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Smart Cities Need Broadband Investment

02.03.2017

The Philips Hue light bulbs in the broadband households of Louisville, Kentucky can change color to display the severity of air quality warnings. Amazon Echo smart speakers deliver flash briefings from the mayor’s office and tell Louisville residents the date of the next junk pickup in their neighborhood.

A pioneer in the smart city movement, Louisville is working with local developers to link web-enabled devices in broadband homes with municipal information systems, according to CNET, which created the CNET Smart Apartment as a showcase for smart city initiatives.

There will be nearly 100 smart cities all over the world by 2025, up from two dozen in 2013, according to IHS Technology. Speeding this growth are the continuously innovating broadband providers who are building out fiber that link together the Internet of Things (IoT) -- the collection of seemingly normal household items like light bulbs and thermostats that connect to the internet and each other.

Broadband companies have invested more in the U.S. infrastructure in the last two decades than any other sector of our economy – $76 billion alone in 2015 and nearly $1.5 trillion since 1996. These investments have helped  companies build out networks that underpin every smart city, enabling connected devices and sensors embedded in the infrastructure of municipal offices across the nation to connect in the homes of participating citizens. Consider the Louisville city government, which – working with developers - hopes to create new ways to use data to deliver services to its citizens that the city collects and deliver it on demand to people who need it.

The integration of everyday IoT devices to municipal data is facilitated by LouieLab, a public-private collaborative that promotes and builds smart city projects.

Officially opened on December 12, 2016, LouieLab connects the smart city to the smart home, one of the lab’s goals. The city and developers have integrated IFTTT, a free online service that lets you build "if this, then that"-style automation called "recipes" between different devices, social networks and services. In a recently developed recipe, when the city of Louisville issues an ozone alert, the Philips Hue bulbs in the homes of signed up citizens turn red.

Air Louisville, another smart city program, gathers information from smart asthma inhalers of participating residents to determine when, where and how often asthma patients use their inhalers. The information not only helps patients manage their symptoms, but tracks the location and severity of pollution based on inhaler use.

Making cities smart for all residents requires ubiquitous, high-speed broadband connections for all households. That’s why USTelecom believes in strong public-private collaborations at all levels of government, so we can green light new investments in our nation’s broadband infrastructure to build a fully connected nation.

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