Can you imagine a major metropolitan area without traffic? Or poorly lit side streets? How about a city that gave you a strong public Wi-Fi connection whether you were riding a subway or standing at the top of a skyscraper? If you’ve been dreaming of a city with the infrastructure to match the technological developments that have emerged in the past few years, you may not have to wait much longer.
Around the world, city officials are beginning to adapt to the times, leveraging connectivity solutions to integrate major segments of their metro-area infrastructure into the growing Internet of Things (IoT) network to build “smart cities.”
But while government officials and citizens alike are dazzled by the potential impact of a connected city on daily life, more attention needs to be paid to what’s happening below the surface.
Without a strong fiber optic network underground, smart devices may not work to their full potential.
Governments that want to get serious about smart city developments should consider taking stock of their existing fiber infrastructure. Even if projects planned for the immediate future have all the bandwidth they need, the growth of the Internet of Things (IoT) is all but linear—meaning that city planners should think ahead and prepare for an exponential need for fiber optics in the long-term. But given the wildly fluctuating state of smart city deployments, how can infrastructure needs be appropriated effectively?
Repeatedly breaking ground to lay new fiber is an inefficient and can lead to congestion in crowded areas. Instead, city planners need to move forward with a long-term strategy that will limit the need to continually break ground.
To that end, city planners could consider supplementing current fiber optic networks with dark fiber.
One city that seems poised to take the lead in this area is Boston. The city recently invested $300 million to replace copper cable with fiber optics throughout the metro area. The new network will expand broadband access for all Bostonians, as well as support a trial project that will use smart traffic signals to reduce congestion on some of the city’s most crowded streets.
As the rollout proceeds, Boston intends to integrate more applications into its smart city network, ranging from environmental sensors to security systems. Time will tell whether the city has taken adequate steps to lay the framework for its smart city ambitions; should the trials go well, Boston may become the standard for other cities around the country.