Emerging applications for smart city infrastructure include smart lighting, sensors, cameras, 5G, electric vehicle charging and systems that support drones, navigation and positioning, Christina Patsioura, chief analyst Internet of Things and intelligence at GSMA, said during the Mobile World Congress panel on Wednesday, Feb. 22. 8.
Ahead of MWC 2023, Russian startup Vitrulux demonstrated many of the capabilities of smart cities in one place with its modular Smart Pole product. From surveillance drones to options for hooded lights, which point downwards and have a covered top to reduce light pollution, it sums up what a smart city could be – for better or for worse.
What is the Virtulux Smart Pole?
Virtulux has been a designer of lighting systems since 2004 and is now expanding into smart lighting. During the pre-MWC panel, the startup demonstrated modular Smart Poles that can serve as hubs for a wide variety of smart city resources.
“Smart Poles (are) a new trend,” said Patsioura. “Smart Poles are integrating some or all of these concepts I mentioned earlier into physical polls that are installed in cities.”
Virtulux’s Smart Pole and Smart Cluster products seek to make light poles a central resource. In Virtulux parlance, a Smart Cluster is a group of Smart Poles, perhaps with a mix of sizes and modules, that provide wider coverage and interoperability across an area such as an entire park or central plaza.
TO SEE: Samsara senses progress in AI and automation for IIoT in 2023 (TechRepublic)
Each Smart Pole can be customized with different types of lighting designed to reduce light pollution, but it goes much further than that. Drone docking stations, device chargers, CCTV cameras, audio recording and transmission, 5G-ready radio, weather and CO2 monitoring sensors and voice assistance can be built in. In addition, the Smart Poles can be used in conjunction with automated shuttles, using the pole’s signal as a waypoint.
Larger piles can hold energy storage that can handle power surges and fluctuations from EV car chargers and other large-scale infrastructure. Each sensor or function comes in its own modular section of the mast, allowing them to be adjusted, swapped or serviced without taking down the entire mast.
The drone dock is one of the more futuristic and dramatic aspects of the product line. A rocket-shaped rotating security drone, as Vitrulux illustrated in his talk, could detect that a pedestrian had collapsed, capture and analyze images of that person, and call an emergency medical team. It’s easy to imagine this type of drone being linked to law enforcement as well.
These numerous data streams would likely be routed through local authorities, Vitrulux suggested. The company is building out a network of service operators in the infrastructure-as-a-service world to make more applications available.
The software was created in collaboration with a multi-service operator who already works with Vitrulux, and includes a digital twin of itself for maintenance. Using an API is necessary because in practice each pool will be a hub for different software modules, including some from external third parties.
The Smart Poles are now in production, Virtulux said, and have established partnerships with organizations such as Huawei. While Virtulux has negotiated pricing and implementation agreements with system integrators in some countries, it is still working on a wider rollout.
What is the Virtulux Smart Cluster?
Those larger poles are where the Smart Cluster idea comes into play. Placing multiple poles in the area will allow them to navigate using a local 5G network or the aforementioned autonomous vehicles, Virtulux said.
A short distance between multiple poles also allows the lines for power, signal and fiber to all run in one cable, says Andrei Shvdov, head of the smart department at Virtulux.
This would require more cooperation from the cities, but Shvdov pointed out that municipalities are already familiar with the processes of outsourcing infrastructure maintenance and construction to dedicated infrastructure managers, such as those who operate cell towers.
“It’s aimed at early adopters,” Patsioura said. “Normally we would look at places in the world that can afford this project… cities that can participate in the smart city investment cycle. The obligation of cities is public safety, so we have no doubt there is interest there.”
What is the most developed smart city?
According to Statista, Copenhagen scored highest in the category for most developed digital cities. Copenhagen’s smart city initiatives focus on achieving carbon neutrality, creating a “more livable” capital and supporting economic growth. Its goals are wide-ranging.
For example, preventing traffic congestion is a major problem that it has been trying to solve with real-time data collection and traffic-related digital tools and apps. It has also experimented with adaptive lighting that saves energy costs by only increasing lighting when a pedestrian or cyclist is present.
Elsewhere in the smart city news, energy optimization is at the top of the list IoT trends to look. In addition, energy companies can strengthen their energy cybersecurity defensesand San Antonio, Texas, uses AI to detect contaminated recyclable materials.
Criticism of the smart city push
Critics of the smart city concept cite intrusive surveillance as one of the problems; automation tends to replicate the prejudices of the people who make it. Citizens may object to the idea of being constantly on camera and being recorded or within range of drones that have the capacity to send false alarms to authorities.
Virtulux has also faced what Shvov called “radiophobia,” where citizens do not want the mobile antennas to be visible on the street, but want the mobile connection.