Navigant Research Blog

Telcos Aggressively Expanding Smart City Services

— December 7, 2017

Among the essential building blocks for the smart cities market are communication networks that connect the sensors, controllers, cameras, and other hardware infrastructure capturing valuable data from the city environment. The need for urban connectivity is creating new opportunities for the telcos responsible for providing public wired or wireless communication services to government, consumers, and businesses. Telcos are increasingly making strategic acquisitions and extending their footprint into solutions and services for smart cities and Internet of Thing (IoT) application areas. Whether through established technology such as 3G/4G or potential disruptors like 5G and narrowband-IoT (NB-IoT), cellular providers are aiming to become the leading suppliers of connectivity for smart cities.

Significant Acquisitions and Service Offerings in North America

In recent years, a number of telcos have made bold expansions into the smart cities market. Verizon, for example, has been working to expand its presence in that industry. It made a major move to extend its footprint with the acquisition of smart street lighting and sensor network provider Sensity Systems in late 2016. Verizon is supporting a wide range of smart city applications, including transportation, public safety, city management, and smart buildings.

AT&T has also significantly increased its visibility in the market since its initial smart cities launch in 2015—notably through its role in the Atlanta and San Diego IoT platform deployment projects. It is supplying Bluetooth and Wi-Fi for short-range connectivity, plus fiber and LTE for backhaul to the cloud.

In early 2017, AT&T obtained exclusive rights to distribute the sensor nodes from Current powered by GE through a reseller agreement in the US and Mexico. AT&T will be the commercial lead on future smart cities projects, with Current as its technology provider.

Significant Global Acquisitions and Offerings

Telefónica, the Spanish-based global telecom provider, has also been targeting smart city opportunities. It was lead commercial partner in the SmartSantander project, which involved deployment of over 20,000 devices in Santander and the surrounding area (including sensors, repeaters, gateways, etc.).

French carrier and service provider Orange is leveraging its expertise in 4G, fiber, LoRa, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth to install a network of connected sensors for Romania’s Alba Lulia Smart City 2018 project. Telefónica and Orange Group are key players in the development of FIWARE standards—an open source initiative that aims to establish a standard for smart cities based on the FIWARE platform.

Most recently, Telestra, an Australian telecom company, acquired fleet management systems provider MTData and created a partnership with Melbourne-based Smart Parking. The company has already won contracts to install Smart Parking’s sensors in five Australian council regions.

Telco Expansion Challenges Non-Cellular Connectivity Providers

The aggressive telco expansion into the smart cities market should serve as a warning shot to other providers of urban connectivity such as RF mesh and Wi-Fi players. These providers should quickly move to protect market share by emphasizing their relative advantages over cellular (e.g., private networks, lower operating costs) and developing more vertical solution partnerships and connectivity capabilities.

While most cities are likely to have multiple providers and types of connectivity for different use cases, cellular providers are making a clear push to capture the high bandwidth segment of the smart city communication networks value chain. There is evidence that resistance to public cellular is declining in the utility sector. With the deployment of new cellular technologies such as NB-IoT and 5G on the horizon, the same is likely true for cities.

 

Cities Looking to Automated Vehicles to Solve Congestion and Emissions Challenges

— November 21, 2017

Around the world, major cities have been setting targets to combat the negative effects of local transport on public health, local pollution, noise levels, and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Cities are looking increasingly at the potential of automated vehicles (AVs) to help solve these problems through improved traffic flow, the near elimination of collisions, increased productivity, and reduced pollution and GHG emissions.

 Moving toward Full Automation

The concept of automated or self-driving cars has shifted from the realm of science fiction into reality, as showcased by some of the latest developments in cities around the world:

 Key Challenges Remain

Partial automation is becoming commonplace in all road vehicle classes. Full driving automation is starting to be piloted in numerous cities globally with regular commercial deployments expected in the next 2 to 3 years. Before AVs can become ubiquitous in city streets, new infrastructure investments, communication network upgrades, the need for fleets to operate in varied conditions, and concerns about cybersecurity need to be addressed. Cities also need to develop frameworks to integrate and coordinate AV mobility services with existing transit services to optimize the use of road infrastructure and avoid increased congestion. Although the AV was not at fault for the accident, the recent Las Vegas automated shuttle collision shows why vehicle-to-vehicle communications will also be crucial to the success of AVs.

If AVs are managed properly, highly integrated with public transport, and coordinated as part of a multimodal transportation ecosystem, the shift to self-driving vehicles could lead to reduced traffic congestion in cities, lowered demand for parking spaces, and highly beneficial energy and environmental effects. For more information on the potential effects of AVs in cities, see Navigant Research’s recent white paper on Redefining Mobility Services in Cities.

 

Google Aims to Create a Blueprint for Smart City Development in Toronto

— October 19, 2017

The proliferation of fast growing, high density cities has created major challenges around energy and water infrastructure, traffic congestion, air quality, and the efficient management of resources for large numbers of people. Google’s Sidewalk Labs, a subsidiary of parent company Alphabet Inc., is attempting to solve these complex urban problems through a public-private partnership with Waterfront Toronto. Sidewalk Labs will invest an initial $50 million to deploy automated vehicles (AVs), smart buildings, intelligent traffic signals, and a myriad of other digital technology solutions for Quayside, a neighborhood on Toronto’s waterfront. This is the first project of its kind for Alphabet, and it aims to create a smart city blueprint for 21st century urban neighborhoods. While the first phase of the project will be deployed in Quayside, Sidewalk Labs intends to expand the pilot across Toronto’s entire Eastern Waterfront district—transforming the city into a global hub for urban innovation.

