5 Steps for Leveling Up Smart Cities

Delivering success with fast, secure data exchange at the edge

Sanjeevan Srikrishnan
5 Steps for Leveling Up Smart Cities

Cities all over the world are playing an important role in the evolution of advanced technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML) and the internet of things (IoT). Urban areas provide the ideal juxtaposition of well-developed infrastructures and real-world live data on human behavior for businesses to test advances in IT infrastructures, AI algorithms, ML techniques and data monetization opportunities with partners. Municipalities across the globe are also welcoming the potential solutions that technology can bring to bear on urban challenges like climate change catastrophes, pollution and increased demand for public services such as transportation, healthcare, etc.

However, solving for these challenges while testing technology advances requires data to be exchanged between different systems in an agile manner. Streams of data from multiple sources must be fed into digital ecosystems where multiple players can leverage best of breed AI/ML algorithms to collaborate and exchange data and insights over fast, low-latency connections, and get the right information to the right place at the right time. This data centric vision is driving demand for interconnection, which is the direct and private exchange of traffic between key business partners.[i] In smart city solutions, key business partners are often from multiple industries, including the broader public sector, manufacturing, telecommunications, and cloud and IT providers. The Global Interconnection Index (GXI) Volume 3, a study published by Equinix, projects the following growth rates in private interconnection bandwidth for the industries that typically drive smart cities. Between 2018 and 2022:

  • Telecommunications will grow by 39% annually, reaching 2,524 Tbps
  • Cloud & IT Services will grow by 41% annually, reaching 2,148 Tbps
  • Manufacturing will grow by 57% annually, reaching 1,547 Tbps
  • Energy & Utility will grow by 77% annually, reaching 609 Tbps
  • Healthcare & Life Sciences will grow by 71% annually, reaching 299 Tbps
  • Government & Education will grow by 68% annually, reaching 106 Tbps
Interconnection happens at distributed exchange points hosted inside vendor-neutral, colocation facilities. Interconnection bandwidth is the total capacity provisioned for direct and private exchange of traffic between key business partners at these data centers.

5 steps to interconnecting smart city use cases

Real-time exchange of data is crucial for most smart city use cases. However, as data volumes and regulations grow, traditional IT infrastructures that backhaul traffic to a central data center no longer work. Supporting the secure, compliant real-time exchange of data within and between cities requires a distributed technology infrastructure that removes the physical distance between all the elements of the digital ecosystem (data, applications, clouds, networks, partners and users). The GXI outlines five key steps that cities can take to achieve this digital-ready state:

Network optimization: Latency matters, particularly when it comes to public safety. Real-time interconnection between sensors collecting data and the analytics engines calculating their response is critical. Optimizing network segment(s) and localizing traffic in the hubs reduces cost and latency while increasing bandwidth. The police department in Chicago, IL, a smart city in the U.S., deployed real-time crime centers that leverage gunshot detection data and surveillance cameras to help officers pinpoint and respond to dangers more quickly. As a result, homicides and shootings were reduced by 40% in Chicago’s deadliest neighborhood.

Hybrid multicloud: Sharing and exchanging data across different systems and partners is easier and more scalable with hybrid multicloud. Directly connecting to public and private clouds reduces complexity and cost while providing improved access to cloud services. Three municipalities in the Netherlands were facing increasing workloads with no change in budget, and they wanted to partner with each other on administrative tasks. They joined forces with DUO+ to implement a hybrid cloud solution on Platform Equinix® that enabled them to collaborate with each other with optimal security, reliability and performance.

Distributed security: Concerns around citizen privacy and data protection continue to grow. Deploying and connecting security controls in interconnection hubs provide real-time transparency and control over access and data while reducing risk and cost. In another EMEA smart city example, every citizen in Estonia has a secure digital ID that’s used for transactions such as riding public transit to obtaining government services. There is no central database, and all of the citizen information is encrypted and cannot be shared without a citizen’s knowledge and permission. The databases are linked together in a secure data exchange system that can transfer data instantly and securely at citizens’ discretion.

Distributed data: Keeping data local to where it’s collected while integrating analytics and data controls in the hubs enables real-time analysis and response while reducing data transport costs. Data can still be aggregated to improve core models based in the cloud while remaining compliant with local data regulations. As their customer base grows, ride hailing services based in Asia Pacific smart cities, such as Grab, are challenged with increasing volumes of data from multiple sources at the edge. Data management services provider, iguazio, empowers these companies to manage their data intelligently and gain actionable insights for better efficiency and revenue growth.

Application exchange: Once the groundwork has been laid, cities can leverage digital ecosystem interconnections to develop new applications and services, continually adapting to changing needs, regulations, technologies and emerging partners and users. Providing high-speed, low latency throughput for this application exchange will enable the best user experience, collaboration with partners and time to market. Humber River Hospital is North America’s first all-digital hospital that has created a seamless, connected experience for patients and staff. Robots sort medication, guided vehicles deliver lunch trays and machines carry blood samples from patient floors to the laboratory. Real-time locating devices enable the closest available staff to respond to an issue, and family members can track their loved ones from surgery to recovery. Other hospitals use a similar technology to remotely monitor patient recovery and rehabilitation, reducing readmission rates.[ii] In the future, data exchange between digital healthcare facilities, patients and municipalities will enable faster emergency response, diagnosis and patient recovery.

Digital ecosystems already flourish in cities where there is a concentration of users, infrastructure and digital trade flows. Cities easily can tap into this opportunity by following the five steps outlined above to integrate and exchange data to deliver safer, healthier and more sustainable communities.

Read the GXI Volume 3 to learn more about how private interconnection is fueling smart cities and related industries around the world.


[i]Interconnection bandwidth is defined as the total capacity provisioned to privately and directly exchange traffic, with a diverse set of partners and providers, at distributed IT exchange points inside carrier-neutral colocation data centers.

[ii]Modern Healthcare, Inside North America’s first all-digital hospital, April 2016.


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