Light Reading

Can Telcos Deliver 'Smart City as a Service'?

Heavy Lifting Analyst Notes
Heavy Lifting Analyst Notes
Heavy Lifting Analyst Notes

The "smart city" sounds like a great idea, but it doesn't really exist in any meaningful sense. The smart city is actually a collection of information and communications technology (ICT)-enabled applications, primarily in the domains of public utilities, transportation and traffic management, citizen interaction with government, education and energy use, with some applications joined together in one of many various ways to increase effectiveness. Most technology vendors' smart-city solutions are really just collections of public-sector or enterprise offerings gathered together into a convenient, and carefully thought-out, marketing concept.

What underpins smartness in those cities that come closest to achieving a complete vision is pervasive, dense networks of connected sensors, actuators and other devices -- in other words, the Internet of Things pressed into the service of multiple domains of city life, work and administration. Once this is grasped, it becomes clearer that telcos have an opportunity to enable increasing smartness in cities: The fundamental enablers of a smart city aren't any of the application domains; they are the network and the platforms.

Telcos already have the networks and some of the platforms needed, and they know how to develop and extend both of these assets and turn them into services. In this way, they convert ICT capex into opex for the city, removing at a stroke one of the key barriers to smart-city investment: high upfront cost. Telcos can deliver essential smart-city platforms of sensor and actuator networks, data collection, mediation and analysis and delivery, device management, business intelligence, rating and charging to any or all of the application domains. They are essentially delivering the smart city "as a service" -- or, more accurately, a "smart-city infrastructure as a service." (Let's face it: Telcos aren't that good at developing applications.)

They can't do it all themselves; they'll need help from partners (especially in the area of data analytics and dashboard and decision-making solutions), but they have a great opportunity for platform plays in smart cities. And because the networks needed by many smart-city applications must be resilient, robust and available, and many of the most significant applications will involve things that don't move -- such as buildings -- wireline operators have an opportunity as well as wireless operators.

The newest Heavy Reading Insider, "Smart Cities: The Opportunity for Wireline Network Operators," delves into what a "smart city" really is, identifies exemplar developments, proposes a simple model of a smart city and its components, and shows how islands of smart technology and processes can be joined together. It summarizes the relevant smart-city products, services and solutions of several leading technology providers, indicating which are sold direct to city authorities and which can be used by wireline operators to help build a compelling smart-city solution of their own. Finally, it profiles eight technology vendors and describes the activities of three network operators taking different approaches to capturing the opportunities presented by smart cities.

— Danny Dicks, Analyst, Heavy Reading Insider

Smart Cities: The Opportunity for Wireline Network Operators, a 26-page report, is available as part of an annual subscription (12 monthly issues) to Heavy Reading Insider, priced at $1,595. This report is available for $900. To subscribe, please visit:

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