As coronavirus spreads rapidly across the world, we feel the impact of global urbanization and population density. The UN projects that by 2050, 68 percent of the world population will live in urban areas. One of the new great human challenges before us is to figure out how to make our civilizations smarter, more proactive, and responsive to keep us safe. Smart cities offer a way to keep us thriving, both day to day, and in the face of crises like climate change, pandemics, and terrorism.

Thankfully, the technology to enable that is well on its way to roll out globally. 5G supports a wide range of use cases needed to make smart IoT-powered cities run – from the simple smart water meter all the way to the autonomous EMS vehicle. By 2023, we expect 5G will represent 10 percent of total global mobile connections with even higher concentrations in key markets, according to the Cisco Annual Internet Report, 2019.

Naturally, service providers are rushing to prepare all the technical requirements to roll out 5G’s potential. But the industry can’t stop there. Service providers must partner with technologists, enterprises, and governments to define how to use 5G effectively.

Cisco is committed to working with service provider partners and clients to harness 5G to create real value. Service providers can leverage Cisco’s end-to-end portfolio of cloud-native core network functions and IoT portfolio that includes industrial networking, cybersecurity, management, data, and edge compute to provide complete solutions. 5G can also be used in tandem with other wireless and cellular access technologies depending on the enterprise’s business need and use cases.

By the end of 2020, Cisco IoT Control Center, our leading cellular connectivity management platform, will have 5G stand-alone (SA) readiness. It will also orchestrate connectivity across all 5G service layers – including NB-IoT, enhanced mobile broadband, and ultra-reliable low latency communications. Service provider offerings can be tailored to the unique needs of each 5G use case.

As part of our 5G incubation program, Cisco is codifying key use cases. We’ve pinpointed hotbeds of 5G opportunity – verticals with strong IoT growth projections that are also inherently mobile. Our SVP of Incubation and Emerging Technologies, Liz Centoni, discussed 5G’s potential across industrial IoT. We also expect 5G will make a difference in energy (24 percent IoT CAGR), connected city infrastructure (26 percent IoT CAGR), and connected cars (30 percent IoT CAGR). We think these possibilities come together in the smart city of the near future. In our model, a smart city includes three key areas: smart utilities and services, smart crowd management systems, and smart roads supporting autonomous vehicles. Let’s explore the possibilities:

Smart utilities and services

Smart utilities harness sensors and connectivity to monitor and respond to water, trash, and energy usage in real time. Imagine:

  • identifying water main leaks and dispatching repair teams before an outage occurs
  • monitoring real-time energy consumption and pricing and redirecting locally stored renewable energy on demand to keep bills low
  • abolishing “trash days” and collecting trash only when smart waste bins are full

Smart crowd management systems

Smart crowd management systems with intelligent monitoring and facial recognition help manage crowds, traffic, and security issues. Imagine:

  • reducing traffic by automatically directing circling cars to open parking spots
  • using crowd monitoring technology to predict wait times, redirect pedestrian traffic, and dispatch employee support based on crowd sizes
  • identifying lost children or suspicious persons in a dense crowd using facial recognition
  • tracking public health outbreaks and pandemics like the coronavirus and automatically routing crowds away from impacted areas such as public transportation, in airports, and in common gathering spaces

Smart roadways and autonomous vehicles 

Smart roadways connect traffic lights, roads, bridges, streetlights, and signage with the autonomous vehicles that drive on them. Imagine:

  • supporting a city of self-driving vehicles that communicate with the road and other vehicles to avoid collisions, automatically reroute around accidents, and offer a productive commute full of streaming services and entertainment
  • minimizing traffic and road damage by synchronizing traffic lights to route heavy load-bearing vehicles through a city as quickly as possible
  • creating safer school zones and intersections with responsive signage and traffic lights that signal the presence of and protect pedestrians

Cisco is committed to working with service provider partners and clients to make the smart city a reality for us all. We will be especially focused on codifying 5G use cases to show you how to use this emerging technology to make your community safer and more sustainable. To explore 5G examples in tomorrow’s smart city today, watch this video.



Ken Davidson

Director, SaaS

Cloud Security Business Unit