Building Smart Cities with Data Centers

August 5, 2014

Smart Cities are not a new concept. In fact, over the last five years, Smart City initiatives have proliferated across the globe. Some of the world's largest technology organisations, such as Microsoft, IBM, Cisco, Telefonica and Oracle, have launched projects to develop the 'cities of the future,' investing billions of dollars into new services, exciting technology and a new way of living.

This is because it is well-accepted that Smart Cities can benefit consumers, businesses and cities on economic, sociological and technological levels. A recent Frost & Sullivan report estimates a combined market potential of $1.5 trillion globally for the Smart City market in segments including energy, transportation, healthcare, building, infrastructure, and governance. From deploying sensors to detect excessive air pollution that are integrated with traffic controls in Santander, to developing a more efficient traffic system in Bucharest and an integrated education system in Chicago, (partially) Smart Cities are already changing the way we live, making our lives easier and driving economic growth.

However, what is often underestimated is the sheer amount of data traffic that a fully developed Smart City will inevitably generate. Considering the volume of data that is being created day by day, is it even possible for data centres to cope with a truly Smart City's data flow?

At Digital Realty, we believe there are tools and methods that businesses and cities can use to make sure they can support the traffic generated. The key is planning and understanding the data itself - its nature, source and needs - whether it is from an educational system, government infrastructure, green initiative, private or public service or any third party. The source of the data will also dictate a range of legislative and compliance requirements.

It is undeniable that Smart Cities will contribute to a heavy squeeze on the supply of data centre and cloud resources, particularly as Smart Cities grow in number and complexity. As a result, those involved in building and developing Smart Cities must consider data first, and then ensure that their investments in infrastructure put scalability, flexibility, security and future-proofing at the top of the list of their priorities. Stringent service level agreements, 24/7/365 support and real-time reporting are also fundamental to help users access the data in their systems and provide the services promised.

But, while it is still too early to tell exactly the extent to which Smart Cities will truly take hold across the globe, one thing is clear: data centres will be their backbone. We believe any Smart City initiative will require a tailored data centre strategy that balances current needs with future growth, potential applications and current data traffic.

So far, Smart Cities have provided us with an exciting glimpse into a world that has previously only been seen in science fiction. As these 'cities of the future' evolve, only time will tell whether we are truly prepared or if we are destined to fail - preventing the latter must start today.

Blog post by Bernard Geoghegan, Managing Director, EMEA at Digital Realty

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