People have been saying for a long time that smart cities will revolutionize how we live. Today’s smart city applications are beginning to prove those predictions to be true. But the real disruption will come with 5G, which is going to transform the city into a dynamic platform that can support a vast array of digital solutions and personalized services.
While the smart city evolution began and will continue with 4G/LTE networks enabling “anywhere broadband connectivity,” 5G will be needed to bring some smart city services to their next level of performance or scale.
It will give cities the capacity to seamlessly connect millions of sensors, share rich content amongst users and launch new, digital services. It will enable smarter, more streamlined operations and support rich, real-time human-critical communications for public safety and other critical city services. We also believe that 5G will help create a new generation of digitally enabled services.
4G/LTE provides a direct evolutionary path to 5G. Municipalities that start thinking about how they can benefit from 5G now will be ready to seize future opportunities when needed.
5G: Three big leaps forward
At the heart of 5G is a combination of scalability and extreme performance that will bring significant new capabilities:
Leap #1: Data at the speed and scale of city life
Let’s look at an example. Today’s 4G/LTE mobile broadband technology can support dozens of real-time CCTV cameras transmitting in standard or even HD definition. But in the 5G “city as a platform” era, a vast network of cameras and other IoT devices will be utilized to serve a much wider range of functions, demanding new degrees of network scalability and more powerful ways of analyzing the massive volumes of data these additional cameras will produce.
Extreme performance will be essential as more of those devices will be mobile — attached to vehicles, transportation systems and personnel — and used increasingly for applications related to public safety, security and traffic or crowd management or to identify critical citizen needs. Migrating to 5G will allow communities to deploy vast, interlinked, citywide networks of fixed and mobile ultra-high-definition cameras and other sensors with the resolution to track assets, locate stolen vehicles, coordinate hundreds of first responders in real-time, manage crossroads, analyze traffic movements, optimize city assets and more.
Leap #2: Human-critical systems that deliver new levels of performance
As smart city systems become much more sophisticated and involved in critical, real-time automated citywide functions, they’ll need to be more reliable and exhibit lower latency. Today’s 4G latency is a remarkable <10ms. Latency in 5G will be pushed even lower, enabling a whole range of very high precision applications: remote surgeries that allow doctors to operate on patients in far-off locations using robotics and haptic touch feedback; autonomous vehicles that conduct remote repairs on dangerous or difficult-to-access municipal infrastructure; augmented reality eyewear that delivers real-time assistance to law enforcement or firefighters in emergency situations; and many other community-enhancing scenarios that are yet to be dreamed.
Leap #3: Harnessing the potential of an unlimited Internet of Things
Cities will more and more rely on a growing number of sensor and communication-enabled city infrastructure “things.” The ever-expanding Internet of Things (IoT) — and the rapid adoption of IoT devices will allow control of every city asset to the point where cities will need a more scalable and efficient way of supporting these millions of very different sensors.
With a 5G-enabled smart city, the operations and infrastructure can effectively handle the vast variety of sensor-enabled applications desired – monitoring everything from road temperature, to air quality, power and water consumption to smart traffic lights, waste bins, vehicles, city buildings, schools and more.
We will have the ability to start integrating the multiple complex business systems in which these IoT devices are embedded. Even though the applications have different network traffic profiles and priority requirements, with some functions perhaps more critical than others, 5G will ensure the network has the capacity, processing and control capabilities to effectively manage it all.
Nokia Bell Labs has identified distinct smart city use cases for 5G. These include everything from fixed–wireless access for smart homes to crosswalks that proactively warn vehicles about pedestrians, drones to improve first responders’ situational awareness and stadium-sized virtual reality entertainment events.
How will we realize these possibilities? The good news is cities don’t have to make the journey alone.
Partnerships and a solid blueprint will be the key to success
The 5G era is here. Service providers around the world are beginning to deploy their 5G networks — and, just as with 4G/LTE, they need access to municipal infrastructure to deploy their antennas. Because 5G has a higher antenna density than 4G, service providers will need even more urban spaces to deploy their equipment.
Cities that make their municipal infrastructure available will be in an excellent position to build strong collaborations with providers, giving them easy access the resulting 5G networks. In turn, providing cities with the foundation they need to build for a 5G-enabled smart city platform — for even smarter services with the opportunity and platform for continuous innovation.
Nokia’s Future X architecture for industry was developed to enable the full range of 5G smart city capabilities. We’ve established a strong practice to help cities plan their 5G digital transformations, speed up deployment and scale their smart city applications. Thinking today about the advanced possibilities of 5G will position visionary cities to reap the benefits of digital transformation sooner — revolutionizing municipal operations and enriching the lives of all their citizens.