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Steve Woo
Steve Woo
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Smart Cities Need Reliable IoT Connections

Software-defined WAN can help smart cities of the future ensure IoT services function smoothly.

The Arab Spring movement, which grabbed the world’s attention in 2011, was made possible by the confluence of three key technologies: The Internet, smartphones and Twitter. No one could have predicted how these technologies would end up helping to support such a historical event, marking the beginning of a human behavioral change.

The Internet of Things (IoT) also shows how technologies -- such as the commoditization of RFID and TCP/IP hardware and Internet-ready wireless networks --  can come together in unpredictable ways to create something new. The IoT is beginning to support societal shifts just as big as the Internet and the smartphone have.

In fact, one manifestation of the IoT will soon be realized in a pilot program for a smart city, Milton Keynes, a large town in Buckinghamshire, England. Its council recently signed a contract with BT, a multinational telecommunications services company, to install a public network for the Internet of things. In a joint project with Cambridge-based startup Neul, BT is building 15 base stations across Milton Keynes that will be connected to the Internet and able to pick up signals from sensors in everything from household hardware such as washing machines and heaters, to car parking spaces.

(Image: fill/Pixabay)

The Milton Keynes project represents the smart city of the future where connecting things with sensors to smart phones will change the Internet’s endpoints from human users to devices. IoT will cause the number of end points to explode into the billions and to tens of billions.

Connecting future cities to the IoT

So how will cities connect all the sensors -- air pollution monitors, parking spaces, lighting, water meters, garbage usage, etc. -- and their applications? First, to do so they will have to have a 99.9%+ reliable, but inexpensive network(s) -- networks capable of accurately collecting all the data that the IoT sensors will generate 24/7.

The potentially overlooked but important requirement for smart, future cities running well is reliable, ubiquitous connectivity. As we all know too well, WiFi isn’t available everywhere, public broadband is intermittent and often unreliable (especially in the U.S.), and private lines are expensive.

What will smart cities do? In order to run in a manner that will be key to a smart city functioning well they will have to utilize a mix of public broadband, private and low-power wireless, WiFi -- sometimes at the same time --  all reliably.

Simplifying WAN for smart cities

Simplifying WAN technology is now more important than ever as smart cities promise to bring a large and expanding public market for IoT services. Historically, the WAN has been complex to configure, especially if different types of circuits and different providers are utilized. IoT increases by orders of magnitude the number of endpoints and requires stitching together whatever circuits are available. It's impossible to build a single, dedicated network of this scale and ubiquitous reach.  Therefore, the ability to build a virtual network overlay on all these different physical networks is critical to connecting the IoT and thus creating a smart, future city.

Software-defined WAN technologies function as overlays for traditional WANs, creating a robust virtual network. They can automatically mix any number broadband/Internet links like cable, DSL and 4G/LTE from multiple ISPs.

Because SD-WAN technology can use any number of links simultaneously, it's able to provide the 99%+ reliability necessary to run IoT device applications, which will include collecting hundreds of zettabytes of data from a smart cities’ plethora of devices. Some devices will generate 1TB of data per day.  In fact,  the IoT is predicted to generate 403ZBs of data a year by 2018, up from 113.4ZBs in 2013.

Imagine using a 25 Mbps DSL link to augment a 50 Mbps cable connection. That’s a small example of SD-WAN technology mixing two links. SD-WAN technology can mix any combination of links to create an unlimited virtual network. And it’s an ever-expanding virtual network that would be able to provide reliable connections critical for IoT device applications that would make up a smart city, no matter how many connections.

Connecting millions of IoT endpoints

While some IoT applications may be on-premise, IoT will leverage cloud computing for consolidated analytics and data storage, as well as highly distributed access.A virtual network overlay on the Internet can connect the millions of IoT endpoints and gateways to a smart city’s applications all hosted in the cloud. Each sensor in any device will be able connect to IoT gateways and then to IoT applications and analytics. SD-WAN’s overlay makes configuring and monitoring such a massive network simple.

