Podcasts > Use Cases > Ep. 083 - Smart cities with 5G
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Ep. 083
Smart cities with 5G
Sanjeet Pandit, Head of Smart Cities, Qualcomm
Wednesday, April 07, 2021

In this episode, we discussed how 5G will usher in a new generation of cities and complex spaces such as airports. We also explore use case adoption trends in rapidly growing areas such as population health management, remote education and construction monitoring.

Sanjeet Pandit is the Global Head of Smart Cities at Qualcomm. Qualcomm announced the Qualcomm IoT Services Suite, which delivers comprehensive, end-to-end, IoT as a Service (IoTaaS) solutions, enabling digital transformation of smart cities and smart connected spaces globally. Qualcomm is known for leadership in mobile and 5G, and is now working with ~300 global ecosystem members through the  Smart Cities Accelerator Program to enable the creation of smart, connected spaces for enterprises and cities.

Qualcomm Advantage Network: https://www.qualcomm.com/support/qan


Erik: Welcome to the Industrial IoT Spotlight, your number one spot for insight from industrial IoT thought leaders who are transforming businesses today with your host, Erik Walenza.

Welcome back to the Industrial IoT Spotlight podcast. I'm your host, Erik Walenza, CEO of IoT ONE. And our guest today is Sanjeet Pandit, Global Head of Smart Cities at Qualcomm. Qualcomm Smart City accelerator program is fast tracking the transformation of cities by connecting cities, municipalities, government agencies, and enterprises. In this talk, we discussed how 5G will usher in a new generation of IoT in cities and complex spaces such as airports. We also explored use case adoption trends in rapidly growing areas such as population health management, remote education, and construction monitoring.

If you find these conversations valuable, please leave us a comment and a five-star review. And if you'd like to share your company's story or recommend a speaker, please email us at team@IoTone.com. Thank you. Sanjeet, thank you so much for joining us today.

Sanjeet: Thank you. Pleasure to be here.

Erik: So Sanjeet, I'm really interested in this topic of application of 5G to smart cities and understanding Qualcomm's role in the market. So you're now Global Head of Smart Cities for Qualcomm, I imagine maybe it's a relatively new role. I don't know how long smart cities has been a BU or a big topic for Qualcomm. How did you end up in this role now?

Sanjeet: I have been in this role for about a year and a half. I kicked off this practice under the IoT BU. And our business is broken down into two areas: smart cities, and smart connected spaces. Smart cities, pretty self-explanatory cities need to get an RFP and we work with the consortium, an ecosystem to deploy what is needed by a city to make it smarter. And smart connected spaces is pretty much connecting the unconnected, where we go into airports, campuses, hospitals, logistics, smart transportation, smart stadiums, smart schools, where we digitize the workflow and create end-to-end connected deliverable use case for that particular smart space throughout that particular space which then becomes smart. So smart cities and smart connected spaces, that's our business offering under the IoT BU.

I have had multiple roles in Qualcomm over the years. And prior to this role, I was leading the business development and sales activities for Asia Pacific under the sales organization, and then I moved into this role a year and a half ago kick starting this practice here at Qualcomm.

Now addressing the question in terms of 5G, that's going to be the game changer. That is what has really acted as a catalyst towards the adoption of multiple use cases that would be riding on the 5G rollout, which is happening faster than the road for 4G rollout happened when we migrated from 3G to 4G. So the 5G adoption has been tremendous all globally. Qualcomm has played a very significant role in enabling the ecosystem with devices and chipsets and are riding on top of those implementations and networks, is now ensuring that we have use cases right from first respondents to traffic management to C-V2X to connected vehicles to ensuring that we have AI cameras on fire trucks, and AI cameras within the city handling low latency, high reliability use cases, riding on the releases of 5G and making those much smarter and much more robust and dependable.

Erik: So, 5G, you would then say that was kind of the decision catalyst for Qualcomm to step into this role and play a larger role in development of technologies for smart cities? Or were you also already approaching these markets before with 4G technologies and 5Gs maybe just adding depth to the capabilities? What was the role of 5G in driving this decision to grow the smart city market for Qualcomm?

Sanjeet: We didn't wait for 5G to come in to move into space. We moved into space because we felt we were at the center and are at the center of the ecosystem. When it comes to devices connectivity, compute security, chipsets, and all the telecom ecosystem as such, we are at the center of that. There was no one company that was taking all the ecosystem or everyone in the ecosystem alone to drive the smart city, or smart connected spaces domain. We were the first to come along and take everybody along to make this happen and get real traction going in the marketplace.

We created something called the Smart City Accelerator program; this program is nothing but a B2B program. Consider this as the match.com of smart cities, where we have cities, infrastructure providers, bucket truck vendors, app developers, box manufacturers, silicon vendors, all kinds of ecosystem players who contribute towards enabling a smart city or smart connected space under one domain.

