smart city, connectivity

Industry Focus: Connectivity

Connectivity has been central to many ground-breaking inventions. Whether for transportation (e.g. the airplane) or communication (e.g. telephones, fibrotic cables, or the Internet), we as a species have put huge value on improving interconnections with other humans. Studies have now shown that in 2015 we used around 1.1 billion connected devices, and that number is expected to rapidly increase to 9.7 billion in 2020.

Why is Connectivity Integral in Smart Cities?

As we move forwards, the function of smart cities will be dependent on the power of connectivity. Connectivity is the manner in which devices communicate with each other and transfer data. It is this system that makes it possible to send data to different people.

An example that most people will be familiar with is Wi-Fi networks. We are already dependent upon these networks in many ways, but there is room for improvement and that is what enhanced connectivity hopes to accomplish. Cellular networks are similar, but apply more to our phones than our computers, which is why Wi-Fi is currently the best model to work with.

RF mesh networks is a new method of connectivity that is now becoming more financially and technologically feasible. Mesh networks are comprised of a group of wireless networks, connected to each other. Rather than reaching the Internet through one node, your phone or computer could connect through a chain of two or three nodes.

The goal of all these systems is to allow constant Internet connection. Before the Internet of Things (IoT) can reach a point of usefulness, everyone needs to have access to constant access to data through a quality connection. This is why many people view connectivity as the prerequisite for all other advancements.

Until the Internet is available to everyone, Internet-automated bike loan systems or traffic systems will be problematic. Companies such as Google are working on this problem, but regulators need to prioritise this, for it to gain traction.

smart city, connectivity, wifi

How Will the Economy Change with Increased Connectivity?

The open workplace trend has also affected how humans interact. We have been put in new positions which give us the option to work closely with our colleagues in ways that weren’t previously imaginable. There are now integrated open workplaces where you aren’t separated by cubicles and can work freely with your coworkers. This is meant to engender a feeling of collaboration and fuel more innovation. Some workplaces have even decided to eschew assigned seating in order to add randomness to the way employees interact. This is a form of social connectivity that results from being able to communicate with others in real life in a very open and collaborative manner.

Increased connectivity should evolve this concept even further and provide us with the opportunity to communicate with others, whether they be business partners or personal connections, in new and exciting ways. The goal is to eradicate the problem of location so that anyone in a smart city can work effectively, wherever they are. This can only be solved by regulators prioritising and investing in connectivity.

There will be many opportunities in this space as people start to see how the right changes can enable a city’s growth. Companies that study the IoT and its effects on smart cities provide obvious job opportunities, but there will also be options within other companies as a result of the changes.

Numerous companies are getting into the connectivity space, but three that stand out are Purple WiFi, Veniam Jobs, and Sigfox. All of these companies are working hard to bring their service to new countries as they see the massive opportunity that presents itself.

Once office networks have access to the new ways of interfacing with their city, major changes in the IT industry are likely. As constant connectivity becomes more easily sustainable, additional security will be required. Therefore, intelligent systems will need to be designed and adapted to this new working environment.

Job Opportunities

In terms of new jobs being created, a demand is being created for everyone to become technologically and digitally literate. Not only will these skills be required for workers, but someone will have to teach them to others as they become the mandatory skills of our time.

Two top level jobs that are going to be created because of increased connectivity are machine learning scientists and cloud architects. The machine learning scientists are going to be necessary to make sure the system is constantly learning and evolving. A system that is only as smart as the human who designed it is not that effective, but one that evolves to the city’s preferences over time is a great tool to have. The same applies to cloud architects. With all of these operations occurring in the cloud and increased connectivity being the priority, a whole new cloud platform is going to need to be developed, and workers with an understanding of the building blocks of the cloud are going to be in high demand.

Other jobs that seem to consistently pop up at companies focused around connectivity are Field Service Technician, Technical Support Specialist, and Instructor. All of these generally require a mix of engineering skills and communications skills. A mix of these two skillsets is rare, which is why anyone who takes the time to study both of them in school is set up for a wide variety of interesting jobs.

smart city, smart city jobs, careers, computing, machine learning

The Long-Term Effects

Connectivity will be of great benefit to the environment, as it will save power and improve network efficiency. We will also see new opportunities for growth in industries such as advertising, as the ability to track consumers’ online moves to a more physical tracking mechanism. The Internet of Things will make it possible to tag certain consumers based on their phones or biometric markers, and then push targeted messages towards them. This will create new ways of presenting messages to consumers based on where they are and other information that can be taken from their location patterns.

Overall, connectivity is the idea that we as humans are becoming closer. This will bring some problems as privacy may reduce in some ways. However, connectivity will also inspire positive effects on the economy, safety, and relationships. This is all due to the benefits of being able to communicate constantly and effectively, and in turn strengthening bonds with the outside world.

The best thing you can do is look around and think about how every industry will be affected by a perfect connectivity. How will the service industry change? What will happen in real estate? Will your job evolve or disappear? Thinking in this manner will start to open your eyes to the power of connectivity in smart cities and how much is going to change in the next few decades.

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Theresa Kern
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