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Smart cities begin with smart homes

Connectivity is the key to the development of smart cities, giving way to the emergence of the smart customerBurhan Kamal

Burhan Kamal is managing partner of Vector Technologies

The Middle East is in the midst of a revolutionary smart city development phase. But with the incredible thrust of technological advances, there are elements at the grassroots that need to be tackled for such environments to thrive. “One of the biggest problems is infrastructural challenges,” says Burhan Kamal, managing partner of Vector Technologies. “Large pipes of bandwidth are being connected to buildings old and new, however, the basics of poor infrastructure in some homes and offices are not being addressed.”

Telecommunications providers are leaving consumers behind once they connect huge broadband pipes to commercial or residential units. Often on their part the job is done, but the journey of the end-customer often still has a long way to go. People are often left baffled and confused, blaming their network provider for poor infrastructure. However, the network providers are not always at fault. In actual fact, the onus is often on the building owner or the consumer to take advantage of network provision. According to Kamal, the key is to propagate signals throughout a home, wirelessly or otherwise, and maximise the benefits of broadband connectivity installations.

The UAE has the second-highest social network penetration rate in the world at 81 per cent, according to the Global Web Index 2014. This, along with growing demand for bandwidth-heavy services such as media streaming and downloading of large files, as well as the burgeoning Internet of Things (IoT) and Big Data segments, means providing appropriate network requirements is a high priority. The growth of cloud services such as Dropbox are also playing a role in the demand for more speed and greater bandwidth.

With broadband packages in the UAE becoming cheaper in the past few years due to the introduction of competition and true network sharing, customers now have genuine choice in the market.

Transmission speeds are also increasing. In the late 1990s, the average Internet broadband speed being offered in the region started with dial-up speeds of 56Kbps, evolving to 256Kbps / 512Kbps ISDN and then to DSL and ADSL. The new millennium brought HFC networks and up to one, two, and 3Mbps speeds, while in the past few years speeds have rocketed to 1,000Mbps (1Gbps) with the arrival of FTTH (fibre-to-the-home) and GPON (gigabit passive optical networks). Mobile is also seeing increasing speeds courtesy of the evolution of 3G and 4G. Etisalat and Du are at the forefront in the region by delivering infrastructure coverage to the boundary wall of a property.Dubai Marina

Etisalat and Du are at the forefront in the region by delivering infrastructure coverage to the boundary wall of a property

This all means that more data can be transferred at faster speeds than ever before, across a variety of mediums. The evolution of wireless (Wi-Fi) routers and access points, has meant that transfer speeds within the home are catching up and in some cases surpassing the hard-wired socket connection.

In the less crowded 5GHz bandwidth, this is particularly relevant. The majority of Wi-Fi devices operate in the 2.4GHz band, which is becoming thronged and has less capacity than the 5GHz band, in which meshing can occur. Organisations like AirTies and Ubiquity are looking at meshing in the 5GHz space to allow better “handshakes” from one area to another. The “mesh” will allow better transference of data and will permit the network to self-heal as each device becomes a “repeater” of Wi-Fi signals.

All of these developments are necessary in building a smart city, as the infrastructure in homes and offices needs to provide the correct network to make IoT and M2M devices work. The smart city and all it promises, is nothing without the right infrastructure in place.

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