Talk about vision. On June 3, 1880, Alexander Graham Bell and his assistant, Charles Sumner Tainter, conducted the world’s first wireless telephone call using Bell’s newly developed Photophone. As you might guess by the name, the Photophone worked by transmitting sound using scattered beams of light.
That first transmission only made it approximately 210 meters before the signal petered out, but it proved the data-carrying capability of light waves. Ninety years and dozens of smaller breakthroughs later, Bell’s vision led to the first commercially viable fiber optic cable.
The take away? Rarely does a truly big idea emerge fully formed and ready to be implemented. The real work is done in small, intermediate steps leading up to it. The vision of the smart city is no different.
A concept in search of a practical foundation
One of the first clearly articulated visions of the smart city dates to the 1970s and Nicholas Negroponte’s work at the Architecture Machine Group. Over the next three decades, Negroponte’s vision remained conceptual. Then came the emergence of the “smart building.” Autonomous, self-aware and intelligent, the smart building served as a catalyst, fueling development of a practical smart city design.
Today, as various applications take shape and are tested, we’re getting a better idea of what is possible and what it takes to get there. What we know for sure is that the challenge isn’t so much designing the applications, it’s developing the ITC infrastructure needed to run them. Perhaps it is time to step back and ask ourselves: Is there an intermediate step—between the initial spark of vision and its ultimate realization—that will help us better understand the infrastructure needed? Yes, the connected campus.
The connected campus as a smart city proving ground
Hardly confined to higher education, connected campuses include medical and technology parks as well as corporate campuses and airports that are miniature smart cities. In addition to highly connected workspaces, smart campuses such as those owned by Google and Apple include childcare, sports and recreational facilities, cafeterias, health-care facilities and smart transportation systems.
Less intricate examples include healthcare campuses, often anchored by a hospital which is surrounded by a variety of outpatient facilities and doctors’ offices; or technology parks where multiple companies work independently but also collaborate on common projects.
Regardless of size or scope, every connected (or smart) campus relies on most of the same network infrastructure elements needed for the smart city.
Seamlessly integrated fiber and high-speed wireless networks that combine to form the central nervous system of the campus, both within and among the various buildings:
- Copper and fiber access networks needed to support the disparate IoT networks and connected devices
- Robust and redundant inter-connects between the outside fiber plant and the data center
- Flexible data infrastructure, including secure connections to cloud-based or virtualized on-premise compute and storage assets
- Infrastructure intelligence to automatically monitor and manage the entire physical layer
How well these components are designed and integrated will, in large measure, determine the extent to which those who work there are able to communicate, collaborate and innovate. More to the point, we should see this environment as an excellent intermediate step between smart buildings and smart cities.
Diver deeper into connected campus infrastructure
At CommScope, a leader in future-ready infrastructure for the connected campus, we’ve developed an interactive connectivity map that does a good job explaining the various infrastructure systems and how they are connected. It’s a good place to begin your exploration of what it takes to make your campus (and ultimately, your city) smart.