A connected utopia in the ideal vision of a smart city and it is achievable, but given the challenges to overcome it will take some time and effort to get there, according to AT&T's Michael Zeto.
In part one of this Q&A with Telco Transformation, Michael Zeto, general manager and executive director of AT&T Smart Cities, IoT, explained what forces, aside from the technology itself, have to work together to make smart cities viable and how his company was taking a leadership position. (See AT&T's Zeto on Achieving the Smart City Vision.)
In part two, he talks about AT&T's smart cities pilot, the type of problems smart cities deployments solve and how smart cities will evolve. He also explained why, despite the significant advances of the past couple of years, the achievement of full smart city status is still farther down the road.
Telco Transformation: Can you talk about the AT&T Smart Cities framework?
Michael Zeto: As we announced in January 2016, our goal was to develop a methodology that would help cities break down silos and deploy multiple solutions in one place, as data aggregated together would add more value than siloed data. Spotlight cities talked about problems they were trying to address that could leverage IoT and smart city technology. We wanted to be very inclusive. We chose some cities like Atlanta Chicago and Dallas, and deployed multiple solutions in certain areas. On that basis, we were able to show proof of concept.
After applying three-to-five solutions in one place, we were able to see great benefits. In Atlanta, for example, motor safety and bicycle and pedestrian safety improved as a result of a connectivity and data analytics solution. Analyzing what the sensors and cameras picked up helped them understand the source of the problems and make the infrastructure investment that would help solve them. By bringing in the technology that could do that, we could work closely with the city to take a data first approach to strategic deployment of capital.
TT: What are the qualities people can expect to find in cities as they grow smarter? What role does AT&T play in that?
MZ: Citizens want a more livable city. That includes anything from driving cost efficiencies and making safer environments with things like LED lighting systems and automated traffic solutions -- to help people move easier from point A to point B -- and safer roads for pedestrians, bicycle riders and drivers. In a smart city you’d have connected cameras and sensors and streets.
Many are focused on sustainability now, which includes finding ways to decrease water loss, decrease energy usage and keep utility bills down. There is also concern about air quality. Having sensors that can deliver updates on that can, for example, allow a mother to know beforehand if there will be an issue for her kid with an allergy before setting out to a park. Having that information accessible helps solve a problem there. The idea is deriving insights from the data allows people to make informed decisions for the benefit of the city and the people in it.
Another problem that smart cities can help solve is the Digital Divide. That includes putting WiFi in public spaces, regardless of neighborhoods to increase access to the Internet for all. It also applies to using the Internet to improve neighborhoods.
For example, when we applied the AT&T Smart Cities framework program in Miami Bay public housing complexes, we worked in partnership with the mayor and CIO to set out LED lighting for a safer environment that was also more efficient. Though they had security cameras in place, they were not connected to stream live. We got them streaming on 4G, which improves security coverage in the housing complex and community center.
TT: What are the obstacles in the way of cities becoming smart?
MZ: You have to go out and touch something to deploy the connectivity and set it up, which takes time and can be disruptive to what is already in place and to traffic. Some cities in the Middle East or in Asia offer a greenfield opportunity to deploy technology when building the city from the ground up, which makes it possible to scale faster, especially where the government controls policies and funding.
In contrast, putting in smart city features in a city like New York, as in the case of LinkNYC, which seeks to generate revenue from advertising, involves a slow deployment process. The city had put in maybe several hundred kiosks over an 18-month period, and its goal was 7,500, so it will take three years to get through the deployment in a process that disrupts citizens and traffic.
TT: Are there any cities that already have reached the stage of what we could consider a paradigm of a smart city, or are they still works in progress?
MZ: Everything is still a work in progress. IBM coined the term "smart city" ten years ago, but that did not get any traction or scale until recently. In 2016 we started to see RFI and RFP around smart cities. Now, in 2018 and 2019, we are going to start to see driving things to scale. Having AT&T working very closely with utilities will help scale come a lot faster. We have relationships with cities extending back over 100 years, first as a telecom and then as a communications provider and now as we work on end-to-end solutions for smart cities.
Down the road, the carrier plays an important role as we start to deploy infrastructure for 5G to advance from the traditional manner of problem solving, which is 1.0, that typified city hall operations a decade to a dozen years ago to 2.0 and then 3.0. A couple of years ago, we began to advance to 2.0 as a result of adding in sensors technology and gaining understanding of how to improve things from aggregated and anonymized data. As we continue to move through 2.0, we will start to see more and more technology come in line deployed strategically using data to drive decision making and to launch smart project. But there are but not a lot of smart cities right now.
Now we are moving toward the 3.0 stage, as we are able to gather the data needed to shift from being reactive to being proactive. That is where everything is connected with data fed through drones, etc. that we should be seeing around 2025 or 2027 when 5G is deployed at scale and policy catches up to technology to provide unique value. That combination will bring about a utopia of the future. We see a Smart City 3.0 become a Jetsons vision in which everything is connected and autonomous.
TT: Would you say then that technology will lead to utopia?
MZ: Somebody has a vision and folks develop a strategy to execute that vision, and then, as it develops, that vision might change the natural evolution of innovation, I think. Innovation then drives competition, and that competition drives more innovation. And I hope that this cycle keeps up because that is how we keep improving, both from an offering and a society perspective. Socio-economic forces involved in the city will continue to evolve over time. All the players mentioned continue to revise that vision of what utopia will be.
— Ariella Brown, Contributing Writer, Telco Transformation