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5G – A building block for the smarter city

The 'always connected' citizen demands a connected city in which to live and work - with the arrival of 5G set to answer that smarter city demand.

By Ellie Burns

For any city or town to be successful it has to meet the needs of its inhabitants. As the requirements of people change, so too must their surroundings. Just as the emergence of new technologies during the Industrial Revolution altered our cities two centuries ago, today we are going through another technological revolution, and it’s time for our cities to catch-up with our technology-driven lives.

5G – A building block for the smarter city

Joy Gardham, Head of Western Europe at Brocade.

The proliferation of smartphones and Wi-Fi over the past ten years has created an “always connected” citizen that expects services instantly and at her fingertips. The private sector was the first to seize the potential opportunities, and businesses that kept pace with consumers’ shifting expectations have proved wildly successful, whilst those that stumbled faded away. City planners are now looking to emulate these businesses’ successes, modernising our urban environments to match our connected lives.

Creating an intelligently connected city is easier said than done though, and it will take a robust, agile network to handle the demands of a city’s worth of sensors and systems. As the arrival of 5G looks set to bolster smart city development, I’d like to look at two particularly important smart city innovations that are now on the horizon.


Healthcare, everywhere

Figures from Eurostat have shown that over half of British citizens are searching for medical advice online, a 38% per cent increase since 2006. This increased use of online healthcare information, combined with the popularity of consumer-grade healthcare apps and fitness wearables could prove a boon for an increasingly overstretched NHS.

‘Remote healthcare’, essentially applications that monitor patients’ conditions from their own home, could reduce patient stress, particularly when they’re too ill to travel, empower patients with more detailed insights into their condition, and provide increased amounts of data for healthcare professionals.

Whilst the potential benefits of remote healthcare could revolutionise how modern healthcare operates, healthcare services will have to take a close look at their network before these ideals can become a reality. Connectivity issues, or networks that are ill-equipped to handle increased data flows could threaten the entire remote healthcare ecosystem, and ultimately put patients’ lives at risk.

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Smart cars and smarter roads

Although most motoring technology headlines focus on self-driving cars and the impact of the gig and sharing economies on the motoring industry, we’re still a way off from a car owners and drivers being a peculiarity. The true next step in transportation is connected vehicles, and the potential that 5G offers to coordinating city traffic flows in a way that alleviates traffic and makes our roads safer.

5G – A building block for the smarter city

Whether it’s the connected vehicles themselves, or wearables worn by drivers and cyclists, the data these devices collect and disseminate could allow for real-time insights into traffic systems. Smart traffic lights that dynamically react to traffic demands and road signs which respond to hazardous weather conditions or collisions could potentially make our journeys smoother and safer.

The importance of networking and connectivity to these advances cannot be understated, as only the fastest, most reliable network connection can be used for such important processes.


All or nothing

The potential benefits of smart cities to the lives of their inhabitants are many and significant. However, as with both the above examples, any attempt to rollout these kind of systems without the correct network infrastructure could prove a potentially dangerous failure.

We’re looking into a vast IoT future, and to truly take advantage of it for the benefit of all we need a scalable, secure platform to build from. If smart cities are to become a reality it’s essential that the public and private sectors adopt a New IP approach, where automation and virtualisation ensure a network that’s capable enough to handle not only the imminent technological innovations, but those that are yet to come.

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