Cities are getting smarter one by one and IoT (Internet of Things) application by IoT application. At some point in the future, most cities in the developed world will be “smart,” meaning they’ll run on connected technologies—from dynamic street lighting to connected parking meters, smart buildings, AVs (autonomous vehicles), and beyond. These smart city systems will help citizens be more productive; it’ll also keep them safer. What’s more, the data collected from smart city systems will help cities run more efficiently.

The Smart Gigabit Communities program, which launched in 2015 as a collaboration between US Ignite, a public-private nonprofit that seeks to accelerate the smart city movement, and the NSF (National Science Foundation), aims to help partner cities as they move toward their smart-city goals. The program includes 27 participating communities and provides access to a low-latency and ultra-fast network with local cloud computing and storage capabilities that support “highly interactive and visually immersive experiences not possible on today’s commercial internet.”

The newest and most recently announced Smart Gigabit Community is St. Petersburg, Fla. On this project, US Ignite and broadband services provider Spectrum Enterprise will work to support the St. Petersburg Innovation District in developing advanced applications and services that address community needs, including infrastructure, workforce development, public safety, and public health.

Programs like Smart Gigabit Communities are valuable in that they create new opportunities for public-private collaboration on smart city projects that can enhance people’s lives and businesses. With its low latency, ultra-fast network, St. Petersburg hopes to create an environment that fosters job growth, economic development, and learning and inspiration for years to come. More cities are beginning to see how important connectivity and smart services are as important differentiators in attracting businesses and residents alike.

One important trend that will intersect with smart city is 5G. Companies like Ericsson, an ICT (information and communication technology) provider, say 5G will be the platform for tomorrow’s cities. Why? Generally, this assertion is because of the efficiency of 5G networks compared to today’s 4G networks. 5G should improve on 4G’s bandwidth, capacity, and reliability. 5G also promises ultra-low latency, which makes it suitable for applications that require instant responsiveness.

5G networks’ low latency could enhance the value proposition of smart city applications like smart street lights that respond in realtime to what’s going on their surroundings and sensors that monitor air quality, traffic flow, parking availability, or water use. In first-response situations, as well as many other IoT enterprise scenarios, 5G could help enable rapid data collection, processing, and analytics key to realtime decisionmaking.

One area of smart cities that may not depend on 5G as much as others is autonomous transportation modes, although that depends on whom you talk to in the industry. The full and complete effect of 5G on smart city applications is yet to be seen, but it’s likely that these next-gen networks will play a role in supporting highly connected visions of future urban centers.

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