The digital cities of tomorrow will need enhanced connectivity

30 Mar 2021

Image: © susanne2688/

Dell Technologies’ Jeff McCann talks about the importance of building technology infrastructure to support digital cities around Ireland.

Over the past few months, we’ve seen the world transform in countless ways. An acceleration in the pace of digital transformation has changed how we live, work and do business. It’s clear that our cities will be affected in the long term, which is why it’s critical to reflect on how emerging technologies can shape the future of our cities as Ireland looks to recover and rebuild.

The emergence of 5G networks and boundless broadband deployment has the potential to change the way cities in define their digital future. The promise of extremely fast internet speeds and unprecedented improvements in mobile devices offers new and exciting developments that affect every aspect of public life, from intelligent transportation to public safety and waste management, as well as business life.

Cities across Ireland have set out an ambition to become digital cities of tomorrow. The Smart Docklands project in Dublin is a testbed to trial a variety of smart city solutions in areas such as waste, water, energy, mobility, crime prevention and flooding.

In Limerick, digital city technologies are being deployed as part of the EU-funded +CityxChange project, which is aimed at reducing the city’s carbon footprint. All of these projects are enabled through high-speed connections.

Enhanced connectivity

With processes already established to facilitate new infrastructure, major Irish cities will be among the first to welcome these economic benefits. In these environments, enhanced connectivity forms the backbone for digital city communications and applications, enabling networks to carry the real-time information that will fuel growth and innovation in our cities long into the future.

These connections between almost every type of intelligent device, appliance or machine will allow cities to reduce traffic congestion and vehicle emissions, manage waste disposal, conserve energy and optimise the efficiency of utilities.

‘Having witnessed what technology and data can do when needed most, Ireland has an opportunity to set the foundations of digital cities of tomorrow’

Emerging 5G capabilities will even facilitate communications between smart, and eventually driverless, cars that will connect to the broader digital city network. With 5G networks touted as having latency rates – meaning the time it takes for data to be transferred between two places – of under a millisecond, connections will be near instantaneous. This rapid delivery of information will support rapid responsiveness needed by autonomous cars and trucks when confronting an imminent danger like a pedestrian.

Today, service providers are introducing software that incorporates AI and machine learning technology, which can be as intelligent and dynamic as digital cities themselves. New software innovations can analyse data patterns and identify anomalies, spikes of traffic or congestion, and instruct the city’s traffic control systems to take appropriate action. In cities which previously experienced high traffic density, such as Dublin, the effect could be genuinely transformative.

Bridging the divide

As governments worldwide look to rebuild economies and invest in technology infrastructure, enhanced broadband deployment provides communities with an opportunity to bridge the connectivity divide that exists in some communities.

In Ireland, the roll-out of the National Broadband Plan is helping to ensure that businesses in underserved areas will have the high-speed broadband they need to stay connected with employees while also engaging in e-commerce.

But the positive impact extends beyond the business community. Enhanced connectivity gives communities greater access to technology, education, healthcare and economic security.

Particularly as schools look for better connectivity for remote learning, cities are focusing on partnerships with the major telecommunications companies or deploying their own private wireless networks to roll out high-speed broadband.

The promise of enhanced connectivity is clear, but we are only at the beginning of a journey to a 5G future. There’s still work to be done before we can fully meet the digital demands of both rural, dispersed populations and our larger, more densely-populated urban areas.

The final hurdles

As cities in Ireland look to capitalise on the benefits of enhanced connectivity through broadband deployment, their journey may include obstacles. 5G is not simply an evolution of 4G. It requires massive transformation, demanding new distributed architectures using software-defined infrastructure.

When businesses and organisations invest in this new software-defined world, it is critical to remember that it is constructed upon common building blocks of compute, storage and networking.

For example, 5G requires a certain technological baseline, including a highly distributed infrastructure bolstered by the latest developments in cloud computing. Establishing this baseline on open, interoperable standards will set the Irish economy up for innovation and flexibility as we continue on our connectivity journey.

That journey will require workloads to be moved closer to the citizen – whether they are using connected cars, intelligent transport systems or e-healthcare services. Through the use of mobile edge compute platforms within 5G, compute workloads can be moved to the most advantageous location in the network.

As we leverage enhanced connectivity to enable new use cases as part of wider digital city initiatives, networks must be equipped to deal with the extensive usage variations associated with everyday life in a major city. As constituent bandwidth use shifts with traffic patterns, day-and-night cycles and major city events, IT leaders need to focus on how these stressors are affecting networks.

Having witnessed what technology and data can do when needed most, Ireland has an opportunity to set the foundations of digital cities of tomorrow through greater focus on connectivity.

With Ireland’s population due to increase to 6m by 2036 and the numbers living in Dublin alone set to increase 31.9pc by 2036, digital cities can act as a catalyst for growth and innovation. Not only will this help to transform Irish businesses, but it will also ensure that public services can be as effective, efficient and equitable as possible in meeting the needs of a growing and more diverse population.

By Jeff McCann

Jeff McCann is director of the Customer Solution Centers at the Innovation Labs at Dell Technologies Ireland.