Cities like Las Vegas increasingly venture into Internet of Things deployments with limited but specific targets -- smart lighting, parking or public safety to improve safety, commutes to improve air quality -- yet integrated, multi-departmental solutions remain a far-off goal for most.
The technologies themselves are capable and continually evolving, Mike Zeto, vice president and general manager of AT&T's Smart City business unit, told Broadband World News. But like large enterprises, city governments are complex organisms with multiple departments and professionals responsible for different pieces of an overall smart-city solution -- with purchasing a major, controlling factor at its hub, he said.
Connected lighting is one way cities are deploying IoT systems, Zeto told Light Reading during the AT&T Business Summit in September 2018. Only 1% of the nation's 38 million street lights are connected, he said. Adding connectivity improves residents' safety by delivering lighting when and where it is needed; saves cities' money on maintenance via automated alerts when bulbs fade or other components require attention and provide infrastructure for additional services including public WiFi, cameras for security and cellular nodes. (See AT&T's Zeto on Smart Cities: Let There Be Light.)
Even smaller cities like Dallas have approximately 47 departments or agencies, Zeto said, and larger metropolises can have more than 150 separate divisions. Each one has a responsibility to drive value for taxpayers and that's what they address, he said.
"They tend to really just be focused on their agency, their department, their silo if you will and what we've seen is that while cities are much more open to having one person in city government try to drive collaboration amongst the silos and agencies, procurement policy doesn't always allow for you to really solve the problems in a collaborative way, right," Zeto said. "It's not because the cities don't want to do it. It's because they're not set up to do it that way and it's not dissimilar from a very large company that has multiple business units. It's very difficult to drive synergies across business units -- or in a city's case across agencies -- because the structure of the municipality or of the business isn't really set to do that."
Unlike enterprises, cities often share their successes (and failures) with peers across the country -- and world. This should accelerate smart-city solution adoption and, eventually, their move to platforms that enable cities to integrate multiple IoT-powered departments or services, said Zeto. While knowledge sharing most likely won't impact interoperability testing, it should curtail the need for some pilots for proven solutions, he said.
In a nation with about 20,000 cities, according to AT&T, reducing time to deployment by a week or two could dramatically impact millions of residents, businesses and agencies.
Recent customers such as the City of Las Vegas, which is working with
AT&T and Ubicquia to pilot a smart lighting solution in its Innovation District, use an AT&T platform that manages multiple types of connectivity like fiber, 5G and WiFi, Zeto said. AT&T is leveraging its role as master systems integrator in smart city deployments and its development of multi-purpose platforms to prepare the area for using more IoT solutions in different departments and itself for a bigger role across the gambling mecca.
"If you're going to take five or six different types of solutions to solve different problems then you may want to develop a platform approach that allows you to take the data all into one place and see how interoperable things become," he said. "Cities are just starting to go there."
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