Connecting our cities for the future

By Billy D’Arcy
The notion of hyperconnectivity may seem fairly abstract but it provides benefits that are essential to fast tracking the development of smart cities

By 2050, over 68% of humankind are expected to live in cities and this trend is driving policymakers and city leaders to rethink the urban environment, leveraging the power of intelligent solutions such as the Internet of Things (IoT) to achieve better outcomes for the people that live, work and visit their communities. 

Underpinning the development of these smart cities, is hyperconnectivity - a backbone of digital infrastructure that couples high-speed fibre connectivity with high-speed 5G coverage, upon which we can build rich ecosystems of digital innovation. To meet future innovation demands and deliver on the opportunity to transform our cities for the future of such innovation, expanding 5G coverage, at street level, through small cells will be key.

This will require the roll-out, at scale, of small mobile transmitters deployed on street assets that are connected via high-capacity fibre. In central London alone there are over 80,000 street assets, from traffic lights to bus stops. Connecting these across cities not only allows us to fill mobile coverage gaps so that people can stay connected, but it also provides a fabric on which we can install IoT and sensor technologies – the foundation of the smart city.

Our 20-year concession to deliver uninterrupted 4G and 5G mobile coverage across the London Underground, for example, will enable Transport for London (TfL) and other providers to gather insights from IoT sensors to provide a real-time view of current conditions and improve services.

Fitting sensors to tracks, transport vehicles, and other assets can enable enhancements such as vehicle health monitoring, predictive maintenance, and overcrowding notifications. Connecting camera data, ticketing systems, and digital signage will allow more granular data feeds that improve safety, reliability and passenger experience. Many other new concepts are coming to the market too, including smart waste management/ refuse tracking and real-time air quality monitoring. Sensors can be mounted to existing infrastructure to allow the collection of data at a hyper-local level, so that authorities can make better decisions, be that understanding how best to manage footfall and vehicle numbers, to monitoring the impact on air quality levels to support net-zero goals.

It is not just improvements in areas like traffic and congestion management, public safety and city planning that can be boosted by hyperconnectivity. In Sunderland, we are partnering with a city that has the ambition to use smart city technologies to bring substantial social and economic benefits to its residents where no one and nowhere gets left behind. 

By expanding the reach and capacity of the city’s connectivity, it plans to significantly scale the deployment of assistive technologies for vulnerable people, provide better connectivity to support online and remote learning across its schools, and increase supply chain agility through the development of self-driving vehicle trials at the Sunderland Nissan car manufacturing plant.

The notion of hyperconnectivity may seem abstract, but it provides real-world benefits. Connecting our communities of all sizes can unlock innovation which, in turn, can enhance public services, reduce costs and, most importantly, improve quality of life. Laying the foundation for smart cities is about having the right digital infrastructure in place – and this starts with the thousands of street assets ripe for small cell and IoT deployments.

Written by Billy D'Arcy, CEO of BAI Communications UK.


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