By the end of 2016, it’s predicted there will be 6.4 billion connected devices around the world, a staggering 30% increase from 2015 – that’s almost 1 device for every person on the planet! Smart cities will thrive on this connectivity, paving the way for improved communication and interactivity across the public and private sectors.
As smart city programs begin to take shape across Europe, countries are looking to Amsterdam for inspiration. With 40 projects already in place, the Netherlands’ capital is a leading example with applications ranging from smart parking in urban areas to home energy storage for smart grid augmentation. These programs have seen great success and have challenged residents, educational institutions, businesses and governments to suggest ideas and see them transform into solutions. The vision for a connected Europe is fuelling innovation and driving growth, all in the hope of connecting the continent’s larger metropolitan cities.
A similar approach comes in the form of the Smart London Plan, a UK concept launched prior to the 30th Olympiad in 2012. Utilising the power of new technologies; Londoners saw their city transform into a bustling metropolis of innovation and change in preparation for the hundreds of thousands who would be visiting the games and exploring the host city. Similar initiatives have been seen around the world with LinkNYC proving to be an another inspirational achievement. Launched by Bill de Blasio, mayor of New York City; LinkNYC has converted old payphones into Wi-Fi hotspots, essentially offering wireless internet coverage completely free of charge to the cities core boroughs – Manhattan, The Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island. With smart city initiatives proving such a success in the UK and the USA, what is limiting development in Europe?
For a smart city to truly thrive, it must have technological infrastructure that can not only support it, but can grow with the increasing demands on network communications. This will involve more than just providing high-speed internet, but also the development of antenna sites and successful collaboration with the wider communications industry. There is also the role that regulators play in the progression of connectivity standards on a country-wide level. The collaboration between mobile and fibre networks will inherently allow greater connectivity on not just a city-level but across countries and the wider European community.
Whilst growth is necessary, the need for learning remains paramount. Regulators and governing bodies need to educate the industry on best practice and how connectivity remains a cornerstone of smart city project implementation. An example can found again in the UK, this time in The City of London with their digital infrastructure toolkit, Wayleaves. This toolkit provides vital documentation that broadband providers, developers, SMEs and landlords will need to develop digital infrastructure. This can bring together those bodies that can improve connection standards and establish a firm foundation for smart cities in the future.
3G and 4G carriers, fibre network providers, local communities, national initiatives – they all must come together to form a matrix of communication, collaboration and conceptualisation. When combined, a viable, efficient and powerful connectivity standard can be offered to the public and private sectors, accelerating the growth of smart city projects across Europe.