Smart city initiatives are shaping urban infrastructure. Governments and IoT service providers are increasingly looking to harness IoT technologies to overcome urban challenges and enhance city services. As the IoT advances, cities will be able to use cellular connectivity to fuel economic growth, deliver improved safety and efficiency of public services, and minimise issues such as pollution and overcrowding.
The formulation of any smart city initiative relies upon the cooperation between a range of organisations. Indeed, one of the most notable recent trends in the IoT is the growing number of partnerships and alliances – a phenomenon which was evident at this year’s GSMA Mobile World Congress 2016. Innovations in vertical markets such as the automotive, home and agriculture sectors were revealed to be underpinned by partnerships, and so too were technologies like the new generation of low power wide area (LPWA) technologies.
The rapid development of vertical-specific markets and investment in new IoT technology is preparing the groundwork for smart cities. The use of new LPWA solutions in licenced spectrum will enable a new generation of smart meters, waste management solutions and wearable devices, whilst remote ‘over the air’ provisioning, which has already been backed by major players in the automotive sector, can be used to bring connectivity to public transport.
All of this is helping to reduce market fragmentation and enabling the possibility for data to be used to make cities ‘truly smart’. As has been pointed out in TM Forum’s recent report, Smart cities: Enabling the economy of data, ‘by breaking data out of departmental silos, they (applications) can make better decisions based on data from multiple sources, such as real-time environmental data and traffic management patterns. Eventually data could be shared across cities to support wider innovations and a smart region, smart nation approach.’
This report acknowledges that one of the key challenges is ‘creating a secure, transparent environment where public data can be exposed and businesses can also contribute their data and be paid for it’. A common approach to IoT security is crucial. In a recent article for Smart Cities World, Robin Kent, Director of European Operations at Adax, highlighted the particular importance of IoT network security to the development of smart cities, noting the stratospheric growth of IoT as a challenge to the industry.
Kent identifies recent research indicating that security concerns are the biggest barrier to IoT implementation, with only 10% of operators feeling ‘fully capable of launching secure IoT services’. Yet he also draws attention to how operators can play a key role in providing secure IoT networks – highlighting the GSMA’s IoT Security Guidelines as a benchmark which can be used to securely scale IoT solutions.
Mobile operators are, of course, uniquely placed to support development and implementation of smart city strategies. As trusted, reliable leaders of data management – with a wealth of experience across a wide range of deployment models – operators can establish partnerships across the ecosystem to ensure a unified approach to IoT network security.
The speed at which partnerships are enabling technological innovation and scalability has quickly led to the widespread realisation that it is too costly to go it alone. The industry must do it its best to nurture this culture of cooperation, for the evolution of cities depends on it.