Smart Cities

Charter, US Ignite spark smart cities project

US Ignite, the non-profit group focused on the acceleration of smart cities initiatives, and the business services unit of Charter Communications have teamed up on a project in St. Petersburg, Fla. that will test out several use cases via a mix of wired and wireless network technologies.

The partnership, the first between Spectrum Enterprise and US Ignite, will focus on the St. Petersburg Innovation District, a designated area of downtown that is using new technologies to drive economic development and to explore qualify-of-life-improvements Spectrum Enterprise is enabling the project through a three-year grant (the amount of the grant is not being disclosed). (See Podcast: Building Smarter Cities.)

Charter and Spectrum Enterprise already offer 1-Gig speeds in most markets. But the partnership with US Ignite in St. Petersburg offers an opportunity to test a variety of smart applications and services that can run on those networks, Satya Parimi, group vice president, enterprise data products, Spectrum Enterprise, said.

1-Gig broadband is "last year's conversation," Parimi said, noting that the discussion has shifted to smart cities and applications that can take advantage of those speeds and capacities. (See Charter Nears Gigabit Finish Line.)

For the project in St. Petersburg, Spectrum Enterprise will enable apps using HFC and fiber, as well as an array of wireless and mobile network technologies.

Participants have a list of priorities to focus on for the smart cities project (US Ignite is playing a key role in the structure of the program). But there is "big interest" in smart lighting, solutions focused on public safety and public transportation, as well as requests from the city to develop education applications that rely on augmented and virtual reality technologies, Parimi said.

He said bandwidth and connectivity requirements of each smart cities application or service will help to determine which network technology to use. While video cameras could run off Charter's wired plant, the company will also use WiFi for components such as digital signage and connected kiosks, and will evaluate LoRaWAN for wireless monitors that don't require lots of bandwidth but do need long reach and long battery life. Spectrum Enterprise will also consider applications that can use 3.5GHz CBRS spectrum. (See CBRS Inches Forward With Tests (AT&T, Charter) & Devices (Samsung), Cable, Mobile Prepping for CBRS – Analyst and Can LoRa Withstand the Cellular Stampede?)

"There's a number of different connectivity options we're looking at," Parimi said.

He said the smart cities initiative goes well beyond connectivity, as it will lean heavily on partners and a larger technology ecosystem. For example, yet-to-be-announced partners will be tapped for such elements as IoT sensors, connected cameras and other devices, and the resulting system will hook into an analytics and data management platform, Parimi noted.

"The technology is there, [and] the intent is there from the city," he added, calling the Innovation District in St. Petersburg a "very motivated partner."

"We think now is the right time to start looking at these partnerships and how we can innovate together," he added.

Parimi said the St. Petersburg project will provide a "good halo effect" because what is learned there will be transferable to other smart cities projects that Spectrum Enterprise has underway or will be pursuing in other markets.

— Jeff Baumgartner, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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