Smart means: communication, data, IoT…

A crucial aspect often gets forgotten about in smart city planning. Namely the physical connectivity for communication and data traffic in the whole city. In other words, the public infrastructure that unites everything:

  • digitized buildings and production plants
  • sensors and devices of the Internet of Things (IoT)
  • supply systems, transport and railways
  • cellular phone/WiFi antennas and mobile applications
  • exchanges and data centers above and below the asphalt

Just one example from the worldwide series of smart city model projects dealing with infrastructure and IoT. In the Portuguese model project «PlanIT Valley», it is assumed that on average more than 400 IoT sensors will be being used per inhabitant. This would allow a digital image of the city ecosystem to be generated. Providing, that is, that all data sources are well interconnected.

Fiber optic networks: foundation walls of a smart city

As R&M explains in its specialist magazine Connections No. 58, the digital infrastructures of a smart city cannot be networked by radio alone. Information and data volumes as well as time-critical applications are constantly increasing due to digitalization and urbanization. Ultimately, only a fiber optic infrastructure can meet the communication and performance requirements of a smart city. So fiber optic networks form the foundation walls of a smart city.

  • The news service TechTarget confirms: «Perhaps the greatest challenge for smart cities is the complexity of connectivity.»
  • The McKinsey Global Institute stresses: «Before a city can be smart, it has to be networked.»
  • In a survey, consultants Deloitte write: «Optical fibers are the lifeblood of 5G.» That means: 5G services depend on fiber optic cabling behind the antennas.
  • The Journal of Internet Services and Applications draws attention to the capacity issue: «When a smart city application is used across the board, it generates massive amounts of data traffic which can lead to serious performance problems in the underlying network infrastructure.»
Dubai Expo 2020

Dubai will be a real model for Smart Buildings and Smart Cities from October 2020 with the Expo.

Recommendation: open planning, networked thinking

R&M draws the following conclusions and recommendations from global observations, analyses and customer projects:

  • The master plan for a city must include the creation of closely-meshed fiber optic communication and data networks and the gradual replacement of obsolete networks. Network planning covers anything between 20 to 30 years. It is just as important as the planning of water, sewage, electricity and gas lines.
  • Network architectures for smart cities require an open planning concept because data traffic is going to continue to develop dynamically for decades. Where today a single fiber may suffice, tomorrow you may need multi-fiber cables with up to 256 fibers.
  • Radio and fixed networks, Fiber to the Antenna (FTTA) and Fiber to the Home (FTTH), lines for traffic regulation or the monitoring of supply lines can no longer be viewed independently of one another. In terms of planning, the ideal solution is a city-wide, application-independent Universal Fiber Grid (UFG).
  • It is useful to think in a “networked” manner. Infrastructures, requirements and functions can already be bundled in the planning phases. Cities and providers could work together in the process, for example in the form of Public Private Partnerships (PPP). Together, they make maximum use of their infrastructures and resources.

On the way to a smart city with a viable communications infrastructure, those involved will have to master both complex and small-scale tasks. The establishment of FO connections between 5G antennas and the backhaul network is a complex matter. Sometimes creative cabling routes have to be found in the most unusual places to be able to link in the dense antenna network and the active electronic sending equipment. Even highly complex IoT infrastructures have to be connected in a flexible way.

FTTX portfolio for the smart city

The fiber optic foundation walls of a smart city can be developed with R&M‘s FTTX portfolio. The modularly extendible, high-density FO distribution frame ODF-PRIME can act as the cornerstone. The versatile Polaris-boxes and the innovative SYNO dome closures connect and distribute the fibers in the field. The fiber optic cabling system can be extended or adjusted at a later date in a SYNO dome closure. This means small 5G radio cells and local IoT applications can be connected to the FO network later.

Smart City

When all levels from the physical network infrastructure under the asphalt to the digital image of the city work together, a Smart City is created.

R&M can draw on expertise from a range of smart city projects. The company’s know-how ranges from planning through the design of customized connection solutions to function verification and the management of FO cabling.