Q&A: Smart City & Smart Grid Predictions For 2018


Smart city and smart grid projects continue to be a hot topic for cities as we head into 2018. John Marcolini, Vice President, Product Management for Silver Spring Networks, provides his views on where the market is headed.

1. Security was a big topic of conversation for smart cities in 2017. This was further highlighted when hackers even took over the Dallas emergency warning system by setting off the sirens for two and a half hours in April 2017.

–How do you see security concerns being addressed in 2018?

— How can cities and municipalities set their customers and citizens at ease during this time of heightened concern for privacy and security?

Data security and privacy is a major priority for citizens across the globe, and citizens put a lot of trust in cities, municipalities and utilities that use their data for services and applications. Organizations are generally not remiss in fulfilling their responsibility. Security measures will be applied throughout 2018 to not only the data repositories, be it the public cloud or private data center, but also within the sensors themselves and how the data is transmitted. In fact, almost 60% of respondents in a recent Wi-SUN Alliance report listed security as their top concerns in their IoT implementations. Additionally, 74% of respondents listed IT security improvements as their top priority.

These organizations will need to proactively update citizens and users of security concerns and updates to security systems to highlight the measures they are taking to protect not only the smart grid, but each and every citizen. Also, organizations should look to utilized standards-based technologies in their IoT strategies to increase security measures. With standardized tech, IP-based security mechanisms can be used with a wide variety of hardware and software from diverse vendors. What’s more, IP-based security technologies are proven to be highly scalable, allowing for continued commitment to security as the network expands and evolves.

How will network choices by cities and municipalities dictate how they roll out smart city initiatives and networks for 2018 and beyond?

–How do different networks architectures benefit municipalities and cities?

When choosing a network for smart city initiatives, cities and utilities need to consider growth, additional use cases and performance. Focusing on key needs will ensure that the right network architecture is selected to meet the today’s program goals, as well as their future needs.

Many specialty cellular-based Low-Power Wide Area (LPWA) providers have created buzz without a whole lot of substance to their technology. They preach certain attributes for the IoT such as low cost, low energy consumption and as trade-offs, lower speeds to achieve longer ranges. The problem with most of these is that they are proprietary, single-use networks. Creating an ‘Intranet of Things’ with these solutions not only limits innovation and raises security issues, but it’s costly: Machina Research believes as much as $341B USD by 2025 could be wasted by deploying non-standardized IoT solutions for smart cities.

Further, the hub-and-spoke models of LPWAs do not work as they can be weighed down by their own success; the more devices on the network means more congestion and contention. Eventually, these ‘low-cost’ solutions will require massive increases in networking infrastructure at greater costs to the network operators and, ultimately, to the end-users.

Specifically, Wi-SUN-based IoT networks have been shown to to meet all of these needs. This network uses a self-healing mesh design where IoT devices communicate with each other and establish multiple paths through the network. This ensures that the network can “see around corners,” with their effectiveness not reduced by skyscrapers, for example.

How? By its very nature, mesh can aggregate data from widely distributed endpoints – from dense urban environments to remote rural areas – and can then upstream that data traffic to the carriers’ towers. Today, our meshing architecture aggregates thousands of endpoint connections in the energy industry and for the public sector. It’s because of this that mesh is the best architecture for the IoT – it’s standards-based, secure and scalable, and above all, proven.

How are different industries “commercializing” the IIoT? What will that look like in 2018 and beyond?

–What industries are truly prepared for the mass adoption of IIoT applications?

According to a recent report by Wi-SUN Alliance [LINK WHEN PUBLISHED], half of the organizations investing in IoT initiatives have already fully implemented a strategy, with more than one third having partially implemented strategies. This positions these organizations well for the expansion and further adoption of IoT devices and applications – Gartner predicts that over 20 billion connected things will be in use worldwide by 2020. Those industries particularly well poised are oil and gas, technology and energy and utilities, says Gartner.

As cities and industries look to adopt and implement IIoT strategies and further “commercialize” it, they must take into account how it will benefit not only their citizens and users, but also the teams and leaders put in place to drive these organizations into the future of IIoT. We have found developer programs to be an amazing tool for cities and industries to utilize to increase the number of IoT applications available to implement, as well as the rate of adoption of IoT applications. By leveraging this existing network infrastructure, cities and industries can use developer tools and resources to optimize, improve as well as extend their service offering.