Posted 17 January 2023 in 5G, Blog, Security, Space.

Cover of RHEA Group's OpenSpace 31 magazine in EnglishThere are many global initiatives that are looking to make cities ‘smart’ by using digital technologies that will enable them to function more efficiently and be sustainable. Space is playing an important role in these technologies, such as connectivity, security, artificial intelligence, Internet of Things (IoT), Earth observation, location and tracking.

In this exclusive extract from OpenSpace 31 magazine, we look at some of the technologies enabling smart cities. To read the complete article, subscribe to OpenSpace now.

The Use of Space in Smart Cities

‘Smart cities’ is a concept that has been explored extensively over the past 20 years. Initiatives include building completely new cities, such as Songdo in South Korea and NEOM in Saudi Arabia, and others that aim to improve connectivity and general lifestyle for citizens of existing conurbations.

Smart City Tracker 3Q22[1] suggests that there have been 1,178 smart city projects between 2012 and 2022. The global smart cities market is huge – it was valued at over US$1 billion in 2021 and is expected to expand at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 24.2% from 2022 to 2030[2].

There are a few cities that have already realized their designers’ dreams, from providing 100% broadband coverage for all residents, to ‘simple’ projects such as smart rubbish bins that notify waste collection centres when they are full, or connected street lights that automatically turn on and off, depending on actual lighting demands.

Many smart city applications such as these use downstream satellite applications, including: broadband for communications; positioning, navigation and timing (PNT) for transportation networks; cybersecurity to protect data; 5G for communications coverage; Earth observation data for traffic and water management; and a combination of these for autonomous vehicles.

Smart city challenges

The ambition for most smart cities is that they will be sustainable, providing high quality and low environmental impact living and working spaces.

To achieve this, a smart city must be able to ‘understand’ and manage the data that will make it ‘smarter’. This involves:

  • Sensing and monitoring its IoT systems to understand assets, emissions, connections, land use, climate resilience, etc.
  • Connectivity to move and manage the data for analysis, and deliver it to where it is needed
  • Understanding its assets to better manage them
  • Connectivity to integrate services (integrated transport, public services access, emergency services, development of digital twins)
  • Coordination between public and private sectors to implement smart cities infrastructures
  • Transparency and data privacy, and keeping its data and its citizens cybersafe.

Cities worldwide have varying levels of legacy infrastructure and gaps in connectivity and data availability. The great benefit of space-enabled applications and services is that a successful pilot in one region can be ported to anywhere that is covered by the required space services; increasingly, that will be anywhere in the world for satellite communications, remote sensing and navigation services.

5G/6G communications

5G provides a significant technology step up for smart cities.

When launched in 2019, 5G was set to revolutionize our world, providing connectivity up to 1,000 times faster than 4G, ultra-low latency and greater bandwidth for applications such as smart cities. Thanks to 5G, services such as e-health and connected vehicles and/or autonomous cars using connected traffic systems will no longer be a future concept but instead will become a present reality.

The importance of cybersecurity

Smart city technologies have large attack surfaces that have a number of vulnerabilities, especially in systems that contain legacy components using old software that has not been regularly patched. Technology solutions aim to use best practices to mitigate these risks. These include end-to-end encryption, securely isolating trusted resources from public resources, and putting in place solutions adapted to sovereign regulations.

Together with the EU Horizon Europe programme, in particular the Smart Networks and Services Joint Undertaking, RHEA is developing smart cybersecurity capabilities that will reinforce both 5G terrestrial and space segments against current and emerging cyber threats and concerns.

Being smart

We are now living in an era where over 60% of the planet’s inhabitants are expected to migrate to cities over the course of the next generation, so the transition to smarter cities and communities is ever more urgent.

Smart cities are therefore becoming smarter through necessity. They can create safe and sustainable environments that are centred around the wellbeing of their inhabitants, through the use of technologies focusing on accessibility, transportation, improved healthcare, reduced waste and improved social and economic quality. The technology to support these activities is there; now it is up to those planning and developing these cities to make them safe, smart and sustainable for their citizens.

Find out more

If you want to find out more about the use of space in smart cities, including how it is being used in new and existing cities, subscribe to OpenSpace now to read the full article.

Find out more about our space services and solutions.

[1] Guidehouse Insights; Smart City Tracker 3Q22
[2] Grand View Research; Smart Cities Market Size, Share & Trends Analysis Report, 2022-2030