Navigant Research Blog

When 5G Meets Smart Street Lighting

— October 25, 2017

It is increasingly recognized that street lights are valuable city assets that can enable various smart city services and Internet of Things (IoT) strategies. Navigant Research expects the installed base of smart street lights to reach nearly 73 million globally by 2026. One of the many elements connected to realizing the value of smart street lights is supporting the deployment of cellular networks and, in particular, future 5G networks.

What About 5G?

With the continued expansion of IoT, the number of mobile users and connected devices will increase. As subsequent data consumption increases, there will be increasing pressure on network capacity. This has the potential to cause latency problems and possibly dropped services with a detrimental effect on many IoT applications. The next generation of wireless networks will therefore need to handle more traffic at high speeds than today’s LTE networks. 5G is hailed as the solution to these and other challenges, and it promises to bring speeds 20 times faster than the current 4G networks and deliver data with less than a millisecond of delay. Telecommunications companies are aiming to commercialize 5G networks by 2020.

However, the downside of 5G networks is that cellular signals do not travel far and are easily blocked by objects. Therefore, in order to prevent signals from being dropped, 5G networks require many more base stations to relay the signals than the current 4G networks. Fortunately, small cell base stations can solve that problem. These small low power nodes can be easily attached to existing infrastructure such as street light poles and buildings. Given their ubiquity and connection to the electricity network, street light poles are viewed as a particularly effective and increasingly important means to improve the network coverage.

Convergence of Smart Street Lighting and 5G

These requirements for 5G networks are converging with other drivers for smart street lighting. For example, in February 2017, Infineon (a German semiconductor manufacturer) and eluminocity (smart street lighting solutions provider) announced a partnership to develop connected street lights with a scalable sensor hub, connectivity with support for 5G deployment, and data processing.

More recently, Philips announced plans to develop 4G/5G-enabled LED smart light poles with American Tower Corp., a real estate investment trust (REIT) providing communication towers and other transmission real estate. The smart light poles will not only house 5G network gears, but also connect to the Philips’ City Touch, a smart street lighting management platform.

5G Opportunities Expanding

As the smart street lighting deployment increases and 5G networks expand, there will be more opportunities for the two markets to be complementary to each other. To learn more about how smart street lighting can contribute to other city services, see the Navigant Research report Smart Street Lighting for Smart 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.

 

ITS Applications as a Key Element of the Smart City

— October 5, 2017

Coauthored by Ryan Citron

As urban areas see increasingly ubiquitous connectivity, opportunities for intelligent transportation system (ITS) applications are growing. ITS is a mature market and is a standard part of public agencies’ planning and operations tool kits. However, with individuals now continually online through mobile devices and the advent of the Internet of Things (IoT), ITS applications are growing in complexity and sophistication. ITS applications are also being tied into the broader smart city movement, which includes all aspects of city services, such as energy, buildings, water, and waste management.

Consumer Expectations

Consumers of transportation services increasingly expect dynamic real-time information on and access to a range of mobility options. At the same time, cities and other transportation agencies want visibility into all aspects of the transportation landscape and the ability to respond in real-time. The increasing availability of real-time data on traffic and transit services is providing new tools to city managers for both operation optimization and new services to users. In Helsinki, for example, the bus service operator Helsingin Bussiliikenne Oy (HelB) worked with IT services company CGI to improve its competitiveness through the use of sensors and data analytics on service performance.

Observing ITS Applications

Navigant Research’s recent report on the ITS market, Intelligent Transportation Systems, focuses on advanced ITS applications such as active traffic management, advanced traveler information services, and solutions that provide single access to a range of transportation modes.

While these types of services have the potential to provide significant benefits in improved mobility, reduced congestion, lower emissions from vehicle traffic, and optimized use of space within a city, most public agencies are still exploring how and at what pace they can incorporate advanced ITSs into their transportation systems. There are issues of cost, which can be significant, along with inadequate funding levels, complexity of data aggregation and analysis, and difficulty getting coordination across multiple agencies with responsibility for transportation and infrastructure. Cities that have led the way in adopting advanced ITS services can be useful guides to what works in different city environments.