And I have said multiple times in my earlier interviews and podcasts that if you’re first, you’re first, it's somebody else's job to come back and say that better; it's not my job. And we brought this ecosystem and took the complexity out of the equation. We acted as the virtual CTOs, took out the heavy lifting portion out of it, made it easier for the cities and act as a virtual CTO towards multiple cities and smart spaces and CIOs of various domains bringing together the right best of the breed towards enabling this domain. So I think that was needed, and we were the first to kind of take that along. And that's why this has been a success. We have cracked the code in this segment totally.

Erik: And that's an interesting point, taking the complexity out of this because IoT is always complex if you look at a smart home, it's also complex. But Smart Cities is really a different magnitude of complexity in terms of the number of stakeholders, the interconnectivity between different systems that might be built by different vendors, and then the decision making process by governments, the different stakeholders that have a role in citizen stakeholders and elected stakeholders, and appointed officials, and the businesses that are involved here.

You've already given us a bit of a briefing on who the members of the smart city accelerator program are. But can you share a bit more depth around how this actually works? Because think this is, especially for smart cities really quite a critical element. We have the technologies now, but making the ecosystem work collaboratively to bring these technologies to market is equally challenging to do the challenge of developing the technologies to begin with?

Sanjeet: Absolutely. And in our Smart City accelerator program, we have the likes of Google to Accenture to IBM, all the way to maybe Black and Veatch to ITV who are experts in pulling fiber and permits and installation in a horizontal infrastructure to software developers and companies like [inaudible 08:34] and Juganu for lighting. And this is really the best of the breed bringing along and making sure that this becomes a one-stop shop for anyone and everybody who wants to go in and deploy a smart city or just a vertical may be a smart warehouse or smart parking or anything of that nature.

Erik: The role of Qualcomm here, obviously, you're orchestrating this ecosystem. From a technology standpoint, are you playing a different role in smart cities than you would in, maybe, some of the products that we've been using Qualcomm components for the past 20-30 years, are you playing a different role here from a tech stack perspective? Or is it primarily the same, but you're also stepping into this facilitator role?

Sanjeet: Well, I think two aspects here. We are surely the orchestrator and we're bringing everybody together. But we have gone a step beyond. And that's because we feel that if we don't take the ecosystem along, and being Qualcomm that's something that we really want to make sure that we people understand that there's a lot to be done, and we really cannot do that alone.

So we are going to be offering IoT as a service where we take the best of the breed along, stitch a complete solution end-to-end right the mobile app to the tablet app to the Android or iOS app or the Windows app, all the way to the cloud, all it chip-to-cloud and ensuring the end-to-end solution to solve a particular problem. And we will be the master system integrator. We will go out there and run the service. And we will be offering this as a full end-to-end deliverable along with our ecosystem partners. So, yes, we will be taking it to the next level moving up the stack.

Erik: So that means you're actually selling these IoT services directly, would the customer then the city government or city functions? I guess the users are going to depend greatly on the use case. But who would be the buyer or the decision maker here?

Sanjeet: Well, as I said, if it's a smart city, obviously, it'd be a city; if it's a smart connected space, it will be that particular space. Let me give you an example. The airports are independent of a city, they don't fall under the city jurisdiction. So when you build a smart city, you don't go touch the airport. But we would like to go a step further to the airport, or to maybe a private university campus within a city, that's a smart campus. And that's an independent buyer, that's going to be the campus, the board director, all those guys.

If it's a smart warehouse, it’s going to be the smart warehousing company. If it's a smart logistics, it’s going to be the smart logistics company, and the buyer and the user completely different. And in case of a city, obviously, the buyer is the city and the user is going to be the citizens who are using those facilities. We are not here to deploy technology for the sake of deploying technology. We want to deploy technology with our ecosystem partners to solve a particular problem, or address a particular use case. I'll give you an example.

We want to reduce the digital divide. So we want to put in smart lighting, which can offset the savings that we get out of changing the high power sodium to LEDs and putting digital advertising on those poles and generating revenue and monetizing that so that we can offer WiFi hotspot to low and middle income establishments around that particular city, eliminating the need for those households to have WiFi in their house, but leverage the WiFi from the hotspots from the luminaires. This is just one example of how we want to make sure that the dollar goes to the max when we deploy these kind of things.

Erik: And I asked on the one hand, you could say it's quite obvious that the end user is the city here. But this seems at least from my perspective as an outsider to be quite a fundamental step change for Qualcomm. Or in the past, I would imagine you're selling chipsets, you're selling solutions to vendors, who are then integrating those and bringing them to market. Now it sounds like you're going to market directly but then with a heavy ecosystem of partners, what would this look like?

