Narrowband IoT - Reliable Technology for the Smart City?

IoT Smart City

In the digital age, urban living space is changing fundamentally and the course is being set in the Internet of Things to withstand continued growth. According to the World Population Clock of the German Foundation for World Population, the number of people living on Earth was around 7.9 billion in August 2021. In the course of urbanization, more and more people are congregating in the major metropolises and their suburbs. Numerous megacities have sprung up, and as the number of inhabitants grows, so do the challenges for urban planning. Environmental pollution, demographic change, scarcity of resources, crowds of people - living together in metropolitan areas required forward-looking development concepts. Narrowband IoT is taking an important role in this. Welcome to the Smart City.

Where and why a smart city is the solution

Megacities are urban centers with more than 10 million residents . In 2022, there will be 31 of these megacities worldwide - 17 of them in Asia. Locally, the problems of global overpopulation have already become part of people’s everyday lives. The quality of life in Far Eastern metropolises is declining as rapidly as their energy consumption is rising. Traffic problems are pre-programmed in the exorbitant urban traffic for commuters. Overall, the local infrastructure of megacities is under immense strain - sometimes even on the verge of collapse every day. In the giant Asian cities, Smart City has gone from being a technological vision to a global solution for a more livable environment. Not least in order to achieve the climate targets set on European soil.

The smart city is an ecosystem full of digital utilities for the design and further development of urban living spaces. As urbanization continues to grow, existing infrastructures are quickly reaching their limits and new, digital use cases are needed for the analog processes at the breaking point. Thus, three personas are crucial for the realization of a smart city:

  • The network operators provide the technical infrastructure via fiber optic cables and 5G connectivity and are also system operators for coupling smart components such as smart lighting, smart charging for e-mobility, or even micro grids - the integration of decentralized energy producers.
  • The suppliers offer complete solutions from setting up a system to tariff billing and residential supply to rental electricity as direct or residual electricity. In the process, they also influence customers’ consumption behavior by developing smart products.
  • The metering point operators act as data hubs using smart metering and enable the establishment of further digital services through knowledge transfer.

In a smart city, innovative data switching technologies realize the systematic linking of everyday objects with the Internet. These smart devices increase operational efficiency, optimize the use of resources and make communication in public spaces much more effective. A case study around congested urban traffic: in the smart city, traffic conditions are intelligently managed. It’s not just navigation through the city center that’s digital. Even the signaling technology - e.g., at a street intersection - thinks for itself. As a result, transportation and traffic vehicles are guided through local traffic in a targeted manner, and traffic lights are oriented to capacity utilization. In the optimum case of e-cars or buses with fuel cells, the mobility concepts are sometimes almost carbon neutral.

Intelligent technologies in today’s smart city

In Europe, many local authorities are already using smart technologies to gain the upper hand in the fight against climate change. **Thus, the digital transformation in the smart city is having a direct impact on inner city development across the continent. After all, the concept of the digital city serves to improve the well-being of its citizens. Today, various development concepts have already been established that elevate a city to the status of a smart city:

  • Intelligent mobility: The smart city has intelligent traffic planning and management. This reduces congestion in city centers. The long-term goal is a CO2-free local transport network. Pollutant emissions are to be systematically reduced - e.g., through digital assistance in finding parking spaces in the city center.
  • Intelligent waste management: The waste management industry has developed trash cans that measure their fill levels independently. The first field trials are already underway.In this way, garbage disposal of the future could run exclusively along demand-oriented routes - including noticeable time and energy savings.
  • Intelligent street lighting:** As in waste management, this will help to save resources. Intelligent systems record brightness and traffic volume through the installed sensors. The data obtained is used to feed cloud-based software that switches local street lighting on and off or dims it as needed. In a field trial, this reduced electricity costs by around 70%. This is because the first smart street lighting systems are already under power in 2022 - for example in Helsinki (Finland).

Perfect connectivity through narrowband IoT and LTE-M

Internet of Things (IoT) technologies play a central role in the smart city. As smart devices, Internet-enabled devices communicate with each other via the mobile network. In the mass transit case study, they monitor traffic flow, control traffic light sequences, and open or close prioritized lanes. This makes the human footprint in the metropolitan ecosystem “greener” than before. But the multitude of smart devices needed for the digital city also requires excellent, wide-area network coverage.

Whether in hospitals, nursing homes or shopping malls, the deployment of narrowband IoT and LTE-M is making cities smart. Using narrowband communication (narrowband IoT), even remote and hard-to-reach areas are integrated into the Internet of Things. This is how the Internet of Things can make a difference in public spaces. By switching to public IoT solutions, personnel deployment and maintenance costs can be sustainably optimized.

Narrowband IoT and LTE-M ensure connectivity

The use of narrowband IoT technology via the LTE mobile network perfectly complements the development concept of the smart city. Narrowband IoT can also be used to integrate locations without their own power supply in a cost-saving and efficient manner. The key lies in the optimal mobile network utilization of narrowband compared with conventional IoT solutions. Specifically, this means longer battery life in battery mode and secure data transmission. With narrowband IoT and LTE-M, machine communication succeeds even in the remote corners of the smart city. The benefits of the technology in a nutshell:

  • Narrowband-IoT ensures the highest possible M2M network coverage.
  • With LTE-M, voice data can also be transmitted.
  • The signal strength of narrowband IoT and LTE-M is consistently good - from the basement to the top floors.

Narrowband IoT for smart products

Hamburg, Cologne, Duisburg, Berlin - the ““smart city”” principle is also increasingly becoming a model for the future for urban planning in Germany. Development concepts for smart metering, smart building or smart parking are already being incorporated into inner-city development in major cities. Intelligent elevators and heating systems, connected parking ticket machines or smart trash cans support efficient administration, climate protection in transportation or optimized traffic flows. The intention is the same everywhere: It is about introducing more process efficiency, transparency, and new services and business models. To achieve this, clear structures around the necessary resources and required competencies are enormously important.

In their strategy development for the smart city, IoT-ambitious municipalities should first define their thematic priorities. Is it a question of reducing energy consumption or relieving commuters in addition to the traffic situation? Do traffic problems predominate or is an innovative solution perhaps sought for controlling tolls? As a 100% subsidiary of Vodafone, grandcentrix is your local expert for organizing the digitization process with a focus on narrowband IoT. Want to know more? About the impact of Narrowband-IoT on Smart Metering, the Smart City and its Smart Buildings we have written a detailed whitepaper in close collaboration with our partner Device insight. In NARROWBAND-IOT FOR SMART PRODUCTS, the approach and benefits are highlighted in detail and explained using real use cases - e.g., through the digital out-of-bed system in collaboration with Stiegelmeyer.

Digital ranking for Germany’s major cities: the Smart City Index

Is there a local online citizen service? What is the quality and density of sharing services for mobility? Last but not least, the keyword “fiber optic cable”: what about local broadband availability? The Smart City Index provides clarity. To answer the questions, the experts at Bitkom Research collected, reviewed and qualified around 11,000 data points in five topic areas. The Digital Ranking is available for each major German city with a population of 100,000 or more. individually and the top 10 of the Smart City Index 2021 can be found here.