Smart city projects are hot topic at MWC

Smart city projects, which use machine-to-machine (M2M) communications and platforms to automate transportation systems, traffic and parking management and utilities, among other things, were a hot topic at this year's Mobile World Congress.

For example, IBM and AT&T announced an alliance designed to bring M2M capabilities to mid-size cities and utilities. The alliance combines AT&T's wireless network, M2M platform and devices with IBM's analytics and asset management software.

The partnership will enable city planners to allocate and distribute resources based on information reported from incidents and service disruptions; analyze the movement of people to improve traffic management, parking capacity, the location and number of first unit responders; identify inefficient traffic patterns so that traffic can be re-routed; allocate public safety resources in places where a majority of people congregate; and monitor social media updates from citizens reporting bad weather or traffic so the city administration can take action.

Commenting on the alliance, Kathryn Weldon, principal analyst for enterprise mobility at Current Analysis, observes:  "AT&T and IBM both have some municipal and utility clients already for a variety of IT and network services and technologies, but in the U.S. they are stronger together than either would be by itself when it comes to improving city management with M2M. If this partnership works well, it may lead to future joint mobility opportunities between the two companies for other verticals."

In addition, Deutsche Telekom announced that it is deploying a smart city pilot project in Pisa, Italy. The project will enable motorists to find a parking space using sensors installed at the parking spaces linked to a smartphone app. DT will also provide traffic flow analysis using big data analytics.

Jeremy Green, principal analyst at Ovum, comments: "The announcement is notable because this is not in a market where DT is present as a network operator, although it does use T-Mobile Austria SIM cards. DT provides the application and integration expertise, but not the cellular connectivity."

Green adds: "Furthermore, the historic significance of Pisa means that conservation concerns have added to the complexity of the project. Finally, the sensors used are ultrasound rather than magnetic resonance as used in similar projects, and are connected to the cellular units via a proprietary radio mesh, rather than the usual cellular link. As operators pursue M2M opportunities in which they deliver more than just the connectivity 'pipe,' here is an example of a telco not even being the pipe provider, but still delivering benefits."

For more:
- see IBM's and AT&T's release
- read Weldon's blog
- check out DT's release
- read Green's analysis

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