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Convergence of Communications and Smart Cities

 
February 24, 2017

Remember the "ancient" concept of modern cities that had efficient drainage system, plenteous water supply, organized road connectivity, affordable entertainment and so on? Moving on to todays digital era, we have a new term coined for a modern city, a 'smart city' that means 'all digital'. We have moved from an analog highway to a digital highway, enabled at the cross-roads by an enhanced telecommunication network that paved the way to the digital era.

Be it road traffic, water & waste management, electricity, security, marketing, healthcare, financial services, the essence of a smart city is "reliable, easy, fast & always-available connectivity". That actually calls for a robust telecom backbone to handle the bandwidth pressure from the new complex services and application. The role of telecom increases multi-fold in a smart city environment with the use of the emerging technologies for IoT and Artificial Intelligence to necessitate changes in the networks and cloud based resources. Embedded telecom infrastructure across the smart city works as a mesh, in which data flows seamlessly and aids connectivity in the most efficient way. It will have the city ticking with minimal human intrusion, in the smartest probable way.

It is time for urban planners to use the telecom network efficiently to improve the quality of lives of the citizens. It is the consumers who will lead the way towards embracing all things digital. This connected population is not defined by age as they like to create, curate, connect and form communities. Independently today, cars, TVs, microwaves, water systems, power stations etc. come embedded with smart technologies. Telecom operators can help these isolated smart ecosystems to come together, taking a partnership role in developing smart city solutions for city dwellers rather than just being a connectivity provider and boosting their market penetration and revenues at the same time.

By positioning themselves as partners, telcos can significantly augment smart city initiatives such as smart home systems, energy optimization, traffic management, and so on using their mobile networks to deliver services –

When two cars collides, sensors within the cars will auto-relay the incident—“damage done, location, road traffic situation”—to emergency service providers to reach the spot without delay

Streets sensors detect traffic signals and manage signals based on congestion, creating opportunities for smart lighting and consuming almost 30% less energy in cities using efficient lighting systems than cities with similar populations without smart lighting

Sensors using Wi-Fi will alert users at a bus stop when a bus is about to arrive

Refrigerator could send the information on items that have run out (say fruits & vegetables) to the supermarket and a drone delivers them at home

Washing machine can place an order on Amazon for washing powder when it predicts a run out of washing powder within next 2-3 days

In addition to these, adopting green communication technology will help businesses and individuals in reducing power consumption and lowering operation costs of telcos and other organizations. It helps to analyze power consumption and possibilities to choose the level of energy savings and calculation of estimated savings. Smart metering solutions can create future opportunities in smart building space.

Such exotic future may sound impractical and far-fetched today, but smart cities of future will have similar automation. All of the scenarios mentioned above may well be a daily routine. And that, will be the ultimate convergence of smart city initiatives social media, big data analytics, cloud computing and green communication with the backbone of mobile and broadband telecom networks working on new Telco business models.

Arpita is a product manager for Customer Intelligence & Insights software at TCS Digital Software & Solutions Group. She has over 10 years of experience in a wide range of domains including Telecom, Retail & IoT. Motivation in driving assignments to closure, ensuring their feasibility and reaching new heights with each accomplishment helps her craft success stories. Arpita has a Masters degree in Electronics & Telecommunication from Birla Institute of Technology, Mesra, India.