June 16, 2022

InTune: Why an F1 mindset is the key to unlocking connected city potential

Next in our series of InTune blogs, we take a look at connected cities. It is one of the big IoT use cases, and certainly a topic that has gained momentum with the global smart city market anticipated to reach US$2.86 trillion in 2026, growing over 20% in the next 4 years. Tom Kuklo, Global Product Manager Connected Cities at RFS talks us through the current landscape and explains exactly what connected cities have got to do with F1.

Tom Kuklo, Global Product Manager Connected Cities

Efficiency is key 

F1 cars aim to be the peak of engineering precision and perfection. Every efficiency gain counts and the reward for optimization is big. Connected cities, although performing in a very different arena, are faced with the same challenge. Every increment away from maximum efficiency, impacts the viability of the solutions. That can range from not achieving the maximum cost efficiency, to not delivering the best in actionable data. One of the most fundamental aspects to get right for a connected city, is understandably the connectivity. 

It is the life blood of a connected city. Allowing data to be collected, transmitted, and used to improve various aspects of everyday life. Therefore, it is pivotal that this works seamlessly and although this is easy to get right in a test bed setting, when connectivity moves into the real world, it encounters significantly more problems. From interference from existing infrastructure to the problem of delivering widespread 5G coverage in a dense urban environment, the connectivity that will power a smart city is far from simple. Applications will work on a variety of standards; WiFi, NB-IoT, 4G, 5G, Satellite – the connectivity landscape has never been more complicated, and fine-tuned F1 style efficiency has never been more critical. 

The value of experts 

Knowing the efficiency demands that come hand in hand with smart cities, next comes the question of how to achieve it. There are several ways to approach connected city planning but the key is using experts to ensure that optimization that is pivotal. 

This means taking the Aston Martin approach. It is a name synonymous with cars, and perhaps James Bond. However, when it comes to their F1 vehicle it is not Aston Martin that makes the engine for the car – that is left to Mercedes. Likewise, the tyres are Perelli. Despite being one of the most recognizable car manufacturers in the world, the engineering of certain elements is outsourced to ensure the absolute best in performance. This approach makes significantly more sense when designing a smart city landscape than the piecemeal alternative. 

Although it is possible to build the infrastructure piece by piece, and this can on the surface appear to be the most cost effective approach, the short-term cost benefit of a DIY approach, may not be worth the long-term limitations it will bring to the functionality of smart cities. Fundamentally, a system can be built that way, but the fragmentation of this approach is likely to result in problems down the line; interference, difficulties when troubleshooting problems, difficulties fine tuning the precise data that will have the most impact.

Particularly when it comes to a connected city ecosystem we discussed, ensuring an architecture that minimizes interference and optimizes the connectivity available for different applications is critical. The connectivity element of a city isn’t just a layer in the architecture, it is the foundation and without getting that element right, it is all but impossible to achieve the level of precision and efficiency needed for a successful connected city. 

Play to your strengths 

For city planners, and innovation teams looking to build smart city infrastructure from the ground up, there are a lot of potential pitfalls that need to be avoided. As with an F1 build, the key will be to ensure they are working with the right partners, that bring the right expertise to the table to deliver the best possible architecture that can support the solutions that will improve various aspects of city living. With the need for ROI high on the list of priorities there is understandably a real temptation to work with vendors positioning themselves as jack of all trades; offering enough on both the application and connectivity elements to fundamentally make things work. However, in the longer term, the efficiency gains that can be made by working with true experts at every level are significant enough to offset the higher upfront costs and will be the difference between being lapped by the competition and a podium finish.  

If you would like to hear more about our UBI connected city solutions, please get in touch with Tom Kuklo, Global Product Manager Connected Cities.