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New network infrastructure makes cities smarter

Photo caption: Ritch Dusome, President and CEO of CENGN, speaking about the future impact of smart infrastructure at the 2017 CENGN Summit.

New network infrastructure designed to create smart cities is poised to open the door for dramatic improvements in the efficiency, cost and variety of municipal programs and services. Unlike the traditional approach, where service providers build their own infrastructure for each business or residential client, open programmable smart city infrastructure controlled by software defined networking (SDN) offers a powerful alternative. This new technology has been successfully demonstrated at the OPNFV Summit in Berlin, Germany and more recently in Ottawa by the Centre of Excellence in Next Generation Networks (CENGN) and its partners Juniper Networks and Inocybe Technologies.

The current system of private networks duplicates infrastructure from each service provider, including multiple costly and disruptive installations of fibre cables. Their complexity, lack of integration or automation, inability to be scaled-up, and inaccessibility to most developers mean that end-users ultimately pay more for limited services with long lead times.

CENGN, Juniper and Inocybe plan to address all these issues through their open smart city infrastructure, which puts information and communication technologies to work in new and secure ways to manage municipal assets and services. Owned by a community or city, and operated by a neutral data utility or the city IT department, smart city infrastructure enables service providers to independently operate their slice of the network and allows the city to deliver new services. This increases efficiency of city operations, improves quality of life for citizens and grows the local economy.

With technologies such as Juniper Network’s OpenContrail and Inocybe’s OpenDaylight, any city operation can implement open programmable and standardized SDN tools. These tools can be used for rapid service creation, scaling up, dynamic cyber security, and self-service portals, as well as automated optimization and fault recovery, all with greatly reduced operating costs. Multiple providers can independently operate and manage service delivery, while end users will be able to request and obtain on-demand smart city services.

According to CENGN, the benefits will be felt far beyond the relationship between households and telecom service providers. By implementing a dynamic smart infrastructure, cities will be able to optimize the management of communication and information flow for community services like schools, transportation systems, hospitals, power, water, waste management and law enforcement.

Smart city infrastructure can make services viable that were previously considered too costly or unrealistic. For example, a city with its own smart infrastructure could create an affordable connected camera system. This has been a long sought after capability for public services, especially with public transit where citizens can be vulnerable waiting at secluded bus stops.

CENGN plans to push smart city Infrastructure even further. With the ability to send much more information through smart city’s “Infrastructure as a Service,” CENGN is looking toward future smart transportation projects. Smart city infrastructure is key for enabling driverless, electric vehicles that are managed by the network for highway and city driving. Beyond autonomous driving, smart city infrastructure looks to create smart buildings and homes, where billions of devices, including lighting, HVAC, energy monitors, security devices, inventory, sensors, and appliances, are connected and automated for daily use.

These changes to the way our devices are controlled will not only improve the city’s way of life but also its environmental footprint. For example, through real-time data collected with GPS placed on public vehicles, traffic and weather sensors, as well as pollution monitoring equipment, residents have real-time information about traffic flow, journey times and energy usage. The city can then implement incentive-based services to foster green behaviours.

It will be some time before a fully integrated smart city Infrastructure becomes the norm in Canada, but with the collaboration of CENGN, Juniper and Inocybe, we’re one step closer to realizing the benefits of a smart city infrastructure in terms of safety, convenience, environmental impact and prosperity.