How Nokia is delivering connected, smart cities through infrastructure

City networks are now expanding both in scale and complexity as they support rapidly growing populations that are living increasingly connected lives.

Every week globally a million more people move to a city. Similarly mind-boggling is the United Nations estimate that by 2050 about two-thirds of the world’s projected 9.7 billion population will be city dwellers.

As nations grapple with unprecedented rapid urbanisation there is much work to be done. It is little wonder that, as a result, the global smart city market is predicted to be worth around $1.5 trillion by 2020.

Telecommunications giant Nokia is a major player in this market. Cormac Whelan, its UK and Ireland chief executive, joined the company in 2007 and was promoted to his present role in January last year.

He says that despite his and Nokia’s wealth of experience in helping build national infrastructure and producing goods and services for millions of customers, the sheer pace of change is remarkable. “This densification of population centres is a trend we have never seen in history before, so it is a huge challenge on many levels.”

Today the Finland-headquartered company is a key supplier not only in the service provider markets but also in critical national infrastructure such as rail, road and utilities networks across the United Kingdom and elsewhere.

Mr Whelan says: “When it comes to communications, we supply all the major players in the UK: Vodafone, Telefónica, British Telecom, Sky and Virgin Media. As such we are active in a number of technology areas – 4G, 3G, fixed-access capability, core networks, broadband data networks – all the things that start to form the necessary infrastructure to deliver connected, smart cities.”

Nokia is helping cities to understand the capabilities they will need to deliver to communications infrastructure, because the networks it provides are at the centre of all critical national infrastructure, from the control systems in the utility networks to the traffic control on the UK’s smart motorways.

City networks are now expanding both in scale and complexity as they support rapidly growing populations that are living increasingly connected lives. Many city networks are desperately in need of attention. As they further develop, they are becoming a part of critical national infrastructure in their own right.

To explain what that means in practice, Mr Whelan points to the Bristol Is Open (BIO) initiative – a joint venture between the University of Bristol and Bristol City Council that Nokia has been involved with since its inception. Mr Whelan calls it a “leading example of how to make a city programmable”.

He says: “Bristol is more than just a smart city because, through BIO, it has created its own fibre network, and has its own operating and applications centres.

“It can plug in new technology [to the city’s systems], see how it would work with some real-life infrastructure, and test application usage. That sandbox capability is crucial, because a lot of the stuff about smart cities and tech of the future can be a little overhyped.

“BIO helps us determine whether applications live up to their expectations and it displays what is possible. Now BIO is up and running, it should remain at the leading edge of smart-city technologies.”

After BIO’s success Nokia is currently in advanced talks with a number of universities across the UK about implementing similar projects – but for now Mr Whelan is not revealing the locations.

“As a global organisation we have the ability to bring our learning from across the world to any local activity going on,” he says. “We have already got smart-city projects in the United States and India, and a large number of projects going on across Europe.

“Ultimately, for smart cities to thrive you need connectivity; it’s about density of network, speed of network and access to the network. And Nokia is probably in the best position, from a technology point of view, to deliver that anywhere in the world.”

Picture of John Marwel

John Marwel


Within this program, we can deliver to governments and cities the possibility of implementing Smart City projects from idea (vision) to the final stage of implementation.

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