Would this look like Qualcomm sales team is going directly to a fire department and working directly with them? Or you have two partners for this particular use case and you'd be wrapping up a solution together going jointly? What would this look like from the end user perspective, in terms of do they see that they're working directly with Qualcomm and Qualcomm to the service provider, or do they see that Honeywell, for example, would be the service provider who's been selling your technology into and Qualcomm is then maybe an enabling partner, just trying to understand what this would look like from the user perspective.

Sanjeet: From a city perspective, we would like to work with a system integrator jointly creating a special purpose vehicle like a pseudo-consortium to go in. And if it comes to a point that we have to take it on our paper, we'll do that. From a smart billing perspective, Honeywell is a fantastic partner of ours. If they tomorrow say that Qualcomm, we want to go in, we want to make sure that Honeywell has the latest and greatest technology, we want you to enable that for us, we will work and enable it. We are completely flexible in the approach. If it comes to a smart campus, and if there is a system integrator who is expert in campus enablement, we will work with them to go in and jointly offer in that case.

So there are multiple jumping platforms as to how we jump into this practice. We are open to everywhere. The end endgame here is not to enforce a particular rule or a particular stringent structure for implementation. I look at it as in such a way that if your cup is full of milk, you surely can't add any milk but surely, you can add sugar; so consider us the sugar of the ecosystem.

Erik Can we talk a moment around the use cases? So smart city is very varied variety of things that you could deploy in a smart city, and it becomes then a little bit of a point of where are we in the adoption of different use cases in terms of scale? So there's a long tail of points where you could deploy some kind of IoT device, acquire data provide value to somebody, and then there's probably a short list of use cases where we already see widespread deployment because maybe the, the solutions can be a little bit more generic so it's easier to scale them up, or there's just a simpler business case that is easier to validate and move from pilot to scale. For you, what would be the use cases where you say within the next 24 months, we can already bring these to scale, not pilot projects, not exploration, but really, across the world to scaling up?

Sanjeet: I think there's three areas that we are really seeing a lot of traction. Number one is smart lighting with WiFi, and cameras and lighters offering WiFi reducing the digital divide. Number two, education as a service, this pandemic has really brought upon us a very different lifestyle going forward and in the current state. So remote education, hybrid education, rendering information at home, or outside the real campus requires tremendous reliability and conductivity. And I think education as a use case is really taking off in the right direction.

The other area that we are seeing that has really picked up is construction management and safety as a service. As construction management and safety goes on, safety has become a very important aspect, so enabling digitization, across connecting the unconnected areas like construction, ensuring that the workers are safe, ensuring material is safe, ensuring that you know where your workers at any given time, you know the state of the construction, you are seeing live AI based applications. So all this encompasses a lot of vision intelligence.

And I would say AI is going to play a fantastic role going forward into how every use case shapes up. AI today is exactly what the internet was in 1997, where you had AOL, and you got mail and Yahoo and Netscape. You had no idea that one day 15 years from then you would be able to order a package and it could be delivered the same day or the next day on the internet. That's exactly where we are with AI: tremendous opportunities, huge potential, untapped market, and is going to just go to the next level.

Erik: But when I think about 5G, I primarily think about high latency, high bandwidth, solutions like machine learning or AI for vision solutions, because then you're moving a lot of data, you have to have great latency so that it has a good experience. What about the use cases where it's more IoT sensor data? I do understand that there's multiple 5G protocols, there's one that's more for this high bandwidth, there's also one that's more for smaller data packages that requires less battery and so forth. Do you see that the greater value or the greater need right now is for these vision solutions where there's high value? Or do you also see a big impact on these sensor deployments, where you might just be moving small data package every 10 minutes, or those already been met by the existing connectivity solutions on the market?

Sanjeet: To rephrase your question, if I may, you're asking me why do we need 5G? What are the use cases that 5G are going to do that 3G, 4G are not doing, am I correct?

Erik: Yeah, perfect.

Sanjeet: When we talk about 5G, people think about downloading a movie when they're checking into the Southwest airline that oh, let me get this movie quickly, and wow, thank God 5G is here and I can really download that at good speed. Yeah, that is a use case, surely very useful, helpful, fantastic. But there is much more to that.

There are going to be nanoseconds use cases where decision making has to be done at that moment on the edge at the right time; and for that, reliability is extremely important. Latency has to be almost nonexistent, and that's where a decision between life and death occurs when we have autonomous vehicle taking a decision on the onset of the person.

Example, for a blind gentleman, or vision-impaired person crossing a crosswalk, if they see that he's using a cane, the AI camera automatically sees that this is a cane used red and white, visually impaired person, let me increase the walk time by another 20 seconds and hold the traffic. Those are the kind of use cases that you will see going forward with AI and 5G couple. You would see cameras already picking the sound of a fatal crash, calling 911, routing the 911 at the nearest beat petrol to save a life without somebody stopping in the middle of night and calling 911.

