Dermot O’Connell, VP and GM OEM and IOT Solutions EMEA, Dell EMC, explains what the smart cities of the future will look like and what it will take to get there.

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An occasional series of vendor perspectives on the world of connected business.

It is incredible to think that 70 years ago there were just 751 million people living in urban areas. That figure has now grown to almost 4.3 billion. The United Nations predicts urbanisation will continue to increase exponentially, with 68 percent of us expected to live in an urban landscape by 2050 – that’s another 2.5 billion people to accommodate.

When you take into account that only three percent of the world’s landmass is taken up by urban development, you’d be excused for questioning just how exactly we are going to cope with the number of people flocking to cities around the world.

How can we avoid detrimental outcomes and ensure that our quality of life is enhanced? And how can we start to future-proof our cities?

Digital technology will play a major role. It has the power to transform our cities, enabling us to optimise and better allocate resources to provide a safe and sustainable environment with a better experience for inhabitants.

Imagine transport that is no longer chaotic but carries us in comfort; and infrastructure that is intelligent and cohesive, rather than clunky and disconnected. Technologies such as 5G, data analytics, cloud and edge computing, Internet of Things (IoT) devices, and autonomous vehicles will all be critical in harnessing the potential of our urban areas.

The future smart city

Connected technologies for improved safety through surveillance; intelligent innovations for the environment; and more convenient, intuitive services when visiting and travelling around will all be vital to the future smart city.

Enhancing security and combating crime is an increasing priority for cities across the world and one method to achieve this is through surveillance. Surveillance technologies are increasingly applying machine learning (ML) to cost-effectively monitor events in the physical world and automate decision?making.

In this way, any connected machine can instantaneously take an action based on what a camera ‘sees’.

The huge amount of video data coming from these surveillance technologies and high-resolution video cameras – plus technologies such as body-worn and vehicle-mounted cameras, drones, and license plate readers – means that the next few years will see 3.3 trillion captured video hours globally. Connecting this across cities will become vital to protecting people, and aiding fraud protection and counterterrorism efforts.

Smart cities will also be better able to address growing environmental pressures by reducing air and water pollution, as well as upgrading the energy efficiency of the entire city.

From eco-buildings and smart street lighting, to investing in circular waste management systems and placing sensors on public bins, urban-living will be improved by utilising data to drive efficiencies and low-energy use.

In the domestic life of a smart city, insights from data can be used to improve the population’s health, with virtual doctors and alerts, as well as help emergency services respond faster, thanks to the improved traffic flow generated by real-time traffic information.

Revenue from tourism will likely be boosted as connected information about a city’s culture and events becomes more dynamic and accessible anywhere, anytime and by anyone.

Data-powered cities

Fulfilling a smart city vision is no small task. It goes far beyond a short term, tactical digitisation of public services that can be accessed online.

A smart city creates new interactions between city service providers and citizens in order to find new solutions to improve living conditions. A ‘one size fits all’ approach will not work. Every city has its own specific set of requirements, based on its history, topology, political system and cultural diversity.

What does work for all is taking a bottom-up approach, rather than top-down, as much of the process is incremental. It will likely be more successful to start with a single building or street and then make informed digital technology choices for infrastructure upgrades that provide a foundation for further expansion.

At the heart of it all, of course, is data. Every day we create 2.5 quintillion bytes of data and this will only accelerate as IoT technologies become even more sophisticated.

The sheer volume of data generated from always-on communications, IoT devices, sensors and actuators, video devices and social media is driving the need for platforms with massive storage capacity. As well as the demand for tools that can gather and analyse real-time data patterns and flows to draw out valuable meaning from the captured information.

If we are to have any hope of creating fully-integrated seamless smart cities, which benefit from connected communications networks and a wide variety of smart applications and data, we must understand how these technologies and solutions work together.

Open platforms, for example, are now becoming vitally important. Only by going beyond traditional storage architecture and moving away from the mainframe will businesses be able to scale and support future growth.

Data lakes are also eliminating disparate storage silos by consolidating data into a single shared repository, with access across multiple traditional and cloud-native applications. Data lakes can be extended from the core, to the edge, to the cloud for optimum scale-out, software-defined, and cloud-enabled architectures.

Connected systems’ vulnerability to hacking must also be addressed. Organisations and individuals will need robust approaches to protect against ransomware, APTs, DDOS attacks and insider threats.

For example, those at the cutting edge of IoT surveillance are now designing products with built-in security measures such as micro-segmentation (NSX-T), and have the ability to push over-the-air (OTA) updates and security patches in real-time to all surveillance devices – from camera to cloud.

Organisations well equipped to advise on how best to secure the entire connected infrastructure, from the physical equipment through to the data it records, will certainly be sought after.

Urban transformation

Technology and data will completely reshape how our cities operate and appear. By taking an integrated, holistic approach to technology and data, and partnering with the right technology providers, organisations can effectively police and manage urbanisation, revolutionise mobility, minimise environmental impact, and most importantly, improve the quality of life for citizens of the future.

Internet of Business says: This opinion piece has been provided by Dell, and not by our independent editorial team.