5G is making the smart city concept a reality — the city interacting both with itself and the world around it, thanks to the information provided by people within it and the data collected by road sensors, vehicles, buildings, and much more.
The smart city improves the quality of life of those who live and move around there: residents, commuters, and tourists. 5G networks are making this improvement all the more pervasive by enabling a whole new generation of platforms and services — from smart living and smart healthcare to smart infrastructure, networks and buildings, from citizen and community safety to social and labor inclusiveness. But there’s more. Examples of improvement also include energy efficiency and environmental sustainability; smart, sustainable mobility; cultural and tourist heritage enhancement — not to mention smart government, big data, and urban analytics.
Better connected, smarter cities.
Current 4G networks are trudging under the weight of massive connectivity requests, as anyone who has tried to post a social media update from a crowded place, such as a stadium during a concert or a sporting event, will now.
In contrast, 5G brings about a significant increase in network capacity, and therefore much faster connectivity and greater smartness in our homes, offices, and cities. The Internet of Things (IoT), which connects billions of smart objects, is getting a particularly strong boost from 5G, which makes it possible to collect huge amounts of data through a tightly interconnected network of devices and sensors.
In short, the ability to use the myriad sensors needed for smart cities requires very fast and secure network connectivity. 5G will make it possible to connect far more devices than previous technologies, forming the basis for small cell networks — made up of an extremely high number of tiny cells — which will serve as the backbone of the intricately interconnected wireless infrastructure needed in a smart city.
In other words, the benefits of mobile connectivity brought about by 5G will make data transmission smoother and faster, allowing not just for real-time analytics on behalf of government bodies or companies, but also simple use cases for the benefit of individual citizens, such as the ability to track exactly where the next bus is while waiting at the bus stop.
Decreased consumption, increased services
Over the last few decades, the growing attention to environmental sustainability and pollution, to the consumption of energy and water resources, as well as to economic and technological change, has posed new challenges to urban centers.
Smart cities are making huge strides in the energy and public services areas, as well as in critical infrastructure such as communications, energy, healthcare, public administration, and mass transit.
The monitoring of public transport lines and smart lighting are just two examples of applied analysis of citizens’ real needs, leading to the rationalization of resources and consumption. City councils can now provide additional services while reducing operational costs.
Collecting and managing traffic data can effectively guide local mobility policies, especially in emergency situations, as a result of the analysis of people’s “habits.” By using the data collected by sensors on junctions and roads, cities can spot where traffic jams and slowdowns occur and pinpoint the most critical areas. Collecting data over long periods of time also makes it possible to carry out predictive analyses and plan corrective actions for scheduled events or shows in the city. Traffic light timings can be adjusted to change traffic routes and flows and increase the number of vehicles on a per-section basis; traffic can be directed to specific lanes, motorways or ring roads, thus making it smoother. Moreover, emergency services can identify the best route in the event of an accident and signal the way back to the hospital, potentially saving the lives of citizens.
But it’s not only recent, ultra-modern cities that can become smart; old town centers can do so too, providing citizens with new services to counter the ongoing depopulation and migration to large urban areas. Static and dynamic structure monitoring, predictive maintenance and early warning systems can contribute to the safety of buildings and road infrastructure (bridges, viaducts). Analyzing and predicting the behavior of such structures, both in the short and long term, could allow timely interventions in order to prevent damage and collapse.
The potential benefits heralded by smart cities are very exciting and span various kinds of services, from healthcare to safety, from transport to energy optimization. The advent of 5G connectivity is poised to give smart cities a major boost. As 5G rolls out across the world and more people get connected, the potential it offers to the smart cities of the future is truly endless.
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