Why an F1 approach is needed for successful smart cities
The smart city landscape is set to be a crowded one and with good reason. There is a huge opportunity for a wide variety of solutions to make a tangible impact on the efficiency of municipalities across the world. From smart rubbish collection to smart utility management there are numerous applications with the potential to improve everyday life and maximize resources and as a market still in its infancy, there is lots of scope for start-ups and challengers to make their mark. But what has that got to do with F1?
Efficiency is key
F1 cars aim to be the peak of engineering precision and perfection. Every efficiency gain counts and the reward for optimization is big. Smart cities, although performing in a very different arena, are faced with the same challenge. Every increment away from maximum efficiency, impacts the viability of the solutions. That can range from not achieving the maximum cost efficiency, to not delivering the best in actionable data. One of the most fundamental aspects to get right for a connected city, is understandably the connectivity.
Connectivity will be the life blood of smart cities, allowing data to be collected, transmitted and used to improve various aspects of everyday life. Therefore, it is pivotal that this works seamlessly and although this is easy to get right in a test bed setting, when connectivity moves into the real world, it encounters significantly more problems. From interference from existing infrastructure, to the problem of delivering wide spread 5G coverage in a dense urban environment, the connectivity that will power a smart city is far from simple. Applications will work on a variety of standards; WiFi, NB-IoT, 4G, 5G, Satellite – the connectivity landscape has never been more complicated, and fine-tuned F1 style efficiency has never been more critical.
The value of experts
Knowing the efficiency demands that come hand in hand with smart cities, next comes the question of how to achieve it. Smart city planners need to decide how to design their connected landscape and how to work with specialists to ensure projects are successful. True expertise can bring a lot to the table when looking to build the connectivity infrastructure for smart cities, but there are several ways to approach connected city planning – let’s consider the alternative options.
Firstly, build the infrastructure piecemeal. This is an understandable approach, it can on the surface appear to be the most cost effective. Take the equipment and data analytics software that is needed and cobble it together. Fundamentally, it will generate data that can be used, and once manual process can be made smart. However, the fragmentation of this approach is likely to result in problems down the line; interference, difficulties when troubleshooting problems, difficulties fine tuning the precise data that will have the most impact. Overall, the short-term cost benefit of a DIY approach, is not worth the long-term limitations it will bring to the functionality of smart cities.
The alternative is to take the Aston Martin approach. It is a name synonymous with cars, and perhaps James Bond. However, when it comes to their F1 vehicle it is not Aston Martin that makes the engine for the car – that is left to Mercedes. Likewise, the tyres are Perelli. Despite being one of the most recognizable car manufacturers in the world, the engineering of certain elements is outsourced to ensure the absolute best in performance. This approach makes significantly more sense when designing a smart city landscape than the DIY alternative. Particularly when it comes to the connectivity ecosystem we discussed, with so many options working in conjunction, ensuring an architecture that minimizes interference and optimizes the connectivity available for different applications is critical. The connectivity element of a smart city isn’t just a layer in the architecture, it is the foundation and without getting that element right, it is all but impossible to achieve the level of precision and efficiency needed for a successful smart city.
Play to your strengths
For city planners, and innovation teams looking to build smart city infrastructure from the ground up, there are a lot of potential pitfalls that need to be avoided. As with an F1 build, the key will be to ensure they are working with the right partners, that bring the right expertise to the table to deliver the best possible architecture that can support the solutions that will improve various aspects of city living. With the need for ROI high on the list of priorities there is understandably a real temptation to work with vendors positioning themselves as jack of all trades; offering enough on both the application and connectivity elements to fundamentally make things work. However, in the longer term, the efficiency gains that can be made by working with true experts at every level are significant enough to offset the higher upfront costs and will be the difference between being lapped by the competition and a podium finish.
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