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Trends for 2019: Smart Cities

Cities should make sure their infrastructure will allow them to become smarter.
By Morné Erasmus
Dec 16, 2018

Smart communities will enrich the lives of residents and make local governments more efficient in responding to their citizens' needs. From security to convenience to revenue generation, smart-city applications will change the way cities operate and how we live and work. But it all starts with connectivity—smart-city residents, vehicles, systems and applications must be connected, and in most cases that involves fiber infrastructure. There are three key trends that will impact smart cities in 2019. Let's take a look.

Longer-Term Planning
Companies have traditionally built out specific, siloed applications like surveillance cameras, smart lighting or traffic sensors, but for 2019 they will start to take the longer view and think about building a basic infrastructure to support all smart-city applications. It only makes sense; otherwise, the city is digging up the same streets every year or so to add infrastructure for each new application. For example, one city installed basic security cameras on light poles, but did so without installing fiber connectivity that would enable adding small cells to those poles or implementing facial-recognition applications for the cameras. Now, the city must upgrade its light pole connectivity network—a painful and costly process.

To avoid having to upgrade networks in the future, city planners are now educating themselves about future possibilities, consulting with Internet of Things (IoT) vendors and network connectivity vendors, and working to develop a plan for the long term. For example, Stockholm, as well as Chattanooga, Tenn., and Lincoln, Nebr., have built high-speed fiber networks around their cities with enough bandwidth to support new IoT devices and applications well into the future.

Overall, data connectivity is becoming the Fourth Utility in cities—it's a must-have to do business, and cities are recognizing this. Connectivity in homes and businesses is a competitive advantage for cities, and they are rushing to implement it.

Creative Financing
Like water, gas and electricity, cities don't always deliver the service, but they enable construction of the basic infrastructure that delivers the service. We're starting to see more projects that combine government funding with public or private partnerships. In Europe and elsewhere around the world, many national governments are mandating and providing funding for large fiber build-outs. In North America, service providers, developers and local utilities are deploying parts of the civic connectivity infrastructure, while the city facilitates permitting and planning for construction.

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