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Building the smart cities of the future

by Andrew Conway

04 August 2022

More than half of the global population lives in urban areas. By 2050, it will be more than two-thirds, according to the United Nations. Urban living on this scale naturally brings social, environmental, and economic challenges that impact citizens’ quality of life. However, with smart city technology, we can build communities and cities that are responsive to residents. There is now tried-and-tested technology that improves key quality-of-life indicators, such as safety, health, transport, infrastructure, affordable housing, sustainability, and connectivity. Smart cities address practical and ordinary concerns for citizens like, do I feel safe walking down the street? How can I make my business more efficient? Will I get to work on time?

The importance of digital intelligence

Smart communities are built using state-of-the-art technology and real-time data and analytics to create smarter, more intuitive infrastructure. This digital intelligence can solve citizens’ problems and comprises three layers: networks of connected devices and sensors, smart applications that analyse the data from these networks, and people who adopt and use the applications to connect and make informed decisions. All these layers are vital to harnessing the collective intelligence generated by cities and communities.

There’s always been an appreciation for the value of digital solutions as a powerful and cost-effective way to improve city life. In 2018, Mckinsey shared that cities ‘could use [these solutions] to improve some quality-of-life indicators by 10-30 per cent’. Today, BAI Communications (BAI) supports public and private enterprises to establish smart communities, the building blocks of smart cities. We do this by providing neutral host infrastructure and expertise to provide high-capacity, high-availability, and multi-use communications networks. This infrastructure connects and makes sense of data to make cities better places to live. It starts at a community level. In this ‘Building the smart cities of the future’ series, we’ll uncover the use cases for smart city technology.

Connectivity everywhere

Residents and businesses within communities require access to digital services underpinned by connectivity. For example, BAI’s private network capability enables businesses to improve supply chain management and asset monitoring in factories. In the healthcare sector, Internet of Things (IoT) health-monitoring devices can be used to record health data securely. Universities can provide private, secure, and fast connections for hybrid learning environments.

There are three layers of connection that enable dynamic interaction in cities.

Connected councils, often working at the city or regional level, can provide digital services for citizens, such as smart lighting, better traffic congestion management, and smart community kiosks. Additional capabilities include waste management, environmental monitoring, and public safety initiatives such as predictive policing. Using free Wi-Fi, citizens can navigate their streets with digital way finders and help points and engage with local authorities seamlessly.

Connected venues within individual cities and towns, can improve facilities management, operational management, and attendees’ experiences with open and private networks. These networks provide capabilities for CCTV, security and crowd management, and communication.

Finally, connected transport capabilities within a city keep people and goods moving seamlessly with real-time public transport information, digital payment, intelligent traffic signals, and congestion management. With real-time road navigation, citizens can enjoy smart parking, e-hailing, and ride-sharing.

At BAI, we’ve been building strategic partnerships with municipal authorities and designing innovative engineering solutions that help them connect communities. For example, we’re working with Sunderland City Council to help them deploy smart technologies to achieve their goal: to become a safe, dynamic smart city with more and better jobs, efficient transport, and a low-carbon digital economy offering businesses, residents, and visitors a healthier, more independent lifestyle.

The technology behind it all

BAI’s technology is already making urban environments more attractive. It’s not only about backend efficiency for local authorities; there is a direct impact on people’s lives, with citizens receiving instant information about transport, traffic, health services, safety alerts, and community news on their mobiles or computers. In the US, BAI company Transit Wireless has deployed more than 1,500 small cells across New York City to provide robust connectivity in urban areas without disrupting the existing infrastructure. 5G infrastructure is deployed on existing street assets to extend connectivity throughout the city for all its people.

Neutral host solutions are a valuable and viable option for achieving connectivity, transport and communication goals. These solutions are high-capacity, high-availability, multi-use networks, which network operators and authorities need for high-speed communication ecosystems.

In the next blog, we’ll take a closer look at connected communities, what they look like and what it takes to build them. In the meantime, you can find out more by listening to our recent podcast ‘Building the UK’s most advanced smart city’. In this podcast, Paul Osbourne, Chief Commercial Officer of BAI UK, speaks with Liz St Louis, Assistant Director of Smart Cities at the Sunderland City Council. Liz and Paul discuss the 20-year strategic partnership between BAI and the council. Through this partnership, BAI will provide innovation, expertise, skills and capacity to invest, design, build and operate the technology aspects of this smart city.

Andrew Conway

Andrew Conway

Director of Solutions, Innovation and Technology, BAI Communications UK

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