Connectivity and Mobility Key Focus Areas

Sidewalk Labs has released a 200-page document on its vision for smart city development in Toronto. Although the plans are yet to be finalized, the company is aiming to build the neighborhood “from the internet up”—making ubiquitous connectivity a significant hallmark of the project. As seen in other smart cities under development, such as in San Diego, a number of communication networks will be needed to execute on ambitious smart city visions. In Toronto, Sidewalk Labs will be deploying high speed wired communications over fiber and copper, high bandwidth wireless over Wi-Fi and cellular, and long-range low bandwidth connectivity using low power wide-area networks (LPWANs). The wide range of communication networks will enable an array of applications to be deployed, ranging from low power technologies such as air quality sensors all the way to high capacity networks for AVs.

The creation of a high tech and flexible mobility system is expected to be another major area of focus for the project. Sidewalk Labs plans on restricting all non-emergency conventional vehicles from a large portion of the neighborhood while providing robust walking and bicycling infrastructure, an expansion of streetcar lines, and self-driving transit shuttles. Additionally, smart parking systems, an adaptive traffic light pilot (which prioritizes pedestrians and cyclists), and a mobility as a service platform (which will help residents assess all mobility options) are expected to be deployed. Commercial freight will also be transformed into a tech-driven urban system by using robots to make deliveries. Together, these initiatives should make Quayside one of the most technologically advanced mobility (and least car-dependent) neighborhoods in North America.

Local Project, Global Implications?

The vision for the ambitious smart city project in Toronto goes far beyond the city itself. Sidewalk Labs is hoping the results and lessons learned in Toronto will be replicable for the thousands of other global cities struggling with similar urbanization and sustainability challenges. Finding the right business models, stimulating interdepartmental coordination within government, and quelling citizen concerns about privacy and security are all barriers that Sidewalk Labs must overcome if this project is to be successfully scaled and exported to other cities. Both leading and aspiring smart cities should keep a close eye on the developments on Toronto’s waterfront. It is one of the most ambitious projects to date in terms of testing integrated systems and innovations and could serve as a blueprint for optimal efficiency, sustainability, and improved quality of life for 21st century cities.

 

Does Yamaha’s Entry into the US E-Bike Market Signal a Turning Point?

— October 3, 2017

Electric bicycles (e-bikes) continue to be the highest selling EVs on the planet. Navigant Research estimates that a total of nearly 35 million units will be sold globally in 2017. However, the US market has struggled mightily to keep up with its successful European and Asia Pacific counterparts.

Market Percentages

In 2016, just under 1% of total bicycle sales in the United States were attributed to e-bikes—compared to 15.7% in Germany and 24.2% in the Netherlands.

E-Bike Market Share of Total Bicycle Market by Country, Select Markets: 2016-2025

(Source: Navigant Research)

Navigant Research projects that e-bike market share will remain relatively low over the 10-year forecast period (below 4%) in the United States since the country has:

  • Lower gasoline prices compared to most other world regions
  • Poor bicycling infrastructure in many major cities, which are primarily designed for cars
  • Low consumer awareness and relatively high levels of opposition from independent bicycle distributors toward e-bike technology (compared to other world regions)

Turning Point?

In what may be a turning point for the US e-bike industry, Yamaha announced it will begin selling its branded e-bikes through US dealers in 2018. The company has been refining its production of e-bikes for decades, with over 2 million sales in Japan since 1993. The major new US market entrant boasts widespread brand awareness, an expansive dealer network with hundreds of locations in the United States, and large R&D budgets unavailable to most North American e-bike vendors.

Yamaha has shown four models thus far, including the UrbanRush, YDX-TORC, CrossCore, and CrossConnect—spanning racing, mountain, and street cruiser styles.

Impact on the Market

While Yamaha is somewhat late to the manufacturer e-bike party in the United States, the company’s entry is likely to present some challenges for other manufacturers and dealers. In the short term, Yamaha will primarily capture a portion of its sales—with some consumers opting for a trusted brand with hundreds of dealers that are available to market, sell, and service their e-bikes.

However, over the long term, Yamaha’s presence should help propel consumer awareness for e-bikes in the United States more broadly—which will be positive for all vendors left in the market. Similar to Elon Musk urging major automakers to sell more competitive EVs, a bigger e-bike market will increase overall revenue opportunities. Smaller companies would be wise to differentiate their e-bike products from Yamaha’s offerings to avoid losing market share to the more powerful marketing competitor.

 

Blog Articles

Most Recent

By Date

Tags

Clean Transportation, Digital Utility Strategies, Electric Vehicles, Energy Technologies, Policy & Regulation, Renewable Energy, Smart Energy Practice, Smart Energy Program, Transportation Efficiencies, Utility Transformations

By Author


{"userID":"","pageName":"Ryan Citron","path":"\/author\/ryan-citron","date":"12\/15\/2017"}