When you install broadband internet, those cables and keystone jacks provide a portal for your customers’ connected lives. Structured wiring and Wi-Fi connect them to the outside world and power their smart homes. But that system you install has the potential to do so much more. By connecting with smart cities, your customers’ smart homes could make their neighborhood a better place to live.

What exactly is a smart city? Like a smart home, it takes advantage of the latest technology. Smart city features include things like smart parking meters, online payment systems, or a smart transportation system. Any use of technology to improve the functionality of the city is considered a smart function.

For a smart city to function well, all parts of the system need high bandwidth connectivity. Click To Tweet

How would the smart home connect to smart cities? Smart homes generate data that can be transformed into insights for city planners. The data collected by your customers’ smart homes and devices spread across a city can be shared and aggregated. This is big data, so large that a human mind is incapable of processing it. When analyzed by today’s computers, big data can reveal patterns that help planners make better decisions.

An example of this is Singapore’s program called Smart Nation, running since 2014. Sensors and cameras throughout the city collect data. This data can help city planners with traffic control, evacuation for natural disasters, and development decisions. Singapore plans to use sensors in homes to collect real-time water and energy consumption data.

Tech allows for healthier living

Seniors are using smart home technology to allow them to age at home. The smart technology is collecting data all of the time. If that data were aggregated, the potential for improvements is endless. Let’s say the collected data indicated that seniors living on streets with substantial traffic and no trees were 45% more likely to have respiratory problems. Planners then have data that supports the addition of more trees in areas with residential use.

Shared medical data, however, can be highly problematic. There are privacy issues. And in Canada, personal health data must never leave the country, so the system would have to have mechanisms in place to ensure that only Canadian data centers would be used.

A less controversial use of data sharing between smart homes and smart cities for improved health is the use of air quality sensors. If outdoor air quality sensors shared data with government, more information would be available to the agencies that need it.

The challenge of smart city connectivity

For a smart city to function well, all parts of the system need high bandwidth connectivity. This means fiber optic internet should be deployed everywhere, not just in neighborhoods where the residents can afford the latest gadgets. Air quality sensors, for example, only give a clear picture of a region if data is collected in every part of the city.

For the smart home builder, this is good news. City planners must facilitate the installation of fiber optic internet across the entire region, subsidizing installation in some cases. The entire country of Norway has undertaken this kind of infrastructure development. Norway’s smart streetlights also function as Wi-Fi hubs, and the country has subsidized 1,000 connected homes for seniors.

Security is also a major challenge. Shared data moving throughout a city-wide network can be especially vulnerable. One option here is to used closed dark fiber networks for sensitive data.

Trials in North America

Despite the challenges, the use of big data collected from homes is being tested in North America. In New York City, NYU’s Center for Urban Science and Progress is working with the Hudson Yards neighborhood on a project they are calling the first “quantified community.” The project will cover 17 million square feet of residential and commercial land. Sensors will measure and track air quality, energy use, foot traffic, and resident health data. The Hudson Yard project is expected to be fully operational by about 2025.