Cities around the world face rapid urbanization, economic constraints, and environmental concerns. To address these challenges, city administrators are turning to technology, especially the Internet of Things (IoT), to digitize city operations. Unfortunately, smart city technologies pose significant challenges of their own.

Smart city IoT services include smart lighting, smart parking, intelligent traffic management systems, smart waste management, video surveillance with analytics, and real-time monitoring of pollution and air quality. They can help make cities more accessible, safer, greener, and liveable. However, before cities can realize these benefits, they must first overcome the following hurdles:

  • Selecting technologies from a plethora of options, including upcoming 5G choices
  • Navigating complexities of deploying and managing multiple technologies
  • Ensuring cybersecurity, secure data management, and regulatory compliance
  • Maintaining SLAs on existing services while quickly innovating and delivering new services
  • Deriving value from the vast volumes of new city data

Unable to overcome these challenges, cities often implement projects as one-offs or proofs of concepts without a holistic architecture. In fact, smart city solutions often come with their own networking and application infrastructure. This siloed approach leads to fragmented, sub-scale deployments that are difficult to maintain and secure — never mind share data, align policies, and deploy new services.

How to overcome smart city challenges

Hundreds of cities, however, are overcoming the challenges associated with smart city deployments. By partnering with Cisco, the market leader in IT and security, these cities can move beyond siloed proofs of concepts and accelerate their smart city journeys.

Cisco offers a proven approach for smart city success:

  1. A comprehensive multi-service IoT network and security architecture called Cisco Connected Communities Infrastructure (CCI)
  2. Cisco Kinetic for Cities (CKC), a smart city platform to aggregate and normalize data from multiple use cases with pre-integration to a broad ecosystem of sensor and application partners

CCI enables customers to leverage next-generation intent-based networking technology, which simplifies deployment, management, and security for a scalable and flexible smart city network. CCI’s modular architecture allows customers to choose from multi-access communication technologies, including fiber, Ethernet with Power-over-Ethernet (PoE), Wi-Fi, Wi-SUN, LoRaWAN, and DSRC/ITS-G5 vehicle-to-infrastructure communications. Using Cisco’s Software Defined Access (SDA), cities can sub-divide a CCI network into multiple virtual networks and thereby securely operate multiple services across various city departments. Customers like the City of Schenectady, NY; and the Town of Cary, NC are deploying their projects with confidence, knowing that CCI is a Cisco Validated Design (CVD) with a clearly documented architecture blueprint and design best practices that are tested by Cisco engineers. (Learn more about CCI.)

Open, industry standards are critical for customers to enable multi-service networks and avoid vendor lock-in. Cisco continues to move CCI and our ecosystem towards relevant industry standards and interoperability. The most recent example is our partner CIMCON Lighting and their newly certified Wi-SUN Smart Street Lighting solution.

Wi-SUN is an IEEE 802.15-based mesh technology that enables multiple services, such as lighting and metering. As an active member of the Wi-SUN Alliance, Cisco helped to define this open-standard for multi-vendor interoperability. Last year, we announced Cisco’s support of the Wi-SUN Field Area Network (FAN) Certification Program, and as part of this we offer a hardware Reference Design and SDK. CIMCON and other partners are using these resources to build their Wi-SUN stack and accelerate certification, thus enabling multi-vendor interoperability. For example, BHIP in Brazil recently deployed 30,000 CIMCON streetlight controllers on Cisco’s mesh network leveraging the CCI architecture, with a vision to add new services and smart devices in the future. The ability to adopt Wi-SUN helps to move them in this direction.

Accessing data and achieving interoperability from various smart city IoT services are also critical steps on any digital transformation journey. Otherwise, data remains locked in siloes, making it difficult and expensive to develop smart city applications. Unfortunately, the smart city market is still young and lacks standard data models for sensors and applications. Cisco Kinetic for Cities addresses this and reduces deployment complexity by normalizing data to consistent, well-defined data models by integrating an ecosystem of over 90 pre-integrated partners. This allows CKC to bring multiple services and vendors together in a single-pane-of-glass dashboard to enable better operation and smarter correlated policies. We also offer a series of CKC API training modules and CKC sandbox on Cisco DevNet where cities can join or leverage over 600,000 Cisco developers to develop new applications and services.

At Cisco, we believe smart city technologies must be secure, scalable, and interoperable — not just to meet today’s needs, but also to enable cities to undergo a sustainable journey towards digital transformation. This means strategically planning your city’s communications network and adopting next-generation capabilities embodied in Cisco’s Connected Communities Infrastructure. It also means leveraging industry standards and interoperability across a partner ecosystem. That security, scalability, and interoperability can also be extended to your city data with the Cisco Kinetic for Cities platform.

To learn more about how Cisco is helping smart cities, visit our booth at Smart City Expo World Congress in Barcelona, Spain November 19-21, or visit us on the web.


Qiang Huang

Sr. Director of Product Management

Cisco IoT