Wi-Fi and the city: wirelessly supporting the growth of smart deployments
26 June 2017
As the global urban population continues to expand, strains on resources and infrastructure mean that city planners need to increase IT efficiency, creating and fostering smart city environments that support and enhance the overall living experience.
Nick Watson, VP EMEA, Ruckus Wireless
As the number of connected devices (currently at 28.4 billion globally) steadily increases, constant connectivity will be crucial to making smart city deployments a success. But we’re a long way away from this, with basic coverage issues still frustrating users. However, these are only symptoms of the wider problem. Networks aren’t equipped to deal with the exponential rise in data consumption and devices trying to connect. Instead, they are suffering from increased interference – the biggest challenge in Wi-Fi that Ruckus set out to solve 12 years ago.
Today’s smartphone-wielding consumers expect Wi-Fi to be available everywhere. If they aren’t impressed with the signal in the venues they are visiting, they may not return, ultimately harming revenue potential.
Implementing city-wide Wi-Fi is the first step in building “smart” cities, enabling citizens and businesses to have continuous two-way dialogues with their city. Establishing this conversation is key, but as Nick Watson, VP EMEA at Ruckus points out; “If you want to have a dialogue with anybody today, you’d better have technology that connects them properly”. Wi-Fi provides the foundation for this, supporting a vast array of applications used to collect data to help decision-makers.
The EU Referendum and US election served as a wake-up call to governments that they are out of touch with public opinion. The smart city vision involves a desire to engage on a meaningful level with citizens, enabling governments to tap into public needs and understand where to prioritise budgets. Technology brings people into the conversation, bridging divides between communities and governments and encouraging citizens to play an active role within local councils.
Implementing Wi-Fi, however, can create more problems than it solves. Signal interference harms performance and delays developments. This is caused when organisations try to fill coverage gaps with more access points in order to boost users’ ability to connect. But this results in signal overlaps that interfere with the connection.
Instead of adding more APs, intelligent technology is needed to manipulate Wi-Fi signals to target whoever needs it. This is how Ruckus mitigates interference, through its BeamFlex technology built into all of its APs.
Early adopters of smart city technology are already reaping the rewards. The City of York, for example, implemented a wireless infrastructure that allows various applications to be layered over it, from smart traffic control to advertising. The public-private partnership at the heart of this is key when it comes to potential funding models too. Another example is Hamburg, which five years ago enabled exhibition visitors to share photographs over Wi-Fi in one of the earliest European smart city deployments. Powered entirely by Ruckus, it proved a huge success. Additionally, in Paris, JC Decaux uses digital advertising as a way to engage with the hundreds of thousands of visitors to the 3,500 shops in the 6e arrondissement, tailoring promotions and local information to adapt to different languages.
The realisation that governments are out of touch contributed to the European Commission’s proposal to revamp telecoms networks and create public hot-spots. The WiFi4EU initiative, part of the Digital Agenda 2020, aims to meet growing connectivity needs and enable businesses to thrive in the growing digital economy through public access to wireless services. The increased funding for networks means that now is the time for cities to implement the networks that will enable them to become truly “smart”.
The challenge, says Nick, “is selecting the correct technology to give people the experience that they will want to continue using”. Cities need a technology partner to work closely with them to identify and meet all their Wi-Fi needs. The right network will enable a city to save money through increased efficiency (for example, smart traffic and energy systems, as well as optimal budget allocation) and generate additional revenue, by encouraging visitors to return, businesses to invest and people to take up residency.
Unlock your Smart City and build simply smarter connections today with Ruckus www.ruckuswireless.com