US carrier AT&T is in talks with the city of Los Angeles about a public-private partnership to deploy small cells, 5G connectivity, and internet-of-things technologies in order to enhance civic operations.
AT&T said the deal will make the city “one of the smartest” in America.
Traffic congestion, natural disaster preparedness, and public safety will be “top-of-mind”, said AT&T, as the pair seek to densify network coverage and establish an advanced connectivity platform for new internet-of-things (IoT) solutions.
New digital infrastructure, comprising expanded mobile broadband coverage and a new layer of data-gathering IoT sensors, will provide better traffic, transportation, and parking analytics for city planning, as well as greater situational awareness for public safety and better understanding of environmental data.
Meanwhile, digital kiosks around the city, including in underserved communities and homeless encampments, will be equipped with charging stations, emergency phone capabilities, public Wi-Fi, city maps, and more.
AT&T said the pair are also looking to attach sensors to monitor city structures, including bridges, bulkheads, and overpasses to check for cracks and tilts and ensure the safety of physical infrastructure.
Mike Zeto, vice president and general manager of smart cities at AT&T said: “We’re exploring possibilities to create a technology-first environment that can improve experiences for residents and visitors across the community. We’re looking to help the city improve problems like traffic congestion and public safety.”
The carrier said small cells were a key infrastructure component. Its global network carriers around 222 petabytes per day, and the capacity boost from small cells is crucial.
LA is not among the dozen venues AT&T has so far named as ‘5G’ launch cities in the US through the end of 2018. These are Atlanta, Charlotte, Dallas, Houston, Indianapolis, Jacksonville, Louisville, Oklahoma City, New Orleans, Raleigh, San Antonio and Waco.
But AT&T has said LA will be among the major centres to come online in early 2019, alongside Las Vegas, Nashville, Orlando, San Diego, San Francisco and San Jose. AT&T said the small-cells push in LA will help with 5G rollout.
New small cells will also bring increased capacity to first responders in the city, besides the coverage and capacity boost they already have from the FirstNet platform, operating in 700 MHz ‘Band 14’ spectrum.
AT&T said it is looking at ways to deliver FirstNet services to the LA Fire Department and LA Police Department to improve their communications.
Maggie Goodrich, consultant for AT&T-FirstNet and former chief information officer for the Los Angeles Police Department, said public safety communications are evolving with FirstNet.
“The possibilities enabled by FirstNet can change the game for first responders in LA and across the country,” she said.
AT&T wants to go after the broad industrial IoT market with an expanded connectivity portfolio. Its burgeoning LTE-M network, expanding fast, and its forthcoming narrowband-IoT (NB-IoT) network, rolling out in the US and Mexico in 2019, will assist enterprises and city functions, including disaster relief.
“We’re just getting started on unlocking the promise of the industrial internet of things for manufacturing, energy, utility, oil and gas, transportation and other industries,” Shiraz Hasan, vice president of IoT solutions at AT&T, told Enterprise IoT Insights in July.
LA suggested the partnership with AT&T is to be one of many public-private arrangements it pursues in the smart city space.
Eric Garcetti, mayor of LA, commented: “We are establishing unique partnerships as we deploy new networks and technologies across LA – and we’re excited to be discussing with AT&T how to empower Angelenos with new tools that could make their lives easier and our communities stronger.”
Meanwhile, AT&T has said it is now using wearable technology and artificial intelligence (AI) at all its 5,300 retail locations in the US to help blind people and those with low vision to navigate their surroundings.
It made its retail shops Aira Access Locations, it said. Aira is a San Diego-based startup that uses wearables, AI and “live, human assistance” to help the vision impaired. Using a smartphone or glasses, an Aira ‘guest’ or ‘explorer’ can connect to a remote assistant to get a real-time description of their surroundings.
The agent uses a remote presence dashboard with live video stream, GPS, maps, and an AI-assisted information gatherer from the web to provide relevant details.
Suman Kanuganti, founder and chief at Aira, commented: “With over 5,300 retail locations, the largest deployment of Aira Access in the world, AT&T is leading the way on how we are building accessible and inclusive smart cities for everyone.” – Enterprise Iot Insights