Smart Communities based on Intelligent Infrastructure
The concept of smart communities is based on intelligent infrastructure such as broadband (FttH) and smart grids, so that connected and sustainable communities can be developed. However, before these smart communities can be built, trans-sector policies and strategies need to be developed.
They can’t be built from the current silo structure that dominates our thinking; but require a holistic approach which includes environmental issues such as self sufficient energy buildings, energy exchanges for renewable energy and e-cars, delivery of e-health, e-education, e-government services as well as digital media and internet services.
This report discusses and provides examples of some of the developments taking place around the world towards building smart cities and communities.
With major infrastructures such as the NBN and smart grids underway the concept of smart cities is becoming closer to reality. Obviously this will be an evolutionary process rather than a revolution, and it will take 20-50 years to realise. However, it is critical that we start taking this outlook into consideration when embarking on smart broadband or electricity infrastructure projects, or others – such as, for instance, those relating to transport, water, the monitoring of physical infrastructure, self-sufficient energy buildings, energy exchanges for renewable energy, e-cars, delivery of e-health, e-education and e-government services, as well as digital media and internet services.
This will also require a holistic approach by government policymakers, instead of the current silo-based one. Increasingly governments are beginning to work towards such outcomes; the National Digital Economy Strategy is one of these policies.
Telcos and utilities are playing a key role in these developments, and machine-to-machine (M2M) communication and the internet of things, in particular, are going to be key enabling technologies which, on top of the infrastructure, will collect, store, process and analyse data, delivering it in real time to those who need to make decisions based on that intelligent information. Literally billions of sensors and devices will make up the network that will allow cities and communities to act smart.
In this report we also combine our thoughts and knowledge based on Paul Budde’s position as an analyst in the communication technology market and his interest in history and philosophy. BuddeComm would like to present it as a set of thoughts, with a view to stimulating a discussion on topics such as human evolution, human-machine transcendency, smart societies and trans-sector thinking.
Given the current social, economic and political developments it becomes clear that we seem to have reached a ceiling in our intellectual ability to address the complex issues that society is facing. Society lacks the capacity that is required to address the holistic nature of the current challenges. Without that analytic capacity it will be impossible to come up with the right answers. We have arrived at times like this before in our history and they typically led to collapses of civilisations and the arrival of serious declines in living standards. If we are to avoid similar calamities, we need to break through that ceiling and find new tools to help us to create a smarter society.
Our lack of ability to see all the different complex issues as they relate to each other and to make thorough analyses of the overall situation is creating increased confusion, which in turn is being (mis)used by populist politicians and dumbed-down media. This makes it very difficult for society to get a good view – and to make sound judgments – of the true cost incurred by the lack of a holistic approach to the complex problems.
We also explore whether the next stage of human evolution is going to depend on developing a collective human intellectual system – a global brain. This process is already underway through global interconnection, facilitated by technologies such as the internet, broadband, smartphones and mobility. The latest development is M2M (machine-to-machine), where we also link machines together and use so-called ‘big data’ technologies and analyses to better manage the various aspects of our society. This will lead to interaction and even integration between these two developments – merging humans and machines, something that is becoming increasingly possible through artificial intelligence (AI). Some of the predictions and scenarios discussed might not be exactly right, as we are pushing the boundaries of our current level of knowledge; some issues could attract strong responses from those with different views, and most likely some of the predictions will lead to totally different outcomes. But what really matters is the discussion itself.
For numerous reasons the electricity industry is one of the last industries to undergo a major transformation in order to enter the digital economy. An emphasis on keeping electricity prices as low as possible led to severe under-investment in the grid to cope with issues such as energy efficiency, the integration of renewable energy sources and consumer tools aimed at managing home energy use more efficiently.
This began to change with a new government in 2007. New government policies forced the industry to become more focused on the issues and also led to the formation of the industry alliance, Smart Grid Australia. They were instrumental in putting smart grids on the government’s agenda. This led to the Smart Grid/Smart City project, which is covered in a separate report. Catch-up investment has lead to price hikes, which in turn have created political upheaval. Despite all of this there is still no cohesive holistic government policy that takes all the many different elements into account in its industry policies. The government’s White Paper and new rules for energy networks – published in late 2012 – are still siloed approaches, and while smart technologies are starting to feature more prominently they are still not adopted as key enablers to the various government policies.
Over the last few years it has become clear that there are many elements to this transformation and the term ‘smarter energy’ is more appropriate to describe this. From here the concept will further merge into smart buildings, smart cities, and indeed smart countries.
This report explains what smart grids are; why they are important; what the applications are; and how the Australian industry and the Australian government is preparing itself for the changes that these new policies will bring with them.
Smart transport systems or intelligent transport systems encompass a range of wireless and wired communications-based information technologies that can be integrated into transportation infrastructure and vehicles.
Current intelligent transport systems technologies use dedicated short-range communications to transfer data over short distances between in-vehicle mobile radio units and roadside units, ie fixed point-to-point services. Arrangements to facilitate the use of intelligent transport systems have been developed internationally in the 5850-5925MHz band (the 5.9GHz band). However, ACMA still classified this as a medium priority for finalisation. Still waiting on international standards has made progress rather slow.
Smart infrastructure is also looked at in the context of the National Broadband Network, the aim of which is to provide the basic telecommunication infrastructure for a range of sectors, including transport. Special access is provided in the NBN Bill for utilities. With a carbon tax in place, smart transport systems may be able to reduce the carbon footprint and energy use across many of the transport industries, while also lowering GHG emissions. The government at that time also announced its Managed Motorways project.
International evidence indicates that a new generation of electric vehicles, known as smart cars will start flooding the market in coming years. They are marketed like smartphones, aimed to become the have-to-have cars. Currently the infrastructure to facilitate this development is not in place. There are no charging stations, but also the electricity grid is incapable of handling any volume of smart cars. More coordinated smart infrastructure policies are required in order to make this happening.
M2M and The Internet of Things
With the NBN now well and truly underway it is important to look at what will be the real value of this new infrastructure.
The infrastructure that is now being built offers a range of features such as ubiquitousness, affordability, low latency, high speed and high capacity. It will link millions of devices, such as sensors, that will enable us to manage our environment, traffic, infrastructures, and our society as a whole much more efficiently and effectively.
This ‘Internet of Things’ – other names used include: M2M, Pervasive Internet and Industrial Internet - is going to be a real game-changer. It will transform every single sector of society and the economy and it will be out of this environment that new businesses – and indeed new industries – will be born. This is one of the reasons so many overseas ICT companies are increasing their presence in Australia. The NBN is an ideal test-bed for such developments. A great deal of attention is being paid to cloud computing and the NBN can be viewed as one gigantic cloud.
The number of connected M2M devices will grow to somewhere between 25 million and 50 million by 2020. From a very low level the market will double again in 2012 and this will most likely also be the case in 2013.
National Broadband Network
The report also provides background analysis on various infrastructure issues. First, it gives some high-level strategic analysis of the NBN as national infrastructure, as distinct from just telecoms infrastructure. It covers principles such as open networks and the impact this has on infrastructure affordability.
It also addresses the issues that it will need to consider as national infrastructure – the specific requirements of other sectors such as energy (smart grids), healthcare (e-health) and digital media.
Furthermore it provides background analysis of the various forms of infrastructure that will be employed in the NBN and how this will be different from the existing infrastructure. It explains basic infrastructure, the role of copper in the transitional period, fibre networks and the specific opportunities this brings to the market, both in metro and rural areas; plus the various issues in relation to wireless infrastructure, including satellites.
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