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Diego Grassi, senior manager market development, at u-blox, outlines how a smart city can improve quality of life, and explains how u-blox is delivering the connections that will make it possible


e are told that the connected city is going to be a smarter city, but what

does “smarter” actually mean in this context, and how will cities be connected? We don’t yet have all the answers to these questions, but public authorities, businesses, academic institutions, NGOs and individuals have, over the last few years, evolved a common understanding of what smart cities are and how they will evolve in the future. It is not a one-size- fits-all scenario, though. Geographic, cultural, financial and technical considerations will dictate priorities for the application of technology. However, the unifying idea is that the

smart city enhances the lives of its inhabitants. This may mean less traffic congestion and lower pollution, or the more effective supply of clean water. It can be a city where energy consumption and CO2 emissions are minimised, and one where public authorities can deliver better services for their citizens. The smart, connected city is one of the most exciting aspects of the Internet of Things (IoT) that Really Matter. The smart city concept embraces the

supply of energy and water, transportation, infrastructures, the management of buildings and the work of municipal authorities. In all these areas, the multifaceted IoT enables us to collect data from an almost infinite variety of sensors and other sources, process that data locally or in the cloud, and initiate actions based on information derived from the data. The sensors, some of which will be location-aware, will communicate


wirelessly with others around them and with gateways that link them to the cloud. Smart meters have already been

installed in many municipalities around the world. These enable better management and monitoring of energy consumption, for both consumers and utility companies. Consumers program their electrical appliances to use off-peak energy, saving money and helping load- balancing on electricity grids. Utility companies no longer need to send people in vans to read their customers’ meters. Instead, data is collected remotely, accurately, at low cost and in real time. Some of this data can be used to inform predictive maintenance programs, while it also enables smarter management of the electricity grid, again reducing waste and saving money. Lighting accounts for nearly 20% of the

world’s electricity consumption and by far the largest proportion of this is city lighting. However, smart city lighting, for example in streets and in car parks, can now be controlled automatically. Light is provided when it’s needed, but switched off to save energy when it’s not. Sensors detect both environmental conditions and traffic levels to determine the most appropriate illumination levels. The automation of traffic control

promises shorter, safer journeys and lower pollution levels. Smart parking services will mean driving directly to available spaces, rather than circling streets or car parks to find that illusive vacant space. The volume of data being generated by smart cities is already immense and

The unifying idea in the evolution of the smart city is that it will enhance the lives of its inhabitants

growing at an accelerating rate. Although there are legitimate concerns about security and privacy relating to individuals, much of the data will be generated and transmitted as machine-to-machine (M2M) communications. Some will inform municipal authorities in ways that enable them to optimise their work, either by saving money or facilitating new and improved services. Information derived from smart city networks can be made available to consumers on websites, via mobile apps and on displays. Real time information on public transportation services is already displayed at bus stops and railway stations in some cities, and businesses may also make use of smart city data to create targeted advertising, perhaps delivered to smart screens at public venues. Of course, connected devices will require robust, secure communications at every point in the chain, from sensor nodes to the cloud and back again. This is where wireless positioning and communications technologies come into play. Global navigation satellite systems (GNSS) are becoming more accurate, partly due to data fusion techniques that combine satellite signals with location information derived from cellular and Wi-Fi networks and, in the case of vehicles, data from wheel-tick sensors. Familiar Wi-Fi and Bluetooth links, in a variety of flavours suited to different IoT applications, will proliferate, particularly where mobile phones are used as internet gateways. Then there’s Narrowband IoT (NB-IoT), a new, ultra-low power technology for communicating small amounts of data over existing cellular radio networks. NB IoT is already being use in remote monitoring, where it facilitates rapid smart meter deployment with communications delivered over secure and reliable cellular networks that offer guaranteed quality of service. For video and other high-bandwidth

communications, high-speed, low latency 4G LTE networks are already playing a vital role. 5G is emerging too, and in the near future will increase network capacity and speeds by an order of magnitude. u-blox’s experience in positioning, short range wireless and cellular radio technologies, means the company is perfectly positioned to provision smart city wireless networks. u-blox’s integrated circuits and modules deliver secure, robust communications, whatever the environment. Equally important, modules are simple to install, scalable and easily upgraded as standards evolve. They also feature low power consumption, long operating life and minimal maintenance.



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