Sunday, 01 November 2020

Is COVID-19 the tipping point in the smart city revolution?

by Harry Baldock, Total Telecom
Wednesday 23 September 20

Speaking at Connected Britain 2020, Dale Parkinson, Sales Director for Wholesale at Virgin Media, argued that smart cities will be integral to the UK’s economic rebound

The concept a smart city, is nothing new. Indeed, early projects have been taking place all over the world for some time now. However, one thing we see routinely around the world is that scaling up these projects efficiently is a major challenge. Why is that? According to Dale Parkinson, Sales Director for Wholesale at Virgin Media, developing a smart city relies on the interplay between four key elements &ndash…

The concept a smart city, is nothing new. Indeed, early projects have been taking place all over the world for some time now. However, one thing we see routinely around the world is that scaling up these projects efficiently is a major challenge. Why is that?

According to Dale Parkinson, Sales Director for Wholesale at Virgin Media, developing a smart city relies on the interplay between four key elements – 5G, fibre, software, and hardware. Clearly all of these factors have been rapidly advancing in recent years, particularly with 5G and full fibre being rolled out more and more quickly.

“Are we therefore now at a tipping point which will see the rapid acceleration of the deployment at scale of smart city solutions, right across the spectrum from utilities and city services all the way through to commerce and leisure?” asks Parkinson rhetorically in his presentation at this year's Connected Britain event.

Well, according to the man himself, if you had asked this question at the end of 2019, his answer would have been “not quite”. While the desire to develop truly smart cities is certainly there, the reality is that enablers and desire alone are often not enough to drive real innovation and real accelerated change. Instead, history has taught us that a major catalyst of international magnitude is required to bring about lasting change on a large scale – and, Parkinson argues, that is exactly what the coronavirus pandemic has delivered.

With more people working from home successfully than ever before and a new and improved appreciation for urban connectivity, now is the time to move forward with smart city projects.

“If not now, then when?” asks Parkinson.

There are, of course, a number of key challenges that remain in the deployment of smart cities, including a lack of funding, concerns around network security, reliance on legacy networks, and insufficient knowledge and resources. Continuing to build out a next-generation fibre network, as Virgin Media is doing in the UK, will be at the heart of alleviating these issues, but further cooperation, both between governments, regulators and the private sector, will be required to make this smart transformation a reality. 

“We must challenge our own supply chains, our own partners, and our own customers to think and act differently,” said Parkinson. “We need to change the way we work together, the type of commercial agreements we create, and the type of services we offer, in order to provide the level of collaboration that’s going to be needed to drive the deployment of smart city services at scale. Only then, will we see the reinvention of the city, underpinned by fibre and 5G.”

 

Connected Britain is happening right now! Keep in touch by using the hashtag #ConnectedBritain

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