Examples of City ITS Innovations

The Smart Cities Pavilion that will be open at the 2017 ITS World Congress is showcasing a handful of cities that have innovated in ITS applications like traffic management, transit services, and integrated mobility. The cities announced as exhibitors are Montreal, Canada (the ITS World Congress host city); Columbus, Ohio; Singapore; Copenhagen, Denmark; and Christchurch, New Zealand. The selection represents a wide range in terms of geography and population size/density from the ultra-dense Singapore with its population of around 5.6 million to the comparatively small city of Christchurch at under 400,000.

It should be interesting to see the similarities and the differences that come with these contrasting environments, as well as how they fit into the broader smart city activities underway in each locale. Event organizers have indicated that the smart cities pavilion will offer experiential exhibitions around the themes of Urban Mobility, Engaged Citizenry, Smart Security, Economic Cluster, and Smart Democracy. These themes go beyond transportation, placing ITS in the larger smart city context that cities are looking to implement.

I will be attending the 2017 ITS World Congress, being held this year in Montreal, from October 29 to November 2. The event features a large roster of speakers and exhibitors covering all aspects of ITSs. See the conference website for more details.

 

How the IoT and Big Data Make Cities More Efficient

— September 8, 2017

The delivery of city services is being transformed by smart technologies that are providing city managers with new insights into operational performance and providing platforms for new forms of personalized and responsive services. Central to this transformation is the availability of real-time data from a growing range of intelligent devices that can monitor city operations. Sensors, communications networks, and the real-time data cities collect can enable more intelligent, efficient, sustainable, and interactive public services. The new technologies are helping cities make the most of limited budgets while adding additional value to the services provided to their communities. These innovations have the potential to drive a revolutionary change in the way city services are delivered in term of the quality, efficiency, and responsiveness of services.

Digital Technologies and City Services

Examples of how digital technologies are changing the way city services are provided can be found across a variety of key sectors:

  • Transportation: Real-time data collected from sensors and other devices can optimize connections between modes of transport for faster travel times, reduce the costs of operation, and increase convenience through improved information services for users on parking and transit availability in cities. Real-time data on traffic and transit services is providing new tools to city managers for both operation optimization and the delivery of new services to users. In Helsinki, for example, the bus service operator Helsingin Bussiliikenne Oy (HelB) worked with CGI to use improve its competitiveness through the use of sensors and data analytics on service performance.
  • Waste: Waste collection in cities is being transformed through the use of sensor technologies to improve collection. Companies like Enevo are providing real-time data and predictive analytics on the fullness of waste bins, enabling optimization of the collection process. These technological advances address the inefficiency of traditional waste collection, which is carried out by emptying containers according to predefined schedules and routes that are repeated at a set frequency.
  • Water: Droughts and population growth around the world have made water an increasingly important issue for cities. Intelligent devices, communications networks, and advanced IT systems are helping the water industry transform the way they deliver water services for cities. Veolia, for example, is working with the City of Lille, France to transform its water infrastructure. Working in partnership with the city, it deployed 1,000 sensors across the water network to identify leaks, as well as water meters and probes to test water quality.

Innovative Smart City Projects

The smart city market continues to expand, as city leaders across the globe are heralding innovative projects and laying out a vision for how cities can use technology to meet sustainability goals, boost local economies, and improve services. The importance of smart cities is being recognized at national level, as well. Canada is the most recent country to launch a national program, joining a list that includes Australia, the United States, China, India, Japan, Singapore, South Korea, and the United Kingdom. The Canadian federal government announced in early 2017 the launch of a Smart Cities Challenge Fund, proposing $300 million over 11 years for Infrastructure Canada to implement the program.

Intelligent Cities Summit

The myriad of ways in which this funding can utilize the power of big data and the Internet of Things (IoT) to deliver improved services in Canadian cities will be discussed at the upcoming Intelligent Cities Summit in Toronto (October 24-25). The conference speaker lineup features C-level municipal executives from cities such as Toronto, Vancouver, and Calgary, among others. See the conference website to download the brochure and register for the summit.

 

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