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How Cities Can Break the Digital Divide to Become More Connected, Secure and Smart

Smart city solutions are shaping cities and changing lives faster than any other social, cultural or market force today. Cities of every size and in every corner of the world are looking to leverage smart technology and solutions to manage resources efficiently, be responsive to the needs of all citizens and be more fiscally progressive. What if we showed you how Jacobs, Nokia and Smart City Capital are bringing Canada’s First 10 Gig Smart City to life?

Ottawa aerial

Smart technologies offer cities – large and small – profound opportunities to transform into inclusive and efficient places that respect the needs, concerns and aspirations of those who call it home. Competitive cities that alleviate poverty, create jobs and attract investments. Connected cities that enhance mobility, enrich learning and encourage digital equity. Safe cities that protect our children, care for our neighbors and shield us from disasters. And resourceful cities that conserve resources, improve services and save taxpayers’ money.

No matter their size, cities around the globe are realizing that maximizing the efficient use of their resources, with smart solutions aimed at reducing environmental impacts and enhancing livability, will be paramount in remaining competitive in the global market.

A common challenge faced by cities – even those with small or multi-billion-dollar annual budgets – is that these projects require the capital to bring these innovative, impactful solutions to fruition. For smaller cities, the budget challenge is even greater. Know-how is another significant challenge.

Traditional infrastructure projects are no longer enough when considering that smart city projects require solutions that deliver a blended outcome inclusive of both the technical and revenue generating/budget creating components. The learning curve can be significant.

But what if we showed you how Jacobs and our partners Smart City Capital and Nokia are using innovative, outcome-based business models and cutting-edge technologies to establish various smart infrastructure projects – delivering enhanced experiences and economic growth for people who live, work, visit and operate across the city and broader community?

100+

years of Jacobs urban infrastructure planning, design, construction and operations management experience across all core city systems

$223B

estimated total CAGR for global smart city platforms by 2023, up from $104.6B in 2018

The market readiness for open access smart city utility infrastructure is allowing communities accelerated options to offer residents ubiquitous connectivity coverage that will finally allow for ISP competition in Canada. This then allows cities to become truly connected and then smart. The main positive impacts will be the more efficient use of municipal O&M budgets, new smart revenue creations, and creating the ability to break the digital divide to the underserved. I won’t be surprised if the net outcome will actual allow cities to control the rate of tax increase to at or below the rate of inflation!

Michael Bidwell
Jacobs Regional Smart Cities Director

Accelerating connected, secure and prosperous cities

In today’s world, digital solutions are being applied at the scale of the district, the corridor, the campus, the building, military installation, neighborhood and in some cases, the entire city.

Being smart is about more than sensors, Wi-Fi hotspots, smart kiosks and the Internet of Things (IoT), though. Smart means taking a triple-bottom-line based systems approach and developing comprehensive and connected solutions that are focused on improving the quality of life and empowering economic opportunities for all citizens. Infrastructure networks – utilities, communications, transportation, public safety and operations all must be integrated and considered in context with important physical attributes such as land use, mobility and walkability.

In the spring of 2018, Nokia and Smart City Capital, LLC launched a joint program to help Canadian cities fund and reduce the risks associated with smart city initiatives. With available project funding from Smart City Capital exceeding $2 billion CAD, this program complements the Smart Cities Challenge program launched by Infrastructure Canada.

Partnering with these influential industry leaders to create some of Canada’s first Public-Private-Partnership (P3) Smart Cities, Jacobs is guiding the planning and developing of the smart city strategy and implementation aligned to strategic objectives in a three-phase approach.

To further progress toward creating a connected, secure, smart cities of the future, our work will first focus on getting smart cities enabled and onboarding initial bundles of smart city elements. This initial phase would include establishing an open access environment that allows residents, municipal entities and businesses to access internet services that deliver data transfer speeds of up to 10 Gigabits per second (Gbps).

Once connected and secured, we’ll build the smart city utility network out to provide the same level of service to all residents, municipal entities and businesses – eliminating any digital divide. Subsequent phases would include an ongoing effort to identify additional smart city initiatives, establish additional services bundles, determine the financial model and execute new projects to onboard services. 

Unlocking the benefits

The cost of connectivity is increasing as expanded technology, such as more video applications, virtual and augmented reality tools and conference calls, demands more from internet platforms. And, as populations increase, there’s more revenue to provide bundled services to reach previously underserved populations. Our open access environment solution will unlock the roadblocks that many cities have experienced with the current internet service providers (ISP) and bring about new competitive ISP options.

Our smart city infrastructure solution can even boost resilience planning efforts in wake of natural disasters like flooding. Specifically, Jacobs provides disaster and climate resilience assessments that qualify and quantify risk and resilience and provide resilience improvement options. Smart city infrastructure can also be used to create smart agriculture opportunities for local farmers. For example, farmers with connectivity access can install field and crop sensors to reduce their operating costs to maximize revenues.

Smart technologies translate to various cost savings for cities, such as reducing the cost of operating water, wastewater, energy, transportation and buildings infrastructure with real-time asset management, predictive operations and maintenance, smart waste and winter maintenance management that reduce fleet and fuel costs.

For example, once the smart city infrastructure is completed, cities have unlimited connectivity access for real-time remote water meters to be installed throughout their entire water distribution system so that non-revenue water can be identified and corrected accordingly. This allows cities to better control their cost increases each year associated with aging water infrastructure and ensures residents and businesses are precisely charged for individual water usage.

With our more than 100 years of leadership in urban infrastructure planning, design, construction and operations management for all core city systems – water, wastewater, transportation, energy, waste management, environment, information technology, industry and security, we’re proud to partner with Canadian cities, Smart City Capital and Nokia to develop the next generation of smart solutions.

An award-winning systems integrator, we’re leveraging our expertise in linking citywide assets using real-time data collection, analytics and visualization (including geospatial analytics), telecommunications services, cloud technologies and automation to develop solutions for cities.

Smart city utility infrastructure ultimately allows cities to become more efficient and effective, be capable of meeting future challenges and significantly improve the quality of life for the people living in their communities.

Interested in learning more about how Jacobs transforms intangible ideas into intelligent solutions for a more connected, sustainable world? Visit www.jacobs.com/what-if.

Internet of Things technology serves as an enabler to improve issues faced by citizens, such as traffic congestion, flooding, access to broad band services, safety and security, lower utility costs among other services that enhance quality of life, attract businesses and empower economic prosperity.

Avi Patwardhan
Jacobs Managing Director - Smart Cities