smart city November 2017

How data keeps a smart city on the move

The world is more connected and accessible than ever before, so when it comes to attracting industries, companies and talent, competition between aspirational cities is fierce.

With marketing teams pushing ‘city brands’ to businesses and tourists in ever-more creative ways, a destination thrives and dies on its reputation, underpinned by a variety of factors, including quality of life and ease of doing business.

Cities have realised that technological and physical infrastructure has become important in retaining and attracting individuals and enterprises and, above all, making life as easy as possible for their inhabitants. So, these cities have become ‘smart’ – and started to crunch data in increasing volumes in the process.

Demand for location and time-based data is accelerating, and GeoSpock offers the data indexing and management capabilities to handle the inevitable transition from big to ‘extreme’ data that is being undertaken by ambitious smart cities.

Smart city infrastructure

Although definitions of a smart city vary, Caragliu and Nijkamp’s description in 2009 of a destination that invests in “human and social capital and traditional (transport) and modern (Information and Communication Technologies) communication infrastructure” to fuel sustainable economic development and a high quality of life, still holds true.

In practice, this means that a smart city has digital technology and sensors embedded across all city functions, allowing for data to be collected and analysed in order to manage assets and resources efficiently.

Mississauga Ontario
Mississauga, Ontario

Mississauga in Canada is one such city that demonstrates the effect of successful infrastructure and the importance of being ‘smart’.

The city owns and operates its own voice and data fibre network in partnership with Brampton, Caledon and the region of Peel. The partnership is called the Public Sector Network (PSN) and is registered with the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission as a non-commercial telco.

PSN’s dark fibre connects buildings and assets via more than 600 nodes, while there is also free public Wi-Fi across the city in all public spaces and facilities, including Celebration Square, major transit locations, community centre, libraries, arenas, marinas and golf courses. In 2016, the free public Wi-Fi was used for a total that was equivalent to 407 years.

Mississauga is the first city in Canada to become a ‘virtual campus’ by becoming an Eduroam Service Provider, enabling students from around the world to access their secure post-secondary network from anywhere where the public Wi-Fi is available. In the first six months, 80,000 students used this service.

Data carriage

The city is also implementing district Wi-Fi in Mississauga’s four Business Improvement Areas, as well as in public streets downtown.

“This network carries a significant amount of data used to make operational and business data, as well as ‘dark data’,” says Shawn Slack, the city’s director of information technology and chief information officer.

“This city also has a comprehensive cellular deployment for our moving fleet of vehicles – buses, fire, works, parks, forestry and snow removal – with a cellular APN to backhaul the data for real-time monitoring and analysis.

“The city has made the Internet of Things (IoT) and connecting things a high priority, which is being achieved through our fibre and Wi-Fi network. A good example of IoT is our LED light installation comprising more than 50,000 LED lights connected and managed through a cloud service.

“We are in the middle of implementing an Advanced Traffic Management System, which is connecting all traffic intersections and all of the sensors and equipment in intersections for real-time monitoring and responses.”

Data demand

The demand for such extreme data is obvious. The city’s population has roughly doubled over the past 25 years to nearly 750,000, putting an inevitable strain on infrastructure.

With more than 60 of the Fortune 500 companies having their global or Canadian headquarters in the city, Mississauga’s business community demands a smart network that is reliable and secure.

“Key challenges are privacy and custody of the data including data residency if cloud services are used,” Slack adds. “Privacy, retention and intended use must be part of the planning process when using or creating new data that supports decision-making or may have use or access by third parties or the public.

“Key opportunities include innovation, partnerships, decision-making, real-time situational awareness and artificial intelligence. The data must be collected in a way that is secure, responsive, resilient, real-time when required, and in a way that can be saved and or scrubbed of any personally identifiable attributes.”

Dark data

Mississauga, like other smart cities the world over, will seek to expand capabilities in order to meet future expectations of business and the public at large.

Exploiting so-called dark data – which is within reach but not currently being indexed, analysed and exploited – will be crucial and will require significant data-management support.

“Dark data is very important,” Slack says. “This is the data that can provide answers to the questions that you don’t know to ask. This is the foundational data for a smart city.”


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