By 2050, 75% of the world’s population will live in urban areas that are increasingly connected and powered by smart technologies. APAC alone accounts for the largest share of spending in the Internet of Things (IoT) - the emerging technology that will take us closer to the smart cities of the future - and this is expected to grow to $59 billion by 2020.
Smart city applications will continue to enrich the lives of residents and make governments more efficient in responding to citizens’ needs. From security and convenience to revenue generation, smart city applications will change the way cities operate and the way we live and work. But it all starts with connectivity - smart city residents, vehicles, systems and applications must be connected, and this involves solid and assiduous networking. For example, as part of Singapore’s Smart Nation Sensor Platform project, the Singapore government is looking to transform 110,000 of the city’s lampposts into “smart lampposts” which have the potential to monitor sounds, have video sensors and even serve as navigational beacons over the course of 4 years.
As we venture into the age of smart application advancements, governments and manufacturers alike are investing in technological and digitized solutions to improve their productivity. The digitization of production processes - also known as the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) poses entirely new challenges to networks.
The role of cloud computing in the smart city revolution
According to a research conducted by 451 Research, 63% of surveyed organizations have multiple vendors supplying them with Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) and 59% are running mission-critical applications on these platforms.
Moving mission-critical data and processes outside your data center to the cloud, for instance, requires a robust wide area network (WAN). So what does a smart city have to do with cloud computing? Data from IDC shows that cloud computing is driving the bulk of smart city growth, as automated applications use cloud-based for procedural computing, cognitive computing, data retention, analysis, and even when troubleshooting issues, which we’ll explore later.
Enter software defined-wide area networks
Companies need a network that can keep up with the pace of digital advancement, and software defined-wide area network (SD-WAN) technology is reshaping the modern enterprise network by providing improved features such as better network security, improved application performance and even reduced costs.
An SD-WAN enables a policy-driven, application-specific definition of how network traffic is to be handled. The network team can specify alternative routes in case of an incident such as a bandwidth bottleneck or a cable failure. SD-WAN solutions not only provide interruption-free failover, but also continuous intelligent load distribution between transfer paths, in accordance with application requirements. Critical data traffic can be given preferential treatment using quality-of-service mechanisms. At the same time, an SD-WAN appliance accelerates data traffic by means of data compression, deduplication, and optimization techniques at the network protocol level. It integrates seamlessly into the existing routing topology and can be managed from anywhere via the cloud.
SD-WAN technology also allows the network team to segment data traffic as required by creating secure virtual subnets. For example, a retail chain’s IT organization can set up a guest VLANs in branch offices from a central location using virtual routing and forwarding (VRF). This network segmentation is just as useful and critical in production facilities or hospitals. VRF provides the necessary flexibility for implementing network changes, while analytics features deliver the real-time overview that the network administrator and the security team demand.
In our age of digitization, modernizing your network should never be an afterthought as strenuous network requirements from smart city initiatives that are being rolled out over the next few years can only be met with a network that is up for the rigors and challenges that these initiatives demand.