We may seem a far cry from the sci-fi cities of the future, but smart city initiatives are taking us there slowly but surely. They continue to crop up all over the world. If done correctly, they are so seamlessly integrated into our daily lives that they fly under the radar. In the UK, the fact that we can ‘tap in’ to London’s transport system with mobile phones - even after they’ve run out of battery - is an incredible feat of technology. In addition, replacing old phone booths with smart charge points and Wi-Fi hotspots, is keeping the local infrastructure up to pace with our always-on society.

The likes of Manchester’s Triangulum and Future City Glasgow are proof that creating smarter, more sustainable environments using data and technology is a large focus for governments today. Meanwhile, much of the public are unaware how much technology is powering their day-to-day interactions with the outside world. This then begs the question, what happens when these technology systems fail? The impact can be catastrophic. For the technology providers at the back end, the stakes couldn’t be higher.

It is essential for business leaders who are both creating and implementing these solutions, to find out more about the digital backbone that these cities run on, and understand the risk landscape. For data center operators, this means their estate must be well connected, continuously available and agile enough to cope with large spikes in compute requirements.

smart city ciudad
– Thinkstock

A lightbulb moment

To see this in action, let’s look at how street lamps are being transformed from just lighting into Smart Poles. These poles help to give the public a better quality of living as they include air quality sensors, public WiFi, cameras, electric vehicle charge points, and even the potential for 5G rollout. This in turn offers a platform for companies to embrace a more digital offering. During lockdown, banks are seeing increased mobile app users, and the newly introduced track and trace apps benefit from a more connected city as free public WiFi enables more people to get online. But, these connected devices are creating an immense amount of data, which is putting pressure on the back end infrastructure holding smart cities together: the data center.

For data center operators, downtime is catastrophic for business. Yet independent research, commissioned by Future Facilities, found that one-third of data centers’ temperature is being managed using the rule of thumb. 40% have suffered outages in their data center because of human error, and this is a figure that is set to grow unless changes are made. Reducing data center downtime will ensure the technology supporting life in a smart city is continuously available, which is crucial for public buy-in. For the data center operators, ensuring uptime means winning and retaining the contracts that are powering smart cities, and building the future of the public sector.

The Real SimCity

Businesses are using digital twins across the board to keep our smart cities running smoothly. From designing street-level infrastructure, right through to the data center. As demonstrated by CityZenith at the World Economic Forum last year, digital twins of individual assets are used for the real-time monitoring, remote control of systems, scenario-testing and strategic planning of entire cities. Diving even deeper below the smart city, it’s also incredibly important to keep our data centers running efficiently. This is where the digital twin for the data center comes in.

To attain the optimal data center setup, digital simulation gives operators the freedom to make mistakes and try again. Operators can safely remove the over-provisioning and find ways to maximize performance, without increasing their risk of downtime. Optimizing the designing and operating of a data center helps operators to reduce the chances of downtime and manage load variation. Ultimately, it keeps the operations running efficiently, customers happy and loyal and the smart city running smoothly.