The Mobile World Congress (MWC) has become an epicentre for all types of mobile telecom products and services, including Machine-to-Machine (M2M) communication and the Internet of Things (IoT). One such topic that attracted the limelight at MWC 2014 in Barcelona was solutions related to Smart Cities that leverage M2M/IoT technology to connect intelligent infrastructure, enable real-time data analytics and ultimately improve the quality of life of the citizens.
Numerous companies out of the almost 2,000 exhibitors on this year’s show offered products and services in the field of Smart Cities, including large enterprises as well as SMBs. The GSMA Connected City was also this year a large event area where Smart Cities-related products and services from a range of partner providers were demonstrated, including diverse examples such as smart gateways, energy data management, smart hot water tank solutions, connected cabinets, face recognition technology and smart city control centres. Additional companies active in the Smart Cities market could also be found across other exhibition halls. One example of a local player based in Barcelona was Mass Factory which is focused on solutions for urban mobility and accessibility and offers the application OnTheBus for multimodal public transport travel planning which constitutes a key element of smart mobility enabled by Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS). Another local exhibitor named Urbiotica further offers a portfolio of sensor-based Smart Cities solutions for mobility, environment and waste management with international installations found across France, Germany and Austria as well as Latin America. Ericsson and Philips moreover announced at the show that they are working together on connected street lights that double as mobile broadband infrastructure, thus enabling energy efficient public lighting as well as improved mobile network performance.
The Smart Cities theme was also lively debated during a presentation and panel session dubbed ‘Smart Cities: Smarter Living’ featuring speakers from Etisalat, Telstra, HP Enterprise Services, JDSU and the City of Barcelona. A key take-away is that mobile technology is playing a fundamental role in transforming cities and that a broad ecosystem is needed to enable Smart Cities, which during the presentations was defined to include subsets such as smart economy, smart living, smart mobility, smart governance, smart environment and smart people. While in general sharing a relatively common vision of the concept of Smart Cities and its future developments, the discussions between the panellists revealed some differences of opinion as to whether smart city solutions can beneficially be standardised for use across cities in various regions of the world, or if the inherent differences between communities call for fully customised solutions on a case-by-case basis. Regardless of the stance taken, the societies of the world are bound to gain from ensuring that best practices are transferred between cities to foster knowledge sharing, common technology standards and avoidance of common pitfalls in Smart Cities design and execution.