MWCA: AT&T and the push for smarter cities

AT&T's smart cities solutions for the City of Los Angeles include improving the lives of the homeless and using IoT tech to detect and triangulate the locations of unreported shootings.
Written by Corinne Reichert, Contributor

AT&T is planning to deploy a series of smart city projects in the City of Los Angeles aimed at reducing road fatalities, detecting unreported gunshots, finding cracks in infrastructure, tracking air quality, and improving the lives in homeless encampments.

Speaking with ZDNet during Mobile World Congress Americas (MWCA) in Los Angeles, AT&T vice president of Internet of Things Mike Zeto said the memorandum of understanding with the city of LA will see them discuss three main Internet of Things (IoT) solutions.

The first solution, Digital Kiosk, is generally used in cities for monetising advertisements; however, in LA, Zeto said the city is looking to use them in homeless encampments to provide access to digital services.

"That could be access to finding the nearest shelter, food, medical assistance, or programs to help them get back on their feet," he explained. "There will also be connectivity provided from those kiosks if a homeless person would have a device that could leverage it."

The second IoT solution is AT&T Digital Infrastructure, a sensor node that has multiple cameras aimed at improving public safety; environmental sensors for monitoring air quality; and audio sensors.

"The applications that would be used with that sensor node would be obviously the cameras and public safety; the cameras and being able to capture data related to pedestrian movement, vehicle movement, bicycle movement, directions, speeds, counts, things that will help them plan and hopefully decrease road fatalities, and then the ability to monitor parking and derive revenues from enforcement of that through the cameras," he said.

"And then lastly, there's audio sensors that would allow them to detect gunshots and triangulate to those locations, and primarily be used for unreported gunshots."

While these are the native applications for Digital Infrastructure, Zeto pointed out that there's also the ability to develop other applications using the data being collected by the sensors and cameras, which then drives an "economic development component" for STEM programs.

Lastly, Structure Monitoring is an IoT sensor that monitors infrastructure such as elevated roads, buildings, and bridges, sensing any vibrations, tilts, and cracks. For earthquake-prone areas, this can help both the city and the citizens in emergency preparedness, he said.

In entering discussions with the city, Zeto said AT&T combined its smart cities, construction, engineering, external affairs, and networking teams to form "one face" to collaborate on the right type of partnership.

"We are in the process of discussing how we can deploy our network assets faster, so small cells and 5G technology in all communities across the city of LA, and then at the same time help them create a smarter city by deploying IoT technologies that they otherwise may not have been able to afford and deploy at this time," he explained.

Having already entered a public-private partnership with San Jose, AT&T is also in talks with other cities across the nation. According to Zeto, while every city has different requirements, they have very similar high-level needs, meaning its smart cities model is around 70 percent repeatable and 30 percent customisable.

Pointing to AT&T's narrowband-IoT (NB-IoT) and LTE-M IoT networks, he said the carrier is seeing a lot of activity in fleet and tracking, as well as across utilities, drones, and connected cars.

"I think we'll see multiple different types of cellular connectivity being used to power these IoT solutions that we have," he said.

"So you'll see more LTE-M, you'll see more NB-IoT, and then as 5G comes it's just the sky's the limit at that point -- that's where you get to autonomous vehicles and the utopia of The Jetsons ."

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