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5G master classlesson five

5G network technology is set to help make urban centers safer, healthier and more livable

5G network technology is set to help make urban centers safer, healthier and more livable 5G network technology is set to help make urban centers safer, healthier and more livable

Inside the effort to transform cities through wireless innovation

Every day, roughly 65,000 cars run through Peachtree Corners, Georgia, a suburb of Atlanta. That is significant traffic density for a city with a population of less than 45,000 people, and has the potential to heighten the risk of accidents and congestion. To address this challenge, Peachtree Corners has taken a progressive approach, introducing a range of tech-driven transportation solutions.

In recent years, the city has deployed a self-driving shuttle, electric scooters that drive to you when summoned and, perhaps most notably, “Cellular Vehicle-to-Everything” technology. C-V2X, as it’s known, allows vehicles to communicate directly with other vehicles and road infrastructure. This groundbreaking feature, which is being rolled out with the support of Qualcomm Technologies—a leader in wireless technology—and others, can improve the safety of vehicles and other road users today and offers a foundation for autonomous and semi-autonomous transportation solutions that can be invaluable in making driving safer and more efficient.

These deployment examples are not simply the result of forward-thinking local leaders; they’re made possible by investments in 5G, the next-generation wireless technology. “5G provides the reliability and low latency that makes advanced C-V2X possible,” said Sanjeet Pandit, senior director and global head of smart cities at Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. “It’s one of the best and earliest use cases for 5G in smart cities, and it’s an example that communities can replicate and we expect to see in the future.”

Sanjeet Pandit speaks about smart cities

​Smart cities are cities which use technology stitched together under one integrated offering or a platform. Traditional cities are cities which have technology, but they don't all work in cohesion. The main areas of smart city deployments that really help the citizens are smart lighting coupled with public wifi, reducing the digital divide and offering public wifi at affordable rates or free, depending upon the public private partnerships, smart waste management, smart asset tracking, smart senior healthcare, and smart transportation, reducing carbon footprint and ensuring better efficient transportation across the city. These would be the top areas where we are seeing a lot of deployments.

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Sanjeet Pandit

Senior director and global head of smart cities at Qualcomm Technologies, Inc.

Indeed Peachtree Corners may prove to be a model for urban centers moving forward. Yet its transportation initiatives are just one example of the type of tech-driven solutions that will come to define smart cities in the years to come. Ranging from sensors that power energy-efficient buildings to connected cameras that support public safety, these tools offer the promise of safer, more sustainable and more livable cities.

And they’re enabled by cutting-edge advancements in wireless infrastructure.

Making a more
connected metropolis

By 2050, it is estimated that 89 percent of the U.S. population will live in cities. This density brings challenges, including congestion, air pollution and effective service delivery. It’s this constellation of issues for which smart city solutions are designed.

Take public safety. Sensors embedded in physical infrastructure can give emergency personnel vital information about how and where to direct resources. Meanwhile, connected traffic lights can help keep roads clear for first responders trying to quickly get to a fire or car crash. According to one recent study, smart technologies could help cities reduce crime by 30 to 40 percent, and enable 20 to 35 percent faster response times for emergency services.

“We act as a virtual Chief Technology Officer to cities.
We work with cities to deploy fully-customized end-to-end solutions.”
Sanjeet Pandit,
Senior director and global head of smart cities at Qualcomm Technologies, Inc.

Energy efficiency is another area where connected innovations will have a profound impact. Cities are responsible for more than 60 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions—a proportion that is likely to grow as urban centers continue to expand. Yet connected technologies may be able to counteract the trend. IoT systems in urban skyscrapers, for example, could help mitigate energy waste, reducing a city’s overall carbon footprint.

Despite these benefits, the transition to smart cities won’t be immediate. Municipalities must contend with technological and budgetary challenges to implementing tools like C-V2X solutions. Forward-thinking city managers also face a fragmented marketplace for hardware and software, Pandit says, as well as complex bureaucracies in which different agencies may follow differing agendas.

“We act as a virtual Chief Technology Officer to cities.
We work with cities to deploy fully-customized end-to-end solutions.”
Sanjeet Pandit,
Senior director and global head of smart cities at Qualcomm Technologies, Inc.
Sanjeet Pandit speaks about the Qualcomm Smart Cities Accelerator Program

​Qualcomm’s Smart City Program is a one - stop shop for all the cities and ecosystem of providers to come to. This is the only program in the industry, the first of its kind, that brings the best of the breed under one roof. Whether it be a small, vertical, or a small deployment, or is it a deep deployment across citywide infrastructure, this does a matching exercise where we create a pseudo - consortium and bring the best of the breed to the city. This is first of its kind, nobody has done this, and Qualcomm has always loved to be first. If you're first, you're first, it's somebody else's job to come back and say, they're better, not our job. So we believe in being first.

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Sanjeet Pandit

Senior director and global head of smart cities at Qualcomm Technologies, Inc.

The Qualcomm Smart Cities Accelerator Program is designed to help mitigate these issues by matching municipal leaders and government agencies with top-flight expertise and solutions. “We act as a virtual Chief Technology Officer to cities,” Pandit said. “We work with cities to deploy fully-customized end-to-end solutions. We want to understand what their main issues are, because you don’t deploy technology just for the sake of deployment. You want to solve a particular use case, and that solution requires respecting a city’s legacy infrastructure. That’s what enables the solution to be sustainable.”

For just about all smart city solutions, 5G network infrastructure is integral. The next-generation wireless technology is faster and more reliable than its predecessors; it’s also designed to reduce latency, or the amount of time it takes data to transfer. Eric Stonestrom, CEO of Airspan, a leading U.S. provider of 5G and Open RAN wireless software and hardware, describes it like a roadway.

“There's a lot more capacity that's being brought to bear in 5G,” he said. “Think of it like an eighty-lane mega-highway, whereas older generations of wireless were four-lane streets.” In other words, more space on the road allows more traffic—or data—to move quickly and efficiently.

Airspan is helping to build out this digital mega highway. The company, which recently announced plans to merge with New Beginnings Acquisition Corp. in a transaction planned to take the company public, helps build the foundational technology that supports 5G—and they’ve done so with the help of Qualcomm Technologies. Airspan not only relies on Qualcomm Technologies’s semiconductors as part of their network solutions, it is also a Qualcomm Ventures portfolio company. Qualcomm Ventures is fostering innovation in the 5G ecosystem by investing in companies that leverage 5G’s capabilities and bring forth the next wave of innovation.

5G wireless technology is faster and more reliable than its predecessors; it’s also designed to reduce latency, or the amount of time it takes data to transfer.

These building blocks of 5G—pioneered by leaders like Qualcomm and Airspan—fundamentally enable the IoT and AI applications that characterize smart cities, notes Stonestrom.

“The 5G infrastructure offers great opportunities for cities and municipalities, things like smart traffic, smart parking, eventually autonomous vehicles,” he said.

According to Qualcomm Technologies’s Pandit, it’s only a matter of time before 5G starts to transform cities in the U.S. and around the world. Widespread adoption of the advanced wireless network is coming, with significant implications for how urban residents live, work and travel.

“Things are getting more and more digital,” he noted. “In the next five years those changes will be even more apparent.”

5G wireless technology is faster and more reliable than its predecessors; it’s also designed to reduce latency, or the amount of time it takes data to transfer.

Explore more of our 5G Master
Class Series from

  • lesson one

    5G 101: An intro to revolutionary wireless connectivity

  • lesson two

    Exploring the human benefits

  • lesson three

    An Economic Opportunity

  • lesson four

    Inside the smart factory revolution

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