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Connecting smart cities the smart way

Michael Lok, Managing Director, South East Asia, Ruckus Wireless | Sept. 24, 2014
There is an emerging need and importance of Wi-Fi for modern cities, and here are some of the factors to consider for implementation.

Interest in connecting venues and vehicles is growing as more countries in the Asia Pacific region, one of the largest and fastest-growing urban regions in the world, invest in creating smart cities. According to Navigant Research, annual smart city technology investment in Asia Pacific will almost quadruple by 2023, reaching US$11.3 billion. India has recently announced that its plan to build a hundred smart cities, while Singapore has announced that it wants to be the world's first Smart Nation underpinned by a Smart National Platform that brings together a nationwide sensor network and data analytics abilities.

Smart cities promise better and healthier urban environments through the adoption of city-based applications enabled by low-power, ruggedized environmental sensors and wireless connectivity. A smart city can be run more efficiently than a traditional city as municipal authorities will be able to monitor more aspects of the city on real-time basis and respond accordingly.  These include sensors that are able to send alerts when traffic or crowds are building up, or if there are malfunctions in the water or the electricity supply, and ensure that information services about city facilities that are always up-to-date.

Smart Cities do not have to rely on static sensors, either. Wi-Fi services are now increasingly common as part-free, or paid services available in major venues such as airports and sports stadiums, and on public transport hubs in Asia. Ground transport operators are competing with airlines through offering Wi-Fi services, which can already be enjoyed in trains and stations in Malaysia, Indonesia, Japan, and Korea. Most recently, free Wi-Fi in selected Singapore mass rapid transit stations was announced in August 2014.

In many large Asian cities, millions of passengers may pass through multiple transport hubs such as airports, train and bus stations, and subway systems every day. As smart mobile device ownership grows across the region, these passengers very often demand timely access to essential information such as the weather, air quality, public transportation situation, schedules and location-related guidance as they make use of these facilities.

Wi-Fi is an ideal method for conveying such information, and would also support operational needs such as points-of-sale, shipping and logistics, digital signage and video security. Homeland security could also receive a boost from Wi-Fi-based Smart City initiatives.

Wi-Fi could also provide a platform for new revenue generating services. With 3G and 4G networks reaching peak capacities, Wi-Fi is seen by many telecom operators as an effective alternative for offloading mobile data traffic for a variety of data-intensive applications, both from end users and for Smart Cities. And besides revenue generation through Wi-Fi access and 3G/4G offload, associated Wi-Fi technologies could also bring about new revenue streams. Technology is now available for accurate indoor location positioning, for example, which could track user footfall and indirectly interest in various locations, as well as enable delivery of targeted location-based advertisements.


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