Deep thinking about the future of Smart Cities

Build it smarter and they will come

January 25, 2018
Dan Mazza
Rob Scott

When Amazon announced in 2017 it would open a second North American headquarters (HQ2), Smart Cities came into sharp focus. Companies like Amazon aren’t just evaluating geographic synergies or quality of life ratings when they expand; they are seeking reliable transportation systems, a pipeline of technical talent, and collaborative relationships with forward-looking local governments.

These innovative companies want to do business in Smart Cities.

Economic development isn’t the only force driving Smart City conversations. Smart Cities help bridge the digital divide and provide opportunities for every resident to access education, employment, and a better quality of life.

CBTS is uniquely positioned to help local governments establish Smart City roadmaps. CBTS has world-class expertise in building networks to facilitate the ubiquitous, high-speed broadband Internet access that is at the core of Smart City infrastructure.

Sales Director Dan Mazza and Mobile Strategy Director Rob Scott are part of the CBTS team helping local governments plan and execute Smart City strategies that ultimately benefit residents and provide a powerful platform for growth.

How do you define a Smart City? What are governments trying to accomplish?

Dan Mazza: Smart Cities are about allowing citizens to leverage technology. Access to the Internet is a great example of how cities can level the playing field for opportunity. There are also important opportunities around transportation and public safety.

Rob Scott: That’s a great starting point. Now take a step back and look at the big picture. If you bridge the digital divide and make cities more efficient and safe, you will attract talent. Talent helps existing companies grow, and attracts new companies. You start to create a powerful economic development environment when you embrace Smart City technologies.

When you meet with local government leaders about Smart City strategies, do common themes emerge?

Rob Scott: Access to the Internet and improving transportation are critical issues that cities are working to solve at a grass-roots level. You need the Internet to build a resume and apply for jobs. You need transportation to get to and from work.

The next layer is efficiency. If I have a smart infrastructure that tells me when a garbage dumpster is full, I don’t spend gas and utilize manpower until it’s time to empty the dumpster. If I have a smart infrastructure, I can support an app that tells people about available parking spaces in real time during busy events.

Dan Mazza: This is especially important for cities and towns that are fighting to attract and retain residents. It’s important for local governments to embrace technologies to be viable for the next generation that wants to fully engage with their town or city. This cuts across major metros down to smaller cities that have 20,000 citizens and are trying to figure out where to go as a city.

Transportation is a key reason governments are embracing a Smart City infrastructure. How do transportation and Smart Cities intersect?

Dan Mazza: Cities are focused on any kind of initiative that moves people from Point A to Point B, and keeps them connected during the entire trip. When somebody is at a bus stop, they need to know when the next bus is going to arrive. If I have access to Internet, I know the bus schedule. If I know the bus schedule, I can be at work on time. Transportation has to be a pillar of Smart Cities.

Rob Scott: Here’s another example. The State of Ohio is installing high-capacity fiber-optic cable along a 35-mile stretch of Route 33 between Dublin and East Liberty, just northwest of Columbus. There will be embedded data and wireless sensors along the route that carries about 50,000 vehicles a day.

Driverless semi-trucks can deliver goods along the route. Companies can test autonomous and connected vehicle technologies. Sensors will provide frequent, accurate traffic counts; monitor the road surface and weather; and improve accident response. Imagine the economic benefits when that technology is deployed among transportation corridors across the country in terms of efficiency and safety.

What key stakeholders need to be involved in the Smart City planning process?

Rob Scott: It takes collaboration between the private and public sectors. From a funding perspective, government can’t do it alone. There has to be private investment and an engaged corporate community. Then there is the required access to infrastructure – utility poles, streetlights, stoplights, etc. The public and private sectors have to be engaged and understand this is a multi-year process. It doesn’t happen overnight.

Dan Mazza: Don’t forget about university talent. You’ve got cities with big universities that are helping fill the pipeline of technical talent, and those universities are eager for students and professors to participate in these discussions and apply their knowledge to help deliver real-world solutions.

Rob Scott: Remember, though, that it all starts with the proper platform: Fiber and wireless networks that can move data. Once you have that network, you can begin to solve for problems.

Dan Mazza: And as you build the infrastructure, you have to have wins with the people who are using the technology. You can’t sit there in a bubble and say, ‘We’re going to build this great lighting application’ without showing an immediate benefit. You have to deliver a positive outcome. Then you move on to the next solution.

What has CBTS done in the Smart City space?

Rob Scott: Greater Cincinnati has one of the densest fiber network in the United States thanks to our company. We’ve leveraging that fiber network in several ways, including an initiative we call Connect Cincinnati. We provide free, high-speed WiFi in more than 50 high-traffic areas across Greater Cincinnati. As a complement to that, we’ve also created a Connect Cincinnati mobile application, which features special deals and offers from more than 100 businesses across the region.

When you connect to our free WiFi network, the Connect Cincinnati mobile app launches. This technology will also support functionalities like timely push notifications. A restaurant that is part of Connect Cincinnati, for example, will be able to deliver push notifications and attract additional business. And then there’s a layer of data analytics that a Connect Cincinnati customer can ultimately use to deliver the right offer at the right time to the right customers.

Again, Smart Cities are about leveraging technology like a fiber network to deliver an outcome that helps people. In this case, our Connect Cincinnati app is connecting businesses with consumers via our fiber network.

How can CBTS help cities develop a Smart City strategy?

Dan Mazza: We have the networking and marketing expertise that comes when you’ve been in business for more than 140 years. We’ve invested approximately $1 billion into building our fiber network across Greater Cincinnati. We have expertise as a small cell backhaul provider, and recently built out a small cell network of more than 200 sites for a large wireless operator. We previously had a wireless division and retained significant engineering talent after we sold that business. And we have deep experience serving as a strategic partner to local and state governments – including the States of Ohio, Indiana, and Kentucky.

This experience positions us well to serve as a strategic partner for governments that want to leverage technology and move toward the Smart City model.

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