Connecting cities to smart future

“We would not say that smart electricity is a precursor to a smart city, but its implementation has taught us important lessons as we approach the age of the smart city,” remarks CJ Boguszewski, Global Commercial Director, Smart Cities and Street Lights, Silver Spring Networks
 Silver Spring Networks Inc. is one the leading networking platforms and solutions providers for smart energy networks. With its intelligent street lighting, traffic signal control and electric vehicle charging, the company is expanding the functionality of its smart infrastructure platform. In an exclusive interview with ACE Update, CJ Boguszewski shares how Silver Spring is building productive, hyper-connected, high-speed and sustainable urban environments that take modern cities to the smart future.
Smart electricity in smart citySilver Spring Networks defines its business as helping connect mission-critical infrastructure, which includes smart electricity. For over a decade, Silver Spring has been using its open standards-based network platform to connect devices in the energy sector for the smart grid, including making two-way electricity, gas and water smart metering possible, as well as other grid-edge and grid-side applications such as distribution automation, energy efficiency and demand response. With these massive, outdoor IPv6 network platforms, Silver Spring has connected over 20 million devices for some of the largest utilities and cities on the planet, across five continents. IPv6 has now become the default for the smart grid across the industry. Silver Spring Networks would not say that smart electricity is a precursor to a smart city, but its implementation has taught the company important lessons as we approach the age of the smart city.
Silver Spring is now applying these same concepts from smart electricity, where it has significant domain expertise — proven, reliable and scalable standards-based networking platforms — to connect critical infrastructure in other sectors, including in the smart city sector. Silver Spring sees smart electricity as one aspect of a smart city, but a crucial one. Electricity is a pillar of economic development, and its reliable delivery, measurement, and management are fundamental to urban dwellers and their quality of life. Smarter electricity helps achieve those aims, while enabling benefits like greater reliability, more consumer choice in managing energy usage, and ease of integrating distributed energy through smart energy platforms.
Building on that theme, cities are looking to modernise their city assets that can be a drain on their efficiency and savings, and better manage aspects of their urban environments on behalf of their residents. For instance, street lights can consume as much as 40 per cent of a city’s energy budget. By installing networked intelligent street lights, cities can save on operational and efficiency costs, while deploying a network platform that can be used to connect additional critical city assets in the future. Silver Spring has seen cities such as Copenhagen, Glasgow, Miami and Paris already deploying technology to help achieve their sustainability and energy-efficiency goals. Silver Spring innovationsSmart energy will make up 24 per cent of the total global smart city market in 2025, growing at a CAGR of 28.7 per cent from 2012-2025. That is an impressive growth number! Certainly, management of that growth will be absolutely fundamental to capturing benefits.  Silver Spring continues to invest research and development funds to address the emerging needs of cities. There are a great number of synergies between smart energy and smart cities. A modern energy grid is needed to power a 21st century smart city. Cities also need to “think horizontally”. A platform approach can help ensure that cities are able to add assets that needed now, while anticipating the need for additional applications, connected assets and smart city services in the future. There is no single entry application to becoming “smart” as a city.  In Silver Spring’s broad experience working with cities including Chicago, San Francisco and Singapore, a canopy network has proven to be an effective means to provide an on-ramp to a smart city. By starting with smart energy metering or smart lighting, other critical infrastructure applications in the next phase can be considered, with a fraction of the cost of implementing that application on a stand alone basis. Others, like Copenhagen, are deploying the network platform by leveraging the obvious returns of intelligent street lights.  This shows that any critical infrastructure application that is a priority for a city can be leveraged to create a long-term platform for infrastructure modernisation and efficiency, if chosen wisely.
Beyond this, Silver Spring has pioneered the adoption of IPv6 technology and focused on ensuring technology interoperability to guarantee higher quality, lower costs and fewer risks for consumers. Silver Spring has a broad ecosystem of more than 100 partners that can operate alongside a wide range of technologies from a number of global partners, including local partners in India and Asia. Silver Spring smart conceptsWith fast-growing economies on the rise, technology is becoming a catalyst to help cities overcome the pressures they face. These include, on top of the obvious trend of massive urbanisation, environmental sustainability, health and safety, traffic and transportation management, and supporting sustained economic growth. As an example, Paris is implementing the Silver Spring Smart City solution to help reduce public lighting energy consumption by 30 per cent over the next 10 years. As mentioned earlier, the company is also helping Copenhagen, often regarded as the world’s most sustainable city, to deploy a citywide canopy network to connect more than 20,000 street lights to encourage safer bicycle routes and usage. In other areas of the world, Silver Spring is helping cities connect applications including traffic controls, smart parking, pollution and disaster sensors, smart transportation networks, smart airports, and smart energy networks.  Cities today are competing not only regionally, but also on a global stage to create hubs for investment, jobs and tourism. They are faced with unprecedented budgetary pressures, coupled with the need to deliver enhanced services to their communities. Silver Spring offers its Smart City Network as a service offering, where it deploys, manages and operates a network on behalf of cities, allowing them to avoid upfront capital equipment and deployment costs, as well as reduce operational and management expenditures. In any city infrastructure upgrade, the goal is to cause the least amount of disruption possible. Removing the risk from the city via a common network deployed as a service can help alleviate this pressure now and in the future.
Supporting smart citiesTechnology is not an inhibitor to creating a smart city. Often, mapping the intricacies of bureaucracy can be a challenge, where neither a top-down “broadcasting” nor a “bottom-up” approach will solve the nuances. Silver Spring counsels its customers that the ‘how to deploy’ will often come by looking at things from a horizontal, platform perspective and to think about how to leverage a single smart city network for multiple applications. The ROI will be apparent and accelerated. The sooner the deployment starts, the sooner the returns will be realised. The organisations Silver Spring works with find that they are more efficient the sooner they begin sharing info across different departments. Having an open, standard network means the company is placed in the role of the strategic adviser, who can work with a local ecosystem or vendor and help prevent vendor lock-in. Mission ‘100 smart cities’India is really at a tipping point for smart cities. Government policy is steering smart city development in the region toward large, new builds. And smart grid projects are expected to leapfrog in the coming years, similar to the telecom industry’s dynamics in the past decade. The next step is to turn this rhetoric into action. Emphasis needs to be placed on the creation of a competitive business environment and procurement models that attract the world’s best innovation to help develop smarter cities in India. Long term, this will also mean creating strategic initiatives to build a productive, hyper-connected, high-speed and sustainable urban environment that brings the results to match the government’s desire.

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