Considerations for Smart City IoT Deployment
by Ken Dulaney
IoT has always been a singular concept for many, but those simple three letters can mislead about the true difficulty involved in deploying and managing the technologies under that umbrella term. IoT is a myriad of vendors, technology choices, security options and many other components. Complexity and lack of IoT governance stand out as key constraints.
IoT for the Smart City
Given that many city deployments will be initiated by immediate needs, they remain burdened by IT cost containment and other resource constraints. This can lead to chaos, dragging down benefits and embarrassing those who advocate and maintain IoT within any smart city.
Understanding the categories of IoT, the deployment layers, the security and management models, and the vendor landscape is of paramount importance. ANY deployment of IoT should address how it fits into a city-wide model, and how it will evolve to comply or be replaced where it will not completely overlay onto that model.
Below is a common deployment model used for IoT implementations:
Sensors can be divided into several categories. Environmental sensors measure physical conditions that help to control and manage indoor and outdoor areas. The weather is one physical condition that must be widely measured within any smart city. Environmental sensors can also include chemical sensors such as those found in air quality sensors. Biological sensors monitor things about the population within the city. They may include police body cameras but also human health monitors. Electrical sensors monitor things that are connected to the electrical grid and can include home power monitoring, city lights, etc. Hydraulic sensors measure liquids and are key in managing city water and sewer. Identification sensors include those items that cover building security, city payments, and access to services. Motion and presence sensors are based on camera technology increasingly being deployed to monitor crime. They can be used to monitor any type of city-wide activity. And there is likely another category of sensor that does not fit neatly into the above definitions.
Networks can be wired or wireless, public or private. Cellular and Wi-Fi are the most well-known networks but there are also specialty networks that may have unique characteristics such as long range combined limited bandwidth. All networks have differing cost components, and this is usually the main criteria for selection of one over the other. All networks considered by smart cities must address high levels of encryption.
The middleware is probably the most active and dynamically changing of all the layer markets. IoT has the potential to swamp networks, storage facilities, and applications with information. Middleware deployed anywhere between the edge and a central location is key in ferreting out redundant, irrelevant, or erroneous data. AI is often a key component in accomplishing this task. Middleware also performs information transformation so that it can presented to applications in an appropriate format. Format transformation is also important to correlate information from multiple sensors that may be delivered from varying vendors with differing technology stacks. Middleware vendors are constantly challenged to incorporate information from a plethora of sensor providers and must also be aware of market changes in the application layer.
The applications are where true business value is derived. Thus, there are not many common themes that must be addressed that wouldn’t be evaluated in the selection of any business application. However, given IoT is an emerging market and will be for some time, the vendors in this space may present more risk than in other more establish business segments.
The business layer should cover the ROI to the city and its citizens. Citizens must play a strong role in the prioritization and funding of any IoT concept. The citizens and the city governing body must both be involved and take responsibility for the project. Cities should look at IoT deployment as offering new business opportunities to maintain city viability (and thus the tax roles upon which the city depends). There may be social or economic benefits to the city. Underserved communities may benefit, and the city may see IoT deployment as a cost saving or to make up where there are insufficient resources to meet needs. Cities may find they can make sounder business decisions because of the data that IoT devices can collect. There are of course many other rationales too numerous to detail herein.
Smart cities must use a master technology architecture for all IoT deployments. Use the layers described herein as a basis for that architecture. When selecting a solution to meet any smart city IoT need, ensure that all products are evaluated across all architectural layers. Place commonality of solutions across the layers as much as possible as IoT can easily increase the complexity of any layer as a result of vendor solutions that implement unique stacks.