Smart City

Smart City Sentinel

The Applications and Benefits of Broadband in Smart Cities

By Matthew Vulpis

The expansion of high-speed broadband is on track for significant growth in 2022 thanks to the recently signed US bipartisan infrastructure bill, which includes $65 billion over ten years to finance access for rural America.  

The bill is expected to help broadband spread to every corner of the country, close the digital divide, and give high-speed Internet access to the reported 42 million Americans who have been without.

Defined as minimum 25 megabits per second (Mbps) download speed and 3 Mbps upload speed, a major reason why high-speed broadband is a priority for many is the critical role it plays in the use of innovative new devices and applications. Edge technology, as well as Internet of Things (IoT) devices, both require high-speed internet access to work and communicate in real-time with each other.

"While we've been making steady progress in bringing high-speed broadband to homes and organizations in the US and globally over the last several years, the passage of the infrastructure bill will provide a much-needed boost, especially in underserved rural communities where the opportunity to modernize everything from education and healthcare to farms and factories will generate a better standard of living and contribute to global competitiveness," said Natasha Tamaskar, Head of Global Marketing, Business Strategy and Digital Endpoints Business for Radisys, a leader in open telecom solutions and member of the Reliance Industries portfolio.

By obtaining access to high-speed broadband, cities and communities across the country would be able to leverage these new technologies for their own benefit. One subset of technology which greatly benefits communities with broadband access is SMART technology.

The word "SMART" refers to "self-monitoring, analysis, and reporting technology," which is a technology utilizing artificial intelligence, machine learning, and data analysis, to provide cognitive awareness to objects previously considered inanimate. With the use of SMART technology, cities and communities can transform themselves into "smart cities." With the help of broadband, smart cities can leverage information and communication technologies to enhance service levels, citizen well-being, sustainability, and economic development.

"The global pandemic taught us many things, including the importance of connectivity and resilience," Tamaskar said. "We witnessed the accelerated adoption of technologies including online collaboration when families were forced to learn and work from home, telemedicine applications that made the delivery of care faster, safer, and less expensive, while also driving innovation in areas including remote field service and automation. While affordable and secure access to the Internet won't solve all challenges rural communities are facing, it will change forever how families and businesses can prosper, and government agencies can serve more efficiently and effectively."

Broadband plays a critical role in the development of both large-scale smart cities and smaller-scale smart communities. Broadband enabled smart technology use cases, and their benefits have already been found in a multitude of urban and rural areas throughout the country. For instance, broadband access can provide low-cost, secure connectivity for IoT applications for a variety of your average city objects. Networked LED Street Lighting can lead to a 25-50 percent reduction in operations and energy costs.

"Broadband access not only helps bridge the digital divide that plagues over ten percent of the country but also helps with long-term community growth," Tamaskar said. "Going beyond the traditionally conceived smart connected schools and libraries, an educated workforce, virtual medical services, and more efficient use of resources, it will be possible for the agricultural industry to benefit from sensor-based solutions, making it much easier to manage everything from frost and fire protection to controlling irrigation, soil conditions including nutrients, and more efficient planting and harvesting. Automation on farms, including remote-controlled driverless tractors, shows great promise in making farming more profitable and contributing to the reduction of food insecurity across America."

Overall, the only way to truly drive the expansion and use of smart technology is to expand access to high-speed broadband internet first because, without it, smart technology cannot be leveraged to unleash its true, real-time potential. And with both federal and private aid on the way in the pursuit of a country with full broadband access, the expansion of smart communities, both rural and urban, is sure to take off across America at the same time.

"The passage of the bill presents an ideal opportunity for the public and private sectors to partner," Tamaskar explained, "including leveraging the many benefits of open telecom and technologies. With the $65 billion in funding assigned to improving broadband infrastructure and additional funding included in the FCC's Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF), we are finally getting closer to connecting every family, agency, business, and organization in the US – collective wisdom and planning will be key to ensuring a strong and lasting ROI for many decades to come."

Edited by Luke Bellos
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