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How 5G will pave the way for truly smart cities


5G in Smart Cities

The smart city is the urban model of the future: sensors, cameras and intelligent platforms empower municipalities to optimize traffic flows, ensure safe intersections, cut energy costs and connect with their citizens. By definition, connected cities are always on and always online – continuously generating and processing data. 5G offers a huge leap forward toward truly connected cities by opening the data floodgates … and a world of opportunity.

A world of cities that never sleep

In a smart city, sensors and cameras gather data about any number of environmental factors – from traffic flows and air quality to infrastructural energy consumption – and then a cloud-based platform links the data points together. The envisioned outcome is a dashboard that offers municipal decision-makers a clear, detailed overview of citywide safety, mobility, pollution etc. and even simulates scenarios, e.g. for better traffic flows.

The five pillars of smart cities

We’re already well on our way to this reality, with a number of impactful pilot projects in progress around the world. However, the lack of scalable data pipeline has remained a critical hurdle to broader application. Now, this has changed: enter 5G mobile private networks (MPNs).

5G MPNs offer a cost-effective, reliable, minimally invasive way to collect, process and analyze the huge volumes of information involved, unlocking the five pillars of smart cities:

1. Smart mobility
The application of emerging technologies like AI, IoT and digital twins to keep traffic flows as smooth as possible.

2. Intelligent use of resources
The use of platforms and applications that gather sensor data from vehicles and equipment to streamline the collection of municipal waste and other core urban services.

3. Intelligent safety, security and conflict management
Interactions of people and vehicles are detected by high-definition cameras, predicting the potential for collisions and worse case scenarios, for better planning and rapid action.

4. Digitally enabled citizen engagement
The collection of qualitative information about citizen well-being and the involvement of people in municipal decision-making processes through collaborative platforms.

Putting safety at the center

Similarly to the smart industry and agri-food sectors, the real driving power of 5G in smart cities is its ability to support real-time high-definition video processing – and safety is naturally the biggest concern for cities.

The value of high bandwidth (the volume of the data flow) and low latency (its speed through the pipeline) can’t be overestimated here. Traffic intersections in city districts are crowded, and hence dangerous, and by adding intelligence to monitoring processes, the goal of the smart city is to target the accident precursor phase – the near misses – and intervene before an accident ever occurs. Every millisecond matters in these encounters.

AI applications can make recommendations and give advice when it comes to the optimal design of traffic intersections, all based on real-life data. Even more, it can predict the probability of future collisions. To do that, huge volumes of high-resolution camera footage are fed, in real time, into an algorithm that has already been trained to understand traffic patterns.


5G: the only path to agile urban ultraconnectivity

The minimally invasive and highly standardized aspects of 5G MPNs are also key factors in their application in smart cities. Implementing early-stage smart cities applications often meant tearing up roadways, installing new hardware and pouring concrete, or investing in multiple solutions for different applications.

In contrast, the 5G tech stack is globally standardized. This means that it accommodates a wide range of hardware and sensors and can be scaled quickly and easily by placing lightweight, low-power network extenders called ‘small cells’. Even more compelling is the fact that you need to deploy only one single 5G network to accommodate all your applications.

In addition to the sheer data processing power, . Because 5G for smart cities is mainly software based, changing features, redeploying solutions and quickly implementing new applications takes days or weeks. That’s almost unheard of in the realm of municipal works, which often (and notoriously) take months or even years.

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