What Do Data Centres Need To Provide To Enable Smart Cities?


The global interest in smart cities should capture the attention of any data centre operator. Connected devices are no use without the compute power to bring all of their data together and extract the information which can transform the efficiency of cities. Without a data centre, smart cities will be dumb.

Why the smart city drive?

Whilst "smart city" can sound futuristic, the drivers are very real and very current. It addresses environmental concerns to reduce carbon consumption (and other waste), and it achieves cost savings across five key verticals - transport, energy, waste, water and assisted living. Given that urbanisation is increasing and by 2030 over 92% of the UK's population will live in a city (according to the World Resources Institute), these pressures are only going to increase.

The global market for smart city solutions (and the services required to deliver them) therefore unsurprisingly predicted to be some £408 billion by 2020. Funds are likely to come from both public and private sectors. The report commissioned by the Department of Business Innovation and Skills in October 2013 indicates the UK government's interest in being a world leader in this area. The UK has been the most prolific user of the Horizon 2020 fund established by the European Commission to run pilots for smart cities. Whether this trend continues post Brexit, given the funding that had been made available through Europe, remains to be seen but it could be an area which actually comes to greater prominence as a result. The massive cost savings that could be realised for utilities should also stimulate private investment; a 2013 survey of water utilities found that utility companies could save between $7.1 billion and $12.5 billion each year by using smart water solutions.

What do data centres need to provide to enable smart cities?

Smart cities will collect data from the IoT and connected sensors embedded in the physical infrastructure of cities. This data will be analysed to extract information to perform functions like direct cars to free parking spaces, redirecting traffic around accidents, managing power based on demand and turn lights and heating off in buildings when not in use.

To meet the needs of these data-driven cities, data centres will need to be capable of handling vast quantities of data. The 130 Exabytes now running across global networks will be dwarfed by the 40,000 Exabytes predicted by 2020. Processing more data does not require...

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