03.21.2017Policy

Wireless network innovation lays foundation for smart cities at SXSW

By: David Young
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The promise of the tech industry’s bright future was on full display at this year’s South by Southwest (SXSW) conference in Austin, Texas. Held March 10-19th, this action-packed event once again drew crowds of tech experts, entrepreneurs, thought leaders and policymakers from across the globe. Driving the agenda this year were discussions of how to enable new transformative technologies like the Internet of Things (IoT) revolution and the expansion of smart communities.

Smart communities are homes, counties, cities, medical and academic campuses, corporate facilities and sports venues that utilize connected technologies to better support its citizens. Smart communities are safer and more efficient thanks to connected IoT technologies that continuously talk to one another and share critical information in real-time.

Ultimately, a smarter community can enhance every aspect of life and how communities deliver services to their residents.

Verizon is deploying industry-leading smart community offerings, including intelligent lighting, video and traffic management. SXSW provided a great forum to discuss the policies that will allow us to deploy smart communities to more Americans – and faster! Verizon’s Michelle Robinson, a leader of our State Government Affairs team, discussed this topic and more alongside Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed and other industry stakeholders in a session titled, “Wireless Network Innovation: Smart City Foundation.”

The panel all agreed that in the future everything will be connected – and that connectivity will depend on modern network infrastructure built to handle incredible demand. In a smart community, sensors will detect the moment a water pipe breaks and then notify officials the second it happens, bolstering response time and minimizing impact. If an area is threatened with flooding, residents will receive critical information alerts, and traffic lights can be adjusted to usher drivers toward safer travel routes. These are just a few examples of the limitless potential in a fully connected city.

So how do we get there? The panelists discussed the need for increased collaboration and coordination at the state and local levels between policymakers, local stakeholders and private industry to work together to remove barriers to next generation wireless infrastructure deployment, particularly fiber-optic cable and small cells. Providing access to rights-of-way for small cell deployments, streamlining permitting processes and ensuring reasonable, cost-based fees are just some of the policy improvements that need to be made. Government policies should incent deployment and investment rather than delay – or even prevent – network infrastructure deployment.

Meanwhile back in Washington, D.C., policymakers are also focusing on these important issues and can also play an important role in the timely deployment of next generation network infrastructure. This week, the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Communications and Technology Subcommittee held a hearing to discuss ways to enhance deployment of broadband infrastructure. Members of the Subcommittee and witnesses noted that broadband is today’s digital infrastructure, spoke to its enormous societal benefits, and discussed proposals and ideas to streamline government processes and regulations that will reduce barriers to the deployment of new network infrastructure.

If SXSW 2017 was any indication, the world is ready to usher in the era of smart communities and the safer, more inclusive, and more connected society they will bring.

While there’s a lot of work ahead, Verizon is committed to working with policymakers to enable a connected future that will power smart communities and create a better and more promising world for everyone.

About the author(s): 

David Young uses his engineering background to develop positions on emerging public policy issues and assess key technology and communications industry trends. He spent six years working in Verizon’s Research and Development (R&D) group on technologies including VoIP, data network architectures, and audio, video and image compression. He has been awarded ten U.S. government patents for his R&D work. David is a member of the IEEE and IEEE Communications Society.