be living in cities by 2050.
Booming populations will drive new ways of living and increase the movement through and between these cities. Citizen expectations are already evolving as digital literacy grows and more data-driven, on-demand services take off. The pandemic accelerated these changes, and now it’s time to take stock.
How smart are our cities already? And how smart can they be?
It’s an exciting question, and there’s an entire ecosystem of telecoms and infrastructure providers poised to reveal the answers. But it is up to the ingenuity of businesses to connect the dots. They must focus on citizens’ day-to-day friction points and invest in the 5G technologies to enable the solutions. Doing so will benefit all parties by driving new revenue streams and allowing the citizens to live more sustainable, digitally equitable and streamlined lives in intelligent cities.
It takes a community to raise a child and an ecosystem to nurture the digital city’s potential. Businesses must first understand the magnitude of the opportunity afoot, which means assessing where we are, where we are heading and how to make it happen.
The changing nature of cities
There is layer upon layer of valuable data within any digital city. Much of that data is still untapped, although the pandemic has sped up the transformation of how we find, store, use and share data: work from-anywhere pushed digital infrastructure and how we use our public spaces into the spotlight; the nature of the public health crisis called for a ‘whole society approach’ through open data sharing; e-commerce and the booming omnichannel shopping experience put consumer desires in the hand of those who tracked their data. Using digital city data is hugely complex – and it’s dependent on simplified multi-cloud strategies.
Most of the successes in our flourishing digital cities so far have been due to the alignment of the public sector, business, and technologists. Edge and IoT technologies are already paving the way with digital city innovations, reducing road fatalities with enhanced traffic management and autonomous mobility.
Meanwhile, AI technologies drive public safety and accelerate emergency response with edge computing and analytics, enabling real-time actionable insights. Modern technologies bring safer, healthier cities to life, improving urban and citizen outcomes. With the addition of 5G connectivity, we will go so much further. Here is where telecom providers come in.
Only an open and interoperable approach to infrastructure can harness truly distributed and diverse data. The digital city is now effectively an API. We are on the precipice of a new epoch of products and services that will transform how we inhabit these cities. So, what’s the hold-up?
The next step: Modernising telecom networks
Once telecom networks are modernised to support 5G enterprise use cases and the influx of data at the edge, the digital cities of tomorrow will be a hive of innovation, driven by the enterprising use of consumer data.
But the real challenge lies in bringing together an ecosystem of new and existing telecom providers and inspiring businesses to make the necessary 5G investments. Technology providers, who have a wealth of enterprise experience to help build and inform business awareness, are the glue to this ecosystem.
With 5G bandwidth in our grasp, substantially reducing the risk of device overload, we will finally unlock the next generation of digital city innovation. Businesses will subscribe to a slice of this bandwidth to enable the rollout of hyper-connected products and services, defined by use case.
For example, an autonomous public transport service will require guaranteed low latency, high accuracy and compute performance. This is not just the safety of the passengers but also to enable new and better services. Such a public transport service will require a dedicated slice in the 5G network.
Mixed reality technologies will be a key feature in the 5G-powered digital city. Supported by high-latency and super speed connectivity, business cases become more viable. For example, in-car technology may feature AR projections of maps and directions on windscreens. In-store and online shopping will be transformed by AR mirrors, enhancing the customer experience by streamlining the whole process.
Businesses with simplified data strategies will leverage AI and analytics to determine new revenue streams. Grocery store applications built into fridges will self-order the essentials when they run out, generating new data, new insights and new potential revenue streams.
Collaboration is the key to uncovering this next iteration of the digital city, this time powered by 5G. Businesses are the gatekeepers to the data that will transform how we live and create a city that meets our needs. With the support of nurturing networks across the private and public sectors – and strategic partnerships between telecom providers and technology companies – 5G will make digital cities a reality.
Eric van Vliet is EMEA Telecom Market Development Lead at Dell Technologies.