GRAPEVINE, Texas -- AT&T Business Summit -- Want to know how to understand the uptake of smart city technologies in the next few years? Well then, look up into the air!
Mike Zeto, GM of AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T)'s Smart City unit, says that the most obvious way that a person in the street will be able to observe the uptake of smart city technologies in the next five years is through updated LED light infrastructure.
"That's going to be the major adoption point," Zeto told Light Reading.
Street lighting, Zeto says, is one of the most obvious ways that cities can get connected. Of the 38 million street lights in the US, "less than 1% are connected," Zetto says.
While lighting infrastructure is being updated, Zetto says, the poles can be also be updated with public WiFi, cameras and sensors, as well as -- potentially -- cellular nodes. (See AT&T to Deploy Small Cells, Smart City Infrastructure in San Jose.)
Zeto started as general manager of AT&T's Smart City unit just over three years ago. He says that the evolving business started with "pilots" with cities, followed by initial requests for information (RFIs), then requests for proposals (RFPs) and large, paid pilots.
"Now you're beginning to see large RFPs come out, several hundred million dollars," Zeto says.
Zeto says that A&T now has 12 to 15 Smart City partnerships in place, including "roughly eight spotlight cities" and "two public/private partnerships." He notes that AT&T has "IoT... deployed in a lot more cities and states, though." (See AT&T's Smart City Ambitions Take Root and AT&T & City of San Jose Form Smart Cities Public-Private Partnership.)
"5G has been helping, frankly, for the last 12 months," says Zeto. Cities, he explains, want to be first with 5G, even if they don't get what it is yet.
Besides smart street lights, Zeto expects that cities will start to further deploy smart water and energy systems, waste management and traffic management and parking systems. These kinds of systems should all help to save money in the long term.
All of this should evolve in conjunction with systems like Vehicle to X (V2X) systems that will help feed more sophisticated traffic management systems. This is another area where 5G systems will likely come into play, with low latency and near instantaneous connections enabling applications like face recognition to come into play, where cities allow it. (See Verizon Shows the Shape of 5G to Come.)
The end-game Zeto sees is to allow cities to collect and utilize vast new troves of data. "When the cities figure out how to unlock all that data," he says, "they will be able to use it to offset the operating costs of smart city systems, and to generate other revenue."
— Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, Light Reading