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Can Standards-based Connectivity Deliver Smarter Streets?

To build the cities of tomorrow, urban planners and city authorities must tackle the challenges of today. Over half of the world’s population now lives in cities, according to the UN Population Division. By 2050, it’s estimated that around three-quarters will do so.

Top of mind right now is the global pandemic that continues to affect us. But, despite this, there’s a growing momentum to create safer, more affordable and environmentally friendly places to live and work for many reasons. The pandemic is only likely to accelerate new IoT initiatives and opportunities for smart innovation.

There’s the issue of public safety. In the US alone, we had the largest increase in homicides in 2020 since records began. Environmental and climate change concerns also top sociopolitical agendas, with energy consumption under greater scrutiny than ever before.

Street lighting in many of our cities is built on inefficient and out-dated technology, but has real potential to become the entry point for more ambitious smart city development. A street lighting canopy provides the network infrastructure to deploy other smart sensors and IoT applications, from electric vehicle charging to traffic flow.

But the key to unlocking this value is starting with the right type of network technology. It must serve a potentially large geographical area with reliable, robust and secure connectivity. It must offer budget-conscious city planners peace-of-mind that they won’t be stuck with stranded assets.

There are challenges to overcome in building smarter cities, including cybersecurity. Yet according to a recent study, this isn’t even on the priority list for some of the world’s most advanced smart cities. However, cybersecurity must be built into everything we do.

There’s also the challenge of building a network infrastructure that can scale to support millions of devices and evolve to meet the needs of future smart city applications. As you add more devices, it must be able to scale quickly and be highly resilient, capable of providing coverage even in the most challenging environments, like urban canyons and narrow alleys.

To cover the potentially large geographical area that smart city projects demand, field area networks (FANs) like Wi-SUN FAN offer the best option for sensor and actuator connectivity. A single, unified infrastructure works best to provide ubiquitous connectivity, as well as to simplify deployment, and ongoing management and maintenance, hence reducing both installation and operational costs.

The self-healing and self-forming nature of the network makes it flexible enough to deliver highly reliable connectivity. Devices on the network automatically re-route around temporary outages or areas of poor connectivity. With a P2P network, it also means everything can run locally if needed – empowering edge computing systems of ‘distributed intelligence’, which can offer cost and performance benefits over centralized ecosystems.

Open standards mean greater interoperability and plenty of alternative providers to choose from, so urban planners and city authorities can build for the long term and without fear of vendor lock-in. Better still, open standards mean smart city planners will have access to competitively priced, high-quality equipment today – and future innovations tomorrow.


We have truly entered the age of smart cities. This heralds a new era of innovation and change, with more connectivity than ever before. But with this comes great responsibility and ensuring the underlying technology is fit for purpose.

To read more Insights on this topic from Phil Beecher, visit: https://zpryme.com/insights/why-standards-based-connectivity-holds-the-key-to-smarter-streets-and-safer-roads/


Phil Beecher was a guest panellist on a Zpryme webinar, ‘IoT – The Connected City’, with Seth Henneman, AT&T, Senior Design Engineer; and Dominic Papa, Arizona Commerce Authority, Vice President of Smart State Initiatives; to discuss how intelligent cities are using connected devices to better serve citizens and lead to industrial advancements. To hear the panel discussion, visit: www.youtube.com/watch?v=kAx04W9RYt4


Photo: “Southwark Street at Night” by mhx is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0