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Looking at Smart Cities Through IoT Lens

The National Science Foundation (NSF) is committed to supporting the transformation of cities through the design, adaptation, and management of connected communities, as it has shown by designating approximately $100 million in smart cities-related grants.

The smart city end goal of improving the quality of life for all has merit, with "connected" being a keyword -- the NSF, for example, recognizes that citizens need access to gigabit-enabled networks and services. Network access, as well as the Internet of Things (IoT), big data, analytics, and sensors are smart city enablers. Potential benefits include cost reductions, resource optimization, public safety and efficiency improvements, and latency (human and process) reductions.

Separately, the IEEE has smart city developmental and educational efforts underway on initiatives such as:

  • Hazard notification systems
  • Buildings and sensor networks
  • Electric grid improvements
  • Next-generation health care systems
  • Community development
  • Education

While smart city initiatives promise positive impacts on local, state, and federal governments, they do come with security, interoperability, integration, and privacy challenges. In a recent report on trends in smart city development, the National League of Cities made the following prerequisites for municipalities planning smart city initiatives:

  • Well-defined objectives -- know how the collected data will address the challenges taken on
  • Partnerships -- offer benefits to all stakeholders (public and private)
  • Best practices -- follow and develop best practices in IT and non-IT areas to implement mature solutions
  • Evaluation -- look at the technology and how it addresses the problem or area of need, and evaluate the options before commitment

Enterprise network managers can learn from these recommendations, as well.

Wi-Fi privacy and security issues cannot be overlooked, for example, and having a plan means more testing and vetting of solutions for interoperability and integration into existing systems for management and reporting. Poor implementations may translate to disruption and loss of any benefit and balances between privacy and safety may be difficult. More time spent on discovery and planning stages should yield a better return on post installation efforts and avoid the erosion of stated benefits.

How the IoT in enterprise and the public sectors is maintained and secured will have direct impact on total cost of ownership and return on investment. The smart city challenges associated with IoT brings enterprise and the public sectors closer together, requiring collaboration and data sharing. This is more socialization of the network and collaboration between public and private entities.

Network administrators can get familiar with the planning systems and types of requirements of what is expected. For example, Johnson Controls engages in many levels that touch IT, as found in its guide, "Smarter, Safer, More Sustainable Buildings and Cities." IoT presents many challenges for smart cities, but the payoffs and rewards have potential positive impact for everyone.

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