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Nokia weighs into the IoT measuring competition

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Nokia has announced it will join the Bristol is Open smart city initiative, as it sends out a strong message to the industry; talk is cheap, let’s see what you’re packing.

As part of the partnership, Nokia will provide consultancy services, network and infrastructure support, as well as access to its application ecosystem program ngConnect.

“As a technology organization, we face the challenge of developing and establishing a position of thought leadership,” said Cormac Whelan, Nokia UK’s CEO. “One of the challenges in thought leadership is demonstrating it. You can say a lot of things; you can say we’re going to be great in 5G, you can say we have spent lots of R&D money, but it’s all talk.

“But the partnership with BiO gives us an opportunity to implement, execute and demonstrate our capabilities in a real-life environment, with real-life applications. That is what is exciting about the partnership, it’s the ability to touch it, feel it and play with it. We have a real-world opportunity to fail, adapt and succeed, which very few others have.”

The Bristol is Open (BiO) initiative is a relatively unique one in the smart city sector; few other cities can claim their own personal fibre network. This in itself has offered BiO the opportunity to build a living-lab which can act as a test-bed for its partners and various entrepreneurs to test smart city products in a real-world environment. Nokia will now join NEC, InterDigital, Rolls-Royce and the Open Networking Foundation amongst others, in participating in the project.

The progress of smart city projects offers a solution to a fast-growing problem in countries all around the world; populations are growing faster than governments can cope with. The promise of the smart city is to make public spending more efficient, urban environments more liveable and to improve the quality of life for its citizens. BiO itself has a mission statement of making Bristol a more enjoyable place to live.

But it’s not all damp-eyed philanthropy for the Finns. “I don’t want to paint a picture of Nokia as Samaritans as we see business potential and growth opportunities as well in the smart cities arena,” said Markus Borchert, Nokia’s SVP for Europe. “In the next decade practically all the population and economic growth around the world will be in the cities. It’s a huge challenge but a huge opportunity as well.”

IoT represents a significant opportunity for any organization that can get a jump-start on competitors. The industry is estimated to be worth in the region of $1.7 trillion by 2019, with smart cities taking a sizable proposition of use cases. By aligning itself alongside BiO, Nokia is positioning itself as one of the few organizations worldwide which has direct access to a dynamic, live-lab, generating real-time results. At Telecoms.com, we have a history of mocking partnerships however this one has more substance than just a bit of corporate back-slapping.

A big step towards the success of smart cities will revolve around the implementation of 5G. Nokia seemingly appreciate this and has begun the incremental growth towards 5G with the launch of 4.5G products, as well as plans for 4.5G Pro and 4.9G features. But according to Borchert, the implementation of 5G is more than a flashy marketing buzzword.

“In the past, with each technological generation we’ve just been talking about higher data rates,” said Borchert. “This time with 5G the technology will be designed from the use case backwards. We’ll understand the use case and then try to define what the technologies or standards have to deliver. For 5G, there are three pillars; firstly, the higher data rates, secondly, the ultra-high connectivity and finally, ultra-low latency. These pillars will also create new use cases we haven’t even thought of yet.

“But when you consider these ultra-low latency requirements, these will impact not only how we design our products, but also the networks themselves. Think about automated driving or robotic surgery, there are a lot of use cases which require the ultra-low latency, but there are loads we haven’t envisioned yet which is why a live-lab is so important.

“When you think about ultra-low latency and the speed of light, in one millisecond light can travel around 300km. In a network, the signal has to go back and forth, that’s 150km. If you also allow for imperfect quality of the fibre and a little bit of processing time, this means your data centre can only be 100km away. This is huge impact on the industry coming directly from the design criteria.”

While competitors in the IoT race have been making noise with what some might describe as fairly ceremonial partnerships, it would appear Nokia’s tie up with BiO actually has some practical benefits for the industry. Well done Nokia, we like the look of your IoT.

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