Modernizing a City’s Network Infrastructure to Help Achieve Sustainability Goals

Posted by on December 5, 2017

Dan Evans, Senior Director, Smart Cities and Smart Lighting

Dan Evans is Senior Director of Product Management at Silver Spring Networks, where he defines the product roadmap for the Smart Cities and Smart Lighting business unit. Dan joined Silver Spring in 2007 and was instrumental in building the product, processes and team who took Silver Spring Networks installed base from 5,000 units when he joined to over 27 million today. Prior to Silver Spring Networks, Dan has over 30 years of experience in the networking space in a variety of roles at SkyPilot Networks, Excite@Home and NASA. Dan has a Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Science from San Jose State University, in California.

Why is it important to have a forward-looking Smart City vision?

A: The latest applications being brought to market now via the “Internet of Things” (IoT) brings immense opportunity to the cities by introducing devices and sensors connected seamlessly to an open, standards-based, wireless network. This allows cities to improve energy efficiency, reduce costs, drive economic growth and protect citizen safety. As with many of today’s technologies, the pace of IoT and “smart cities” is moving quickly and it would be easy to only focus on “point solutions” which address one specific problem in a proprietary manner. However, cities need solutions with flexibility, scalability and interoperability, which will allow them to deploy multiple applications on a single network, thereby accelerating their return on investment, while executing on their Smart City vision.

What role do citizens play in a Smart City vision?

A: It is crucial for citizens who live or work in a city to be an integral part of the Smart City technology planning process. Engaging citizens, young and old, in the process of planning and deploying Smart City solutions is critical to ensure they understand and, more importantly, support the benefits to the city and the people who live in and around it.

A recent Smart City Consumer Research study conducted by Silver Spring, in collaboration with Power Over Energy and the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability Advanced Grid Research, confirmed that the success of any Smart City mission is firmly rooted in the citizens. More than 500 people from across the U.S. participated in this study, ranging in age, from 18 to 65+, and in urban areas and cities with populations of less than one thousand (1K) to upwards of more than one million (1M). The study also revealed that 75% of U.S. citizens, when educated on the benefits, believe Smart Cities will positively impact their lives, and they will thereby help build a more sustainable future city. A number of studies have shown that millennials prefer residing in cities where advanced infrastructure, innovative technology and citizen safety converge. This study validates that the younger generations are not only early adopters but, can also shape the future by being proponents of Smart City technology like intelligent street lights, smart transportation, EV charging etc. While this study was conducted in the United States, it would not be surprising to find similar results in other international communities.

What are the important technology standards a city should be aware of before defining their Smart City vision?

A: To achieve scalability and interoperability, standards must be relevant, widely supported, formally ratified by a recognized body, and include testing to achieve certification. Silver Spring has supported an open, standards-based vision for its solutions, from the company’s inception in 2002. The company has played an active leadership role in the Wi-SUN® Alliance, as a founding member in 2011, it helps to set the protocols that are now industry standards for outdoor, secure mesh networks. It is becoming increasingly clear that the Wi-SUN® approach, along with established Internet standards like IPv6, are well positioned to become the go-to model for Smart City deployments going forward. Cities should also be aware of the TALQ Consortium, which has developed a global standard for outdoor lighting networks. An open, standards-based approach will enable cities to foster an open-ecosystem approach and maximize initial investments in, for example, smart street lights, to derive tangible benefits.

What are some important things for city and utility decision makers to keep in mind when selecting a Smart City infrastructure?

A: To make sure that their purchase is extensible and futureproof, cities need to consider:

  • A network that supports multiple applications: With an extensible standards-based network platform, cities can build an infrastructure that fits their needs today and can scale to accommodate Smart City applications of the future. The platform should include network architecture, security protocols, and back-office management software.
  • Vendor choice: Rather than being constrained by a proprietary solution from a single vendor, a standards-based network gives cities the flexibility to choose devices and application packages from a variety of vendors, thereby avoiding vendor lock-in and future proofing their infrastructure.
  • Access to innovation: An open ecosystem allows innovation to flourish. Solution providers are able to rely on a community, which will allow them to market their innovative applications and devices to a larger customer base. Cities can adopt new technologies and applications incrementally, while being assured about their compatibility with their infrastructure.

What are some examples of smart utilities and cities that are driving sustainability and operational efficiency while improving overall quality of life for citizens?

A: Silver Spring’s multi-application network platform is proven at large, investor owned utilities (FPL, ComEd, OGE), large and small municipal utilities (CPS, MID, SMUD) and international cities (Paris, Copenhagen, Bristol, Halifax and Providence) worldwide.

To highlight a few proven city and utility examples:

  • We upgraded the existing lighting fixtures with integrated smart street lighting and traffic signal control for the City of Paris, to improve operational efficiencies and energy savings.
  • To deliver networked LED street light solution for the City of Copenhagen, we deployed an enhanced city lighting system designed to improve energy efficiency, lower operational costs, enable remote management, and improve citizen safety.
  • Florida Power and Light chose to expand their existing Silver Spring IPv6 multi-application network to provide real-time centralized monitoring and control for their 500,000 street lights, which included the added benefit of improving their overall mesh network performance and reliability.
  • With our partner Ameresco, we have recently initiated a modernization program with the City of Chicago to transform their street light system by replacing approximately 85 percent of the City’s existing 270,000 street lights with smart LEDs.