We will have smart cities before we have smart homes, that is the view of AT&T as they launched their Smart Cities Framework alongside international technology show CES in Las Vegas earlier this month.
The telecom giant announced that it is partnering with a who's who of Big Data (Cisco, Deloitte, Ericsson, GE, IBM, Intel, Qualcomm) to create a "smart cities framework". With its partners, AT&T is aiming to be a one-stop shop for municipalities, states, and the federal agencies looking to service citizens more effectively.
The initiative will use the Internet of Things to improve citizen engagement, infrastructure, public safety and transportation. It will, for example, introduce remote monitoring of essential infrastructure such as roads and bridges, digital signs showing commuters in real-time when the next train or bus will arrive, and mobile apps providing citizens real-time information about broken traffic lights or the ability to reserve parking spaces.
AT&T is even developing what it calls a “digital dashboard” so that city officials can monitor power outages, water leaks, traffic issues, and more, all from one location. “We’ve built strong relationships with cities across the U.S. for over 100 years”, said Mike Zeto, general manager of Smart Cities, AT&T IoT Solutions. “Our holistic strategy can help cities save money, conserve energy, improve quality of life, and further engage with their citizens”.
After several highly publicised gun crime incidents in recent years AT&T chose Chicago to participate in its smart cities framework that could allow law enforcement officials to detect gunfire and determine how many people were involved, alongside a raft of efficiency benefits. “From water system sensors to advanced analytics and energy efficiency efforts, Chicago has already taken steps to become a Smart City”, said Brenna Berman, CIO of the City of Chicago. “We are excited to team with AT&T, a leader in Internet of Things solutions, to help us harness the power of near real-time information to create a safer, cleaner and more efficient city”.
Atlanta and Dallas are also among the initial cities chosen for the initial Smart Cities Initiative. Georgia’s Institute of Technology and the West End Historic District in Downtown Dallas have been singled out for specific smart development projects within the programme. "Each city has a different goal and different financials", says AT&T Mobility CEO Glenn Lurie. The overall goal, Lurie's words, is to make cities "a better place to live."
"You have to prove that there's a payback for the city", Lurie explained. "Make it a city where people want to live and drive economic growth". It could be smart lighting that uses less energy or connected traffic lights that double as vehicle-to-vehicle communications and Wi-Fi access points. If a city can connect all these utilities together and provide real-time data, we may see improved efficiency and wide scale smart city development sooner than many expected.
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Analyst firm Gartner has estimated that 1.6 billion ‘things’ will be connected up to larger smart city infrastructure by the end of this year as the benefits become greater than ever. This marks a 39% increase on the 2015 total and suggests cities will be driving smart development in the next 12 months, spearheaded by infrastructure and commercial buildings.
However, from 2017, we will see the rise of smart homes, as more consumers look to connect up their households with items such as smart thermostats and security systems. By 2018, smart homes will make up over one billion connected ‘things’, Gartner predicts, as smart homes record the highest increase over the next five years.
Be it smart buildings, homes, streetlights, or other connected ‘things’, stronger and stronger signs are emerging that suggest our smart urban future is becoming a reality. Each smart element develops technology and opportunity to spur growth in the other, and the potential benefit of interoperability between each inspires further ambitions. Will the Smart City be the platform for everything?
Lurie compared the Smart Cities movement to the launch of the iPhone eight years ago. "All of a sudden, the world changed", he says. There are things that people simply expect now that were unimaginable before the iPhone. "This is exciting on so many levels. We're scratching the surface of what this can be".