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What goes on below Smart Cities?

Wed 7 Oct 2020 | Jonathan Leppard

It’s never been more important to understand the internet and cloud computing architectures powering Smart Cities — and how they can create business risks

Smart City initiatives are game changing. New ones are continually cropping up, and most are so seamlessly integrated into our daily lives that they are often imperceptible as ‘smart technology’ at first glance. In the UK, there are brilliant projects such as ‘tapping in’ to London’s transport system with mobile phones – even after they’ve run out of battery – and replacing old street furniture such as lamp posts with their smart counterparts, which can provide cities with much more than just light.

These initiatives are used all across the country through schemes like Manchester’s Triangulum and Future City Glasgow. Creating smarter and more sustainable environments using data and technology is a large focus for governments today. There’s a lot of well-intentioned focus on creating beautifully lit cities with smart traffic lights, or cloud-powered applications.

However, much of the public aren’t fully aware of how many day to day interactions with their environment will be technology-driven or technology-dependent. And of greater concern, what happens when these technology systems fail? It can have catastrophic consequences. This means high stakes for technology solutions powering the back end of these projects.

For business leaders who are both creating and implementing these solutions, it is becoming ever more imperative to find out more about the backbone of IoT devices connected over the internet and cloud computing architectures that these cities run on, and how they can create business risks. For data centre operators, this means they have to be at the top of their game while coping with the increasing pressure to perform reliably.

Shining a light on the infrastructure

Going back to the next generation of lamp posts, one example of this is the Smart Pole. It is incredibly powerful and a fundamental part of creating a smart, connected city as its capability goes far beyond simply providing light when we need it. These poles help to give the public a better quality of living as they include air quality sensors, public WiFi, cameras, electric vehicle charge points, and even the potential for 5G rollout.

Technology such as this offers a platform for companies to move to a more digital offering, especially following the lockdown. Banks are seeing increased mobile app users, and even medical systems such as track and trace benefits from a more connected city as free public WiFi enables more people to get online. However, as these connected devices require more data points, it also places a great deal of pressure on the back end infrastructure that makes a Smart City work. This is where data centre operators need to be on top of their game.

Data centre downtime can have a huge impact on businesses. Yet independent research, commissioned by Future Facilities, found that one third of data centres’ temperature is being managed using the rule of thumb. 40% have suffered outages in their data centre because of human error, and this is a figure that is set to grow unless changes are made.

It’s mutually beneficial for both the data centre managers and those businesses who are their customers, for data centres to operate with a high level of efficiency. Having minimal risk of downtime ensures that data centres can support our Smart Cities in operating reliably and at scale, as well as the companies working within that city.

This is crucial as we continue to develop Smart Cities that are more sustainable and accessible than ever before. For the data centre operators, it ensures that they win and retain the contracts that are powering Smart Cities, and building the future of the public sector.

Keep cities running smoothly

The digital twin is one powerful tool which is used to keep our Smart Cities running smoothly. As demonstrated by CityZenith at the World Economic Forum last year, digital twins of individual assets are used for the real-time monitoring, remote control of systems, scenario-testing and strategic planning of entire cities. Diving even deeper below the Smart City, it’s also incredibly important to keep our data centres running efficiently.

In the pursuit of the optimal data centre setup, digital simulation gives operators the freedom to make mistakes and try again. This balances saving energy and cost whilst maximising performance, before changes are implemented in the physical data centre itself. Saving money both in designing and operating a data centre helps operators to reduce the chances of downtime and manage load variation. Ultimately, it keeps the operations running smoothly, customers happy and loyal and the business running at a profit.

A sustainable environment

Another key focus for Smart Cities is increasing the levels of sustainability, and reducing environmental impact. While some data centres are powered by greener energy sources, the industry as a whole still has work to do in order to meet the goals of reduced energy usage to truly have a smart and sustainable city.

Using the digital twin to ensure the data centre operates at optimal levels of capacity will also contribute to the reduction of the overall carbon footprint, which again is mutually beneficial for both the data centre and the businesses using it. It results in benefits such as meeting Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for both the Smart City and individual businesses. This is especially important as recent research shows that 88% of consumers are loyal to companies that not only care about their effect on society and the environment, but play an active role in reducing their carbon footprint.

As business leaders prioritise learning about the business and environmental benefits of more efficient data centres, it’s time for operators to maximise their data centre efficiency. Only by doing so will they unlock; increased customer loyalty, higher employee retention and even reduced running costs for the business as they tap into the world of Smart Cities.

Experts featured:

Jonathan Leppard

Future Facilities


infrastructure smart cities
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