The potential for IoT to improve residents’ lives is significant, but only if cities have adequate digital infrastructure.
In 2017, the number of IoT devices outnumbered the world’s population for the first time, exceeding 8 billion. While forecasts for the future have varied widely, the current consensus is that we can expect 20-plus billion IoT devices by 2020. We may have as many as 125 billion by 2030, according to IHS Markit, a data analytics research firm.
The last 15 years have seen a marked increase in data use. This puts tremendous strain on existing data centers, many of which are struggling to keep up with demand. In the coming years, that growth won’t slow down — if anything, it’s likely to accelerate.
What does that kind of growth mean for your municipality’s data? Think of it this way: if your residents planned to increase their water usage by a factor of 15 in the next 12 years, you’d have to update your infrastructure (assuming supply was no concern). A similar increase in connected devices, then, should lead to an infrastructure update of your data centers.
To be clear, not all of the IoT increase will involve city-owned devices or make demands on municipal or state data centers. But as the “smartest” cities have already demonstrated, there are many intriguing IoT applications that could help cities improve operations and service delivery. According to Deloitte’s report on connected government, these will include the following when it comes to IoT:
While these applications mark a significant departure from how many government entities are operating today, they represent only the tip of the IoT iceberg. Today, most IoT applications offer ways to optimize current service offerings. But, as the Deloitte report notes, future IoT applications will enable governments to do entirely new things.
It’s this latter phase where cities will truly become “smart,” as the data they collect is analyzed and used to modify infrastructure and create new services that weren’t previously possible.
The potential for IoT to improve residents’ lives is significant, but only if cities have adequate infrastructure. Assuming your city’s IT infrastructure will require upgrades for the age of IoT, here’s a series of five questions you can ask yourself to determine what, exactly, you’ll need.
Once you have a sense of your current and future capabilities, review your hardware and software inventory. Determine what’s obsolete and identify the expected lifespan of remaining equipment. Then, outline a plan and budget for how you can get to where you need to be to handle expected demand increases.
One thing to keep in mind during this process is that there are low-cost ways to prolong the life of your existing data center equipment. For example, introducing bi-directional fiber-optic links, short-wavelength wave division multiplexing (SWDM), and/or PAM4 optics can significantly increase data center switching and routing bandwidth and can be achieved by upgrading only your optical transceivers, as opposed to costly fiber plant upgrades.
When budget availability is a concern, this strategy can offer improved performance for a reasonable cost and give IT teams the breathing room they need to plan for bigger upgrades (and budget requests) in the future.
No city will move from zero to full IoT adoption overnight, and that’s good news for network engineers. As IoT adoption increases universally, you can gradually ramp up your data center capabilities to keep pace. If you start the upgrade process now, your data centers should be able to handle the capacity demands of IoT by the time your leaders have the ability to implement them — and your residents expect IoT capabilities from their municipal governments.