Getting Smarter

Application- and service-aware network infrastructure for smart cities

Raj Jadhav, Vice President, Solution Consulting, Product Engineering & IT, D-Link (India) Limited

India is making efforts to formulate sustainable economic policies. The importance of efficient infrastructure in the country’s growth is well recognised. Currently, one of the weakest links in the development process is the lack of efficient infrastructure. In the past five to six years many infrastructure reforms have taken place, which in due course of time will result in a change in our lifestyles.

Smart cities are taking shape for better living conditions for citizens. Technology plays a vital role in the actual implementation of smart city projects that were a distant dream a few years ago.

Advancements in networking infrastructure that connects residents to services in a city increases comfort due to the ease of automated social processes. A smart city uses information and communications technology extensively. Advanced wireless networking brings secure and reliable connectivity across the city without disturbing legacy and historical structures of cities. Having reliable, redundant and scalable wired and wireless networking infrastructure is key to making cities smarter.

Another key aspect of a smart city is data assimilation. In a smart city, there is a reservoir of data/information that is being collected on a real-time basis. However, networking in a smart city is not just about collecting data from numerous internet of things (IoT) devices deployed across the city, but also the ability to understand and adapt triple-play (data, voice and video) services.

Technology is a progressive domain. Thus, from time to time there could be many changes in the command centre architecture from where the entire city operations are monitored and managed to any end point (especially IoT and actuators) at the access layer. Therefore, such infrastructure should be developed keeping in view a long-term vision and should leverage existing legacy systems. Further, gathering and delivering important information at various source and end points must be rectified, modified or replaced without hampering routine smart city operations. Application-aware, intelligent network infrastructure is the lifeline of any smart city. A flexible network infrastructure in the city assists in delivering disciplined services.

Smart roads and highways are playing a vital role in reducing traffic congestion by providing real-time updates. City-wide network infrastructure is connected to government offices, as well as to residents, visitors and various IoT devices. This helps ease the lives of citizens in many ways such as getting public transport information and geofencing alerts, in addition to internet services.

Smart city network infrastructure is also seen as a business driver as it generates new sources of employment and contributes to socio-economic growth. It takes advantage of economies of scale to lower costs through ownership, bulk buying or wholesale of network services. In fact, business drivers are being converted to special network infrastructure requirements. Some of these are as follows:

Multitenancy: Smart city network infrastructure provides services to multiple tenants across the city. Virtual private network (VPN)-based services are needed for most government agencies, education institutes and healthcare services. Lightweight VPN services are needed in certain situations such as command centre subsystem interconnects. IoT devices of a different class need to be isolated in their own scalable container for security reasons.

Availability: Mission-critical services and their application demand high availability of the smart city network which provides services to multiple government and private agencies and supports multiple use cases. The design of smart city network infrastructure must have inherent redundancy at each layer to facilitate hassle-free service and maintenance.

Scalability, simplicity and security: Consumption of high bandwidth application/content is on the rise. Hence, different flows of multi-cast applications and low bandwidth end points must be treated differently. Thousands of end devices and a variety of IoT devices are connected on a city network. They must be auto-provisioned to save on implementation and maintenance costs and time. In a smart city network, it is necessary to have a multilayered approach for securing end point devices. Every end point must be managed and controlled by network admission control and role-based access. Ensuring data integrity, confidentiality as well as quarantine and remediation, among others, are must-have norms.

Sustainability: Smart city network components are installed near drains and roadside boxes in harsh environments. It is therefore necessary to deploy networking devices taking this into consideration as a strong, reliable, self-healing and sustainable network infrastructure in a smart city plays a vital role in defining civic services and response times.

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