There are lot of discussions and demos of smart city technologies that claim to enhance connectivity of everyday services. But, at the same time, there also exist so many barriers to creating a truly smart city. We are currently witnessing disparate connected services — a patch of Wi-Fi coverage here, or some contactless pay pads there. However, until we can provide more consistency in connectivity across the city, two things will continue to happen:
- The connected experience for people living in cities will be underwhelming.
- There will be huge and ongoing security risks with connected city equipment.
Building the smart city that people really want, with the ability to access services anytime, anywhere, requires a massive connectivity effort with in-built security. And this job is beyond the capability of a single vendor.
Balancing experience with risk
As an example, consider what it means to provide wireless access to a city of a million residents. You would need thousands of wireless access points, across indoor and outdoor environments. If you then want to offer a bike rental service, you will need thousands more IoT sensors and different types of hardware that need to be connected, too.
All of this has to be managed carefully, because the more connected devices there are, the more the entry points for an attacker. In fact, after surveying local governments in the US last year, Aruba found 86% of those who have adopted IoT in their city have already experienced an associated security breach.
Increasingly, cities require a network environment that can segment each individual person and device that is trying to connect. In doing so, the IT team can prioritise connectivity to specific services as they are needed, while isolating incoming threats as soon as they are detected.
The need for open architectures
To overcome existing barriers to the smart city concept, we need to be able to take a broader view of what is being connected across a huge city network. This act of integration can only be achieved with a multi-vendor approach.
Imagine wanting to add traffic information services in your city, but your existing hardware is not compatible with the software that you need. Does the IT team have to rip and replace their equipment, or scrap the new service? In the same survey we carried out last year, we found that 49% of cities are struggling with integrating older and newer technologies.
To create lasting smart city experiences, we need an open infrastructure that is built on open industry standards, open APIs, open source coding and is available to an open network of partners. Moreover, it should interoperate with other applications, now and in the future.
An example of this collaborative approach in action can be seen at Cambridge University. Its use of Aruba infrastructure helped it to create a public access network used by local councils, service providers, students, researchers and members of the public, for everything from library reservations to travel updates.
Thousands of citizens use the network across the entire city, and many different IT systems are active. But users of the network are not affected, because wherever they are in the city, indoors or outdoors, their ability to connect remains uninterrupted and their login credentials do not change. People in Cambridge are able to get from Point A to B faster, and ultimately that is what a smart city is all about.
We cannot create a smart city with the flick of a switch. To truly improve the life of citizens, a smart city needs to be built on open foundations, with security and the user experience front of mind. And there is no company in the world that can accomplish this alone.
Building the smart city with the ability to access services anytime, anywhere, requires a massive connectivity effort with in-built security.
This kind of integration can only be achieved with a multi-vendor approach.
To create lasting smart city experiences, we need an open infrastructure that is built on open industry standards, open APIs, open source coding and is available to an open network of partners.
Moreover, it should interoperate with other applications, now and in the future.
Gamal Emara, Country Manager UAE at Aruba, argues that governments and the vendor community need to collaborate to bring smart cities to life.