Smart Cities: The Future of Urban Areas, Part 3

In Smart Cities: The Future of Urban Areas, Part 2 of this blog series I described the “smart cities” initiative that has taken place in two of Mexico’s biggest cities: Guadalajara and Mexico City (see Figure 1). In Italy, Milano has started a project to become a smart city.

Figure 1

A smart city overview. (Source: Schneider Electric)

A smart city overview.
(Source: Schneider Electric)

The communication infrastructure of future smart cities can be used for connecting all the smart systems that are able to manage the electric power in an automated mode, making it possible to increase the energy saving and the safety of big urban areas.

The data contained in this infrastructure has to be correctly protected; hence many regulatory standards are needed.

The effectiveness and the reliability of the communication protocols is a key point to ensure the success of this initiative, which holds the promise of making people who live in big cities more connected and making their lives more comfortable.

There is also the need for standardization of the communication protocols of the infrastructures carrying the data of smart cities, because it’s very important that the standards don’t depend strongly on the country where the smart city is placed. A wide variety of different communication standards for different countries might create confusion and lack of reliability of the overall system. The answer to this need is represented by the efforts of standards associations like the IEEE Standards Association (IEEE-SA):

    “As products and solutions are becoming ever more complex, the successful realization of products requires the use of multiple technologies and components,” explains Dr. John Kulick, Vice-Chair of the IEEE-SA Standards Board. “Standards provide the natural means for engineers to incorporate different components into their work. Familiarity with standards allows engineers to more quickly adapt necessary technology to projects under development. This utilization of standards can lead to shortened time to market which is important in today’s competitive marketplace.”

The importance of a reliable and secured system for wireless communication of smart objects with the cloud inside a smart city is reflected in the initiative of a top company in the field of the Internet of Things, Freescale, which has adopted the Thread Networking Protocol, a communication protocol for networking a smart house with the cloud of connected devices in the infrastructures of a smart city (see Figure 2).

Figure 2

The Thread networking protocol has been adopted for connecting smart homes to the Internet of Things. (Source Thread Group)

The Thread networking protocol has been adopted for connecting smart homes to the Internet of Things.
(Source Thread Group)

The smart objects can be inserted inside the home and are able to communicate with each other by a low-power communication technology, and the smart houses are connected to the cloud by a wireless protocol that has to be reliable and safe, to guarantee the effectiveness of the services by remote access and the privacy of the data exchanged across the smart city communication infrastructure. A citizen of a smart city can control his home by means of his smartphone or tablet, and he can switch on or off the thermostats, he is able to control the lights, he can check the security systems, and he can be informed of unauthorized access by an alarm message. These are only a few of the possible features that a smart house can offer, and hence the smart city might be an efficient environment for the networking of these very comfortable smart homes.

Do you think that the wireless networking of smart buildings, like the smart homes, of smart cities will be effective and safe? The big volume of data exchanged in a smart city has to be managed by a wide-band communication system: Do you think that the realization and the maintenance of this communication infrastructure will be expensive?

8 comments on “Smart Cities: The Future of Urban Areas, Part 3

  1. etnapowers
    October 7, 2014

    “Thread is a simplified IPv6-based mesh networking protocol developed by industry leading technology companies for connecting products around the home to each other, to the internet and to the cloud. Thread is simple to install, highly secure and scalable to hundreds of devices. Thread is developed on low-cost, low-power 802.15.4 chipsets. Millions of products that are already in use today will simply require a software update to be Thread-enabled.”


    It's a very interesting protocol that will be very important for the success of the smart cities project.

  2. Davidled
    October 7, 2014

    Let us image that two pets are connected with each devices on the thread network. I am wondering what advantage home owner get it unless tracking two pets from owner. Communication among devices might cause overloading of network.

  3. etnapowers
    October 8, 2014

    In this case the communication among devices might overload the network, that's the reason for why the smart objects inside a smart house are connected by mean of a local communication protocol, like the smart bluetooth, and only a master device is connected to the network outside the smart house.

  4. etnapowers
    October 8, 2014

    The knowledge of standards by engineers may increase the effectiveness of the smart products under development and, finally, the quality and the reliability of the overall communication infrastructure, by mean of which structure the smart objects trade data.

  5. Davidled
    October 8, 2014

    The figure shows that devices are connected with gateways (square box and polygon box) and this figure does not indicate how many devices could be connected. Being connected to many device might cause the network to be overloaded.

  6. etnapowers
    October 9, 2014

    Bergamo city, in Italy, is going to become a smart city. An announcement stated that the conversion will be completed in 2035, the project involves also the Harvard School  of Design (


  7. etnapowers
    October 9, 2014

    @DaeJ: you're right, the number of devices that can be connected to the central hub is a technical issue that might be solved through an accurate design process of the communication infrastructure and a correct dimensioning of the maximum data rate allowable on the net of the smart city, depending on the dimension of the smart city and the particular needs it requires.

  8. ue2014
    October 13, 2014

    Smart cities is a very good concept which would drive the whole world in to the different perspective. The biggest concern in Smart cities for me would be the “Security of data”. Since all the important data related to our personal life's would be communicated and could be located throughout, developers need to be more vigilant about the security of the data being transferred.

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