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Smart Cities: the What, Where and Why

We chose this image for our new catalog and website redesign because it conceptualizes the wireless connections that smart cities use to improve themselves.

Over the past decade, designers and engineers have cleared hurdles in terms of accessibility, user interface and connectivity to welcome in a whole new generation of “smart” devices that integrate with one another in ways that technology has never been able to before. Smart phones were quickly followed by devices like smart TVs and smart homes that communicate via Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, leading people to wonder “What’s the next ‘smart’ trend?” The answer: smart cities.

The term “smart cities” may be misleading. It can convey an image of a Jetson-age urban sprawl that’s dominated by branded, futuristic gadgets, perhaps with moving sidewalks or street-cleaning robots. In reality, smart cities are simply urban areas that use technology to improve the lives of their citizens. Some cities like this already exist - Amsterdam, New York, Copenhagen, Dublin and Columbus, Ohio.

Smart initiatives in these cities include implementing precise energy meters in residences to reduce energy usage, converting gas-powered public transportation vehicles into electric, offering free Wi-Fi  across the city and giving citizens more convenient options to pay city fines or parking fees without having to submit payments physically or by mail.

But how do cities go about figuring out which initiatives would be the most helpful? Generally, they use different Internet of Things sensors placed in public to collect data about the way people behave. That data is then analyzed by city governments to help make decisions related to city planning that will make daily life safer and more efficient.

These sensors include pressure buttons, cameras and microphones that keep track of everything from fluid levels to temperature, velocity and proximity. It’s comparable to how engineers use equipment and procedures to analyze data during product testing to see what improvements they need to make during the next round of revisions, only this evaluation is happening constantly.

City planning can be difficult and time consuming. Smart city sensors help ease the workload so city planners can focus on more initiatives.

Because the description of smart cities is so broad, and because governments start new projects every single week, it’s impossible to determine exactly how many smart cities exist in the world. What we do know is that number will begin rising at a faster rate now that more investors have stepped up to the plate. The Consumer Technology Association® predicts that global spending on smart cities and efforts to develop new ones will reach $34 billion in 2020, a number that both governments and private investors will contribute to. The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) gave Columbus, Ohio a $40 million grant to aid in developing the city’s smart infrastructure and Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen’s company Vulcan Inc. contributed $10 million to the project as well.

Since Multilink is a company that creates products for use in the telecommunications and departments of transportation industries, this opens the door for us to improve smart cities with our innovative solutions. We already make devices that would be perfect fits in smart cities.

The Smart Tracker is a prime example of a Multilink product that can aid in smart city development. This remote power manager boasts ethernet compatibility, allowing administrators and technicians to keep track of operating parameters and remotely turn each of its eight independent outlets on or off to save power no matter where they are. Users can also schedule drops or increases in voltage and current, so if they want to power cycle a switch or small server to prevent a truck roll at an intersection, they can from anywhere.

Part 1 in our series of video overviews on the Smart Tracker introduces viewers to hardware and shows how to configure the embedded web page.

The Smart Tracker’s embedded web page also includes options for setting up email notifications for alarms, such as when voltage or internal temperature reaches a user-specified threshold. There is also a full events log tab where administrators can go to see a list of events that the unit has experienced, such as when certain outlets are turned on or off or when a scheduled action has occurred.

Automating operational procedures and keeping track of data are two of the most important factors when choosing what equipment to use in smart cities, and the Smart Tracker performs both tasks easily and effectively. The device’s web page is updated in real time every 10 seconds, so anyone with access can record data over time or copy and paste the events log into spreadsheets or documents to monitor the unit and make decisions. This data can then be used by traffic monitors to improve traffic flow and use less energy at intersections.

Because smart cities rely on the use of large amounts of fiber to expediently carry information from one place to another, there’s always going to be a need to manage new fiber and any slack that is left over from previous applications.

Multilink’s plastic Sno-Shoes® not only provide a safe and easy method for storing additional lengths of fiber along the strand for later usage, such as a pole change or fiber damage repair. They also ensure that any technicians who encounter the cables housed within follow proper installation practices by keeping fiber contained in the proper pole space.

Many similar products are made of metal, but Multilink’s slack storage solution is composed of a molded, UV-inhibited plastic that prevents cables from being sliced by sharp edges while preventing damage to the cables during lightning or other high voltage conditions.

Multilink's Sno-Shoe® is the ideal slack storage bracket for smart cities, keeping excess fiber safe and allowing for easy technician access.

The Sno-Shoe® sports a user-friendly design, aided by Multilink’s patented Cable Trough™, which allows installers to lay cable down, leaving both their hands free to secure cable to a unit. The trough also has oversized slots to accommodate different tie wraps to secure the fiber to the trough, and also features countersunk nut wells to install mounting brackets, making installation simple and easy.

It’s certain that smart cities will become ubiquitous over the next few years, the same way previous phones and TVs have been replaced with their more intelligent successors. This will be a gradual process, occurring across time as opposed to all at once, but it’s one we’re excited for. Multilink is here to help city planners make their next strides in improving daily life for everyone. Just another way that Multilink provides simply more...

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