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What it takes to be a smart city, both abroad and in Canada

What it takes to be a smart city, both abroad and in Canada 

The right foundation means a stronger city

Take the city of Dubai, for example, Dubai is built on sand. Without the proper foundation, it would not still be standing. But with the proper foundation, they’ve built a world-class city with skyscrapers—and the world’s tallest skyscraper to boot.

Jean Turgeon

The building blocks of a smart city are similar: it requires a strong foundation of partnerships, all aligned in building a next-generation infrastructure that will evolve and deliver best-in-class services. These partnerships form a multi-faceted infrastructure approach, combining public safety, smart healthcare, smart education, smart retail and smart banking, and make it all accessible to citizens.


Jean Turgeon

Communications and networking infrastructure need to be automated to simplify deployment, particularly as the smart city expands to include all the consumer devices that will connect wearables and IoT applications including smart appliances. Taking a creative approach to building a foundation with infrastructure will help mitigate cyber security threats and gain agility while lowering capital and operating expenses.

Building this kind of smart city foundation requires a strong network infrastructure that combines contact center, unified communications, customer engagement tools with Artificial Intelligence (AI) and strong network security. This ensures the systems and services operating within the Smart city can keep pace with the demands of citizens, government and industry alike for mobile, social, and cloud-based services.

Laying the groundwork at home in Canada

To revitalize its economy, create new employment opportunities and improve the overall quality of life, the Town of Shawinigan, QC recently decided to reinvent itself as a Smart city, using cutting-edge technology to breathe new life into its century-old community.

Upgrading its fiber networks, which linked City Hall to warehouses, fire halls, the library and water distribution systems, Shawinigan replaced its outdated, disparate systems with a future-proof network solution that’s reliable, secure and capable of delivering innovative technologies and new services to citizens.

Today, with the backbone of its new network complete — and working seamlessly with the remaining older equipment — Shawinigan is running a pilot project that provides free Wi-Fi access downtown.   And it’s only a matter of time before the community deploys new Smart city capabilities such as IP Video Surveillance, which will provide citizens with a state-of-the-art security solution, and its recently announced urban DEL street lighting project, which will be controlled by an automated management system.

The future of the smart city means convenience – and safety

As cities of the future continue to move forward with Smart city platforms, the goal must be to provide a consistently good experience for users with a holistic approach to turnkey virtual networks and applications. Vendors and service providers must have the ability to deliver across various verticals and provide the opportunity to implement smart buildings, allowing consumers to experience it live, not just as a demo or prototype. That means going live to allow all who are working, living, shopping, and playing within the Smart city to experience its power firsthand.

And it’s not just for play. The smart city of the future can have life-saving implications. For example, in a crisis situation such as an auto accident, it can integrate a 911 call with other components, like electronic road signs to warn of hazards and SMS alerts to citizens. It can gain control over city cameras to feed data to the emergency response team – or even allow the caller to cede control over their phone camera to provide a video feed. The outcome of this is a safer city: when you dial the emergency number, the smart device provides the exact location to first responders. Meanwhile, the dispatch center can push video on how to perform CPR, for example. It brings systems together for the safety of citizens and uses the power of analytics to suggest alternate routes to travelers who have installed the application, using an API from a mapping application.

It is crucial to only just change the infrastructure, but look at how new services can easily be deployed in a timely and secure manner. Most legacy models currently in place have too many high risks associated with them. Consequently, a shift in mindset is required. IOT is a tsunami coming our way. It requires a new way of thinking to be able to maximize its full value to businesses and government entities.

The smart city of the future will attend to citizens’ needs while ensuring their information is secure and providing uptime that allows them to use the applications 24/7 regardless of what is happening around them.

Jean Turgeon is vice-president and chief technologist for software-defined architecture at Avaya

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