Developing Smart Cities In Practice

The concept of Smart Cities is to make cities electronically capable to create better living for the population with faster cyber and energy networks which should substantially improve the economics and working conditions of the Smart City. 

Smart Cities are predicted to become commonplace in the next decade or so and according to an opinion poll survey by Wi-SUN Alliance, an organisation which works on Field Area Networks (FAN) and the Internet of Things (IoT). 

Wi-SUN Alliance conducted a poll on Twitter in April 2019 posting five questions over the course of a week concerning Smart Cities. The poll attracted 20,098 responses from individuals across all age ranges with an interest in technology, AI, machine learning, IoT, robotics and deep learning, among other similar topics.

  • Over half of respondents expect to see widespread smart city deployments in 10 or more years, while a third predict 5-10 years. Just 15 per cent expect it in less than 5 years.
  • Almost a third (31 per cent) of respondents want local governments to focus on traffic management. Another third (30 per cent) want to see the facilitation of cheaper utilities in their smart city developments. 

Cities that have already begun IoT deployment are hoped to have chosen an interoperable open standards solution, which will make their fulfilment of smart city growth cost-effective, secure and scalable. However, half cite lack of funds or investment in projects as the biggest challenge currently holding back smart city development. A further 21 per cent point to security and privacy issues, while lack of interoperability (14 per cent) is also seen as a major factor in progressing deployments. 

When asked about their specific security concerns, respondents point to data privacy as their biggest worry (37 per cent), while attacks on critical infrastructure (28 per cent) and network vulnerabilities (24 per cent) are also cause for concern. Eleven per cent cite insecure IoT devices.

“It’s interesting to see the timeframe that many of our respondents place on smart city deployment, when in fact smart cities are already here,” according to Phil Beecher, President and CEO of Wi-SUN Alliance. 

“Smart lighting is being deployed using canopy mesh networks and is already helping to save operational costs through reduced energy consumption and better reliability.  

“These deployments can be used to improve public safety and for additional services such as intelligent transport systems, smart parking and electric vehicle charging stations. 

“Certainly security and interoperability remain critical factors in any smart city deployment…As more IoT devices connect to the network, the opportunity for major disruption through security vulnerabilities is increasing all the time, while greater IT/OT (operational technology) convergence, especially in utilities, will increase the risk of attacks on critical infrastructure.”

City developers are already deploying new IoT applications and services for smart cities and utilities. Wi-SUN FAN is one of the network technology behind a number of major smart city projects around the world including City of London, Copenhagen and Glasgow, as well as a growing number of smart utility networks.

Miami has been identified as the world’s number one city for connected streetlights, with nearly 500,000 units deployed, supported by Wi-SUN compatible technology. Paris is number two with 280,000 connected streetlights retrofitted across the city with similar compatible mesh network. 

However, a Smart City project in Toronto Canada has run into problems over privacy and data collection. The 12-acre Quayside project is a partnership between Google’s Sidewalk Labs and the city of Toronto. 

Originally seen as a tool for addressing affordability and transportation issues in the city, Quayside was meant to be one of the world’s first Smart Cities, drawing on environmentally conscious design and emerging technologies to “accelerate urban innovation and serve as a beacon for cities around the world”. 

Sidewalk Labs intends to build 2,500 housing units, nearly half of them under market value.Despite initial public support for the project, Quayside has been dogged by fears of data harvesting, privacy concerns and an overall lack of transparency.
The next step is for development to begin in two neighborhoods, Quayside and Villiers West. This phase of the project, Sidewalk Labs forecasts, would cost $3.9 billion, with the company investing $900 million. 

The project could then potentially expand to the surrounding two neighborhoods on the Toronto waterfront, which Sidewalk Labs has dubbed the IDEA District. Sidewalk Labs' proposal has been 18 months in the making and fills more than 1,500 pages.

Still, it's facing pushback from Toronto leaders concerned about a variety of issues, including privacy and surveillance concerns. 

ZDNet:         WI-Sun:        Guardian

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