Digital parking spaces that signal when they are empty, garbage cans that send a message to rubbish collectors when they are overflowing, and house alarms that tell an owner when they’ve left a window ajar are only the beginning of what you may imagine in a smart, future city.

Now with a confluence of new technologies -- the cloud, SD-WAN and big data -- another new way of living life can begin for humans. 

Steve co-founded VeloCloud and leads product and marketing strategy. Prior, he lead the cloud strategy at Aerohive Networks after it acquired Pareto Networks, a cloud-based networking innovator, where he was VP of product management. Steve also spent time as VP of product ... View Full Bio
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Joe Stanganelli
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Joe Stanganelli,
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12/28/2015 | 11:44:16 AM
Re: smart cities
This is why that when it comes to Terms of Use agreements and Privacy Policies, when I click to indicate that I have read them fully and understand and agree, I just assume that they say "We can do whatever we want, neener neener, just try and stop us" -- because once you've read (and drawn up) enough of them as an attorney, that's usually what most of them say, more or less.
Jerome Amon
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Jerome Amon,
User Rank: Ninja
12/28/2015 | 6:43:15 AM
Re: smart cities
@Ashu001,

"A Public Interest for IoT sounds great in theory.

But in practice?"


Good point! But maybe each one will start by building his own intranet and in the future we will use some more secure and specialized techno / protocols to interconnect them. :) there will be many options!
Jerome Amon
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Jerome Amon,
User Rank: Ninja
12/28/2015 | 5:38:00 AM
Re: smart cities
At a moment, we all need free tools / products, but if the company is there for bussiness, so .....
Jerome Amon
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Jerome Amon,
User Rank: Ninja
12/28/2015 | 5:28:16 AM
Re: smart cities
The good new is that, this problem of privacy touch everyone, yes Everyone !!! even tools used for these purposes :)
Jerome Amon
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Jerome Amon,
User Rank: Ninja
12/28/2015 | 5:22:57 AM
Re: smart cities
Just to that 100% privacy actually could be very difficult to achieve, let's just accept it and live and make life better by IT as we can !!!
Jerome Amon
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Jerome Amon,
User Rank: Ninja
12/28/2015 | 5:18:30 AM
Re: smart cities
And about privacy, one of the big problem in my point of view, is vendors [but ahhaha i dream to build products / technologies ;) ], we can not trust them 100%, is it their fault or not ? There are advantages and inconvenients  and it is a long debate. But, you need to gather information about someX, just provide to X what X needs! Personnally i think that RE skills will be demanded due to these problems :)
Jerome Amon
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Jerome Amon,
User Rank: Ninja
12/28/2015 | 5:07:41 AM
Re: smart cities
Hi Joe,

Thanks for your feedback. Good question! Probably everything will be based on IT stuff or technology, talking about privacy is not 100% sure! Now, all technologies/IT tools / Algorithms which in the past, have been proven to be secured or have been used to secure, are weak or are broken, due to many reasons -- knowledge/skills increase, many tools for fast computation, automation tools, some technologies don't follow evolution ( they need to be redesigned), ..., in my point of view.
Jerome Amon
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Jerome Amon,
User Rank: Ninja
12/28/2015 | 4:48:21 AM
Re: smart cities
Hi Aditshar1,

I totally agree with you. And the example mentioned is very nice. Last year, i read a kind of project powered by Cisco at Barcelona, if remember well. Smart Cities now as we understand, in my point of view, is a kind of IT-Driven City Design. 
Joe Stanganelli
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Joe Stanganelli,
User Rank: Author
12/27/2015 | 1:35:55 PM
Re: smart cities
Oh, certainly.  There's always a vulnerability -- but if you make reasonable efforts to make yourself not worth the effort, then you can keep reasonably secure.

A deadbolted door can still be smashed in or gotten around, but it takes more effort, more time, etc.  Doesn't mean you shouldn't deadbolt your doors.
Joe Stanganelli
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Joe Stanganelli,
User Rank: Author
12/27/2015 | 1:33:38 PM
Re: smart cities
Indeed, part of "future-proofing" is understanding your needs and planning for obsolescence -- so you can at least manage your upgrade cycle.
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