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Market intelligence guru IDC has recently forecast that global technology investments associated with smart cities will exceed $158 billion in just four years. The report highlighted that most of that investment will focus on visual surveillance, public transport information and smart street lighting schemes. Interestingly though, the researchers indicated that there is likely to be a shift from smart lighting towards intelligent traffic management when it comes to the most invested in technology.

This observation tallies with the increasing awareness of modern city authorities of the performance of street level road traffic and the economic impact it has on both businesses and residents. Reports examining traffic flow and the impact of major construction and developments can be downloaded from just about all the 53 cities analysed by IDC’s report. Terms like Journey Time Reliability are already common-place in London and will become one of the metrics used to judge how effective smart city initiatives have been.

However, with all of this investment pouring into schemes, the other factor when it comes to judging effectiveness has to be cost effectiveness and ROI. The same IDC report identified Singapore, Tokyo, New York, London and Shanghai are the top five spenders when it comes to smart cities. Although investment will come from a mix of public and private sector money, $158 billion is a lot of money – if the full impact of smart cities is to be realised it must be spent wisely. Even though in reality most countries are starting to see stability and growth in their economies, all investments must be carefully considered.

The need for intelligent traffic management combined with the need to manage publicly funded investments is an important consideration for governments and local authorities. What if you could limit the cost of better traffic management and even speed up deployments using infrastructure already in place in most cities across the world?

Imagine monitoring traffic activity effectively, without the need to dig up the streets, install cameras or fit point sensors, but simply by monitoring the physical disturbances vehicles cause via existing fibre optic cables buried in the road-side.

There are hundreds of miles of suitable fibre already installed in our streets. Using this network as part of the monitoring solution will be faster, cheaper and, most importantly to the five super-congested mega-cites listed in the review, less disruptive. Not digging up roads to make them smarter makes sense.

This is the power of digital acoustic sensor (DAS) technology. Trials are already underway to demonstrate just how useful this combination of DAS and existing fibre infrastructure will be. However, there is enormous potential for DAS solutions to enable city authorities to improve traffic flows, gain new insights to manage road and transport networks better, and improve road safety and reduce emissions.

If cities are to truly optimise their transport networks they need a management platform that not only maximises the value of their existing infrastructure, but also delivers the information they need to know. As such, DAS could be the key technology for the future of the smart city.

Singapore reported as one of the top five when it comes to smart city spending.DAS Smart City Future