The future of smart cities in Europe
Smart is increasingly becoming the “pre-fix” of cities when talking about the near future or even the present of the places where most of us live (or spend most of our lives). Mayors across the Globe, and even more across Europe, are announcing claims to promote the smartness of their cities, in opposition to a presumed “dumbness” of less developed areas. But, what is really a smart city? And are digital technologies (the always acknowledged building blocks of a smart city) enough to make a city really smart?
Obviously, I do not have a definite answer, but I am sure smart cities of the future will be much more than we are currently seeing, even in most advanced cities in the world, and with much more than just digital technologies. In my view, a smart city is connected (obviously), but also sustainable and with shared resources.
Smart Cities of the future, in essence, will be the cities of Millennials and digital natives, therefore no one has doubt about each individual, but more interestingly each object (house, building, appliance, car, street light) in the city will have a digital identity and the ability to communicate with the others (and to create, capture and manage data). But what is currently missing in the discussion about the future of Smart Cities is the “what for” of this tremendous amount of data-generating objects and individuals coexisting in a limited geographical area.
Let’s make an example of the city of Milano, where city planners added a relevant number of points of access (plate-recording video systems, at the current technological development) to monitor the cars entering in the city. After years of control of the city core center area, the municipality of Milano in 2019 is planning to extend the monitored area to cover almost every access point to the city. The idea is to reduce pollution, by creating an economic disincentive to most polluting (old) cars and vehicles entering the perimeter of the city. Well done … but is it really Smart? Yes, we are using advanced digital technologies (in a few years the cars themselves will let the system know they are entering the city) in order to improve the quality of life of citizens. Smart enough? Perhaps not.
What if we envision a routing service, connected with car navigators, that based on the monitoring of the flows entering and exiting the city is able to divert traffic into less congested areas? What if, studying the habits of commuters, the city could design better public transportation to serve those areas where there is greater need? What if, having further information about the destination of individual cars, it is possible to create a car pooling or a car sharing service, to further reduce the number of cars entering into the perimeter of the city? What if, one last example, knowing the reason why a car enters the city, we can foresee retailers offering “real time” commercial services on the go? Much smarter? Probably yes. What do all these smart services have in common? They are soliciting the attitude of future generations towards sustainability and shared resources, looking at “assets” not as “properties” but as “services” to be used “on demand”. The performance (reducing the emissions, reducing the time of the journey, improving the quality of the time of stay in the city) is the key.
Let’s go a step further. In a City of connected, sustainable and shared objects, even the buildings can be seen “as a service”. Circular buildings, designed for being easily dis-assembled or assembled according to a different purpose (an office space could be turned into a commercial or even residential space, and vice versa), with digital technologies to control energy production, storage and consumption to best adapt to real needs (e.g. controlling the room temperature and light, according to the presence of people and the activity they are running). Circular buildings can be “sold” as a service, shared among individuals, and become central to the more flexible way of living and working that Millennials are now increasingly experimenting with. Furniture of any nature can be rented on a monthly base (we can do this already starting from 2018 using a very large and global furniture provider, right?).
There is a tremendous need for businesses to envision and develop “services” based on connected, sustainable and shared assets for a generation of new citizens. We are on the edge of a new era of opportunities (think to the examples listed above) and many more can be generated. The quality will be high, and the nature of data collected will be broad. Existing businesses, particularly those dealing with mobility and building, need to adapt their strategies to this incoming future. The challenge, as I tried to explain, is more than just to include digital technologies in the different objects, this certainly it is needed, but it far from being enough. Better, it is the starting point for the creation of something that will fit with the needs of future citizens.
It is essential that city planners go beyond making bold claims about smart city initiatives and action greater engagement with businesses. Cities which are deeply “retrofitted” with the courage to completely re-design (or to create brand new) areas where digital technologies underpin connections between individuals and objects, must make these areas accessible and available for future businesses. Milano, in this respect, with the recent interventions in the so-called MIND area (where EXPO was taking place in 2015) and in the City Life district, represent undoubtedly a good practice to be followed elsewhere in Europe.
Davide Chiaroni is the Professor of Strategy and Marketing at MIP Politecnico di Milano School of Management
NetNumber: Time for a cloud-native transformation
NetNumber is accelerating the transition in the telecom industry to 5G as it starts a shift to cloud-native architecture to address the fast-paced demands of global subscribers and businesses.
NetNumber is offering the industry’s first cloud-native platform designed to ensure InterGENerational™ network performance addresses both the legacy and next-generation requirements of telecom networks.
“NetNumber has developed the industry’s most robust cloud-native, InterGENerational platform that addresses both the legacy and 5G requirements of telcos,” said Matt Rosenberg, Chief Revenue Officer of NetNumber.
The platform provides vertical and horizontal scale-out with low latency, coupled with a suite of data replication capabilities, which provide flexible architectural options that can evolve with the changing network over time.
“Cloud-based solutions from other vendors tend to be limited in terms of supporting particular network generations or protocols. We’ve created our latest platform TITAN.IUM to allow customers to take any generation of applications, any generation of legacy services and protocols and move them into the new world of cloud-native architecture,” said Rosenberg.
“This is a really important part for a carrier to harmonise their network, bring data services together, bring legacy with new together in order to make a more effective and efficient network, as well as reduce their cost as they scale forward,” he said.
Established in 1999, NetNumber has fostered a strong team environment that leverages the industry’s best skills to offer software solutions tailored for carriers of all dimensions. Based outside of Boston and with presence in over 20 countries, the company delivers a range of products that address all generations (2G, 3G, 4G, 5G) of network functions in the core network, deep rooted security products and services, STIR/ SHAKEN and set of options around data services in more than 90 countries.
Steeped in experience in building telecom solutions, software, protocol stacks, and integration of third party tools, the company’s development organisation has proven to supply to the industry with the most reliable and flexible solutions on the market.
“At NetNumber, we focus on our core competencies – we are dedicated to providing industry expertise in signaling, routing, security, subscriber management and data services. We provide customers a strong ROI through platform-based solutions that reduce Capex and Opex in the long-term,” commented Rosenberg.
Five reasons why customers choose NetNumber:
- Expertise - NetNumber has experts with deep knowledge in signaling/routing, security, and subscriber database management.
- Integration - An industry-first platform brings together domain services, applications, security, and global data services.
- Scale - NetNumber has the ability to seamlessly increase network efficiency using vertical and horizontal scaling.
- Speed - World-class solutions have the power to help companies create new service offerings and accelerate time to ROI.
- Savings - Customers enjoy significant savings in capex and opex, flexible deployment models, and investment protection.
NetNumber and Virgin Mobile MEA
“We're very proud of our partnership with Virgin Mobile MEA as they've taken the concept of the InterGENerational platform into their regional network strategy,” commented Rosenberg. “That’s accelerated how they develop exceptional services across the Middle East and Africa region.
“We work with them hand-in-hand to deliver multiple applications onto our platform which has enabled them to provide exceptional, advanced and innovative services to their customers across the Middle East, who demand high quality services.
“What they've really taken advantage of is scale. What I mean by that is they are putting multiple generations of applications and services onto the same platform and distributing that data across their network. That has resulted in an advantageous position of time to market and operational savings.
“Rather than having different applications for many different vendors that cause operational chaos, they've been able to consolidate that and reduce their operating costs by having everything on one common architecture. We’ve had a long-term relationship with Virgin Mobile in Saudi Arabia, and recently signed an agreement with Virgin Mobile in Kuwait.”
Rosenberg says that with these solutions, Virgin Mobile MEA can take advantage of getting to the market much quicker and faster—which is what today’s discerning customer demands.