You will see a fire hydrant going off at 2am, the camera picking that up, making sure that the case is logged and the picture is sent out and not waiting till thousands and thousands of gallons of water is wasted down the street before somebody calls the city services at 7am in the morning. For that, you not only require fantastic compute and AI capability on the edge, but you also requires a robust network, or network that you can rely upon, a network that has low latency, high reliability, and can solve these real life problems, while delivering the best for the citizens and for the enabled rendered outcome.

Erik: There's something that as you were speaking came up, which is a lot of these data flows. It's quite different working in this city environment as opposed to a smart home, where in a smart home one person owns everything, maybe you can still get value from integrating devices but it's kind of a constrained ecosystem. Smart city is a very diverse ecosystem, and being able to move data between different systems will unlock potentially a lot of value. But it's also one of the more challenging aspects of any IoT deployment, it's not really a technical challenge as much as legal challenges. When can I have access to your data to enable a particular decision from my system, who owns that data, etc?

And because of Qualcomm's position now in this ecosystem, I imagine that you're getting into these topics all the time of okay, we have a system where it'd be useful for the vehicle OEMs or maybe controlling the vehicles or companies like Uber to be sharing data with a city system that is run by a separate vendor, etc. We talked about the Internet of Things, but really, it's like that the Intranet of Things because we don't yet have in most situations an Internet of Things where things are really connected very broadly like a computer based internet is. It's really things are connected to a small set of other things that are owned by the same company or by strategic partners. Where do you see us today in terms of really creating larger system and systems or interconnected systems for the smart city where data is exchanged in order to create greater value and enable more complex ecosystems? Where would we be today in this dynamic?

Sanjeet: This has always been a challenge in deploying smart cities: everybody works in their own little domain or silo. But with this pandemic coming through, we have seen a lot of information exchange even between cities and has brought in closer collaboration amongst teams. As far as using data that is generated from a city deployment across multiple domains, the walls have become much more porous, the boundaries have become much more porous, where we see mostly healthcare professionals sharing data with the city officials.

I'll take a typical example of the pandemic and how people share data regarding where are the red zones, where are senior citizens living, what has been the mobility in this regions, how many hospitals, how many beds are available, where does the first respondent bring the patients to? So there was a very good coordination, maybe because of the need of the time. And that has evolved and has set an example that if this information sharing is done across multiple departments between cities, and provide public and private partnerships, and also to retail outlets to help enhance a particular use case or a citizens life, or enablement of citizen services, it really sets us apart and makes things very easy.

So yes, there has always been this kind of wall that what do we do with this data, who owns the data, how do we share this data versus now sharing selective data which greases the skids and makes things much more easier for functioning interdepartmental within the city, and also amongst the private establishments and the city? So are we there yet? I would say no. Is there a path to get there? I think the path has been set in the right direction.

Erik: Yeah. No, it's interesting. I mean, this past 12 months has been just a human catastrophe across the world. But also, in some cases, it's disrupted how people operate, because we have to be more flexible to respond to this catastrophe. So in some places, it's probably actually moved forward adoption of technologies and solutions by 2, 33 4 years, it's been really quite a game changer for some of these use cases.

You've just given us a maybe a nice overview of some of the different types of solutions that are on the market, could we choose one, I don't know if it would be one city or one type of solution, and do a deep end to end walkthrough? So get really a view for who are the different, what is the pain point, what are the problems being solved, who are the solution providers or the partners that are developing and integrating the solution? How is it being rolled out? If there are challenges, how are those challenges, etc? And just give us that end-to-end vision for one of the deployments to make this a bit more concrete.

Sanjeet: Sure. One of other cities in the United States in the south has been an active discussion with us to roll out the private LTE 5G of CBRS network to be transitioned to 5G down the line. And they have taken the destiny on their hands. They want to run services. They want to run and offer WiFi to the tenants. They want to ensure that there is fiber all over the place. They want to put in smart lighting, smart transportation ITMS, Intelligent Traffic Management Systems. They want to put in digital signage. They want to ensure that there’s C-V2X at multiple intersections as to when C-V2X does kick in and services around C-V2X kicking.

They're prepared for the future. They want to understand how they would be in a position to monetize some of the data in terms of buying patterns, buying behaviors, what do people opt for, how do they monetize WiFi? So there has been a lot of forward thinking, and we are at the core of this. We are working with them very closely in advising not only the smarts, the partners, and the services, and the products that go in, but also helping them on the monetization piece of it. How much to charge? How do we offset some of that to offer it to the needy? How do we ensure that the city is getting the fair share of this over a period of time? How do we sell those contracts? How do we maximize assets like all spaces to be rented out towards maybe digital signage or maybe to antennas?

So Qualcomm is in the middle of this, and ensuring that the cities get the maximum buck for the money. So, it's not just about please build me a smart city, it's about building a smart city smartly.

Erik: Maybe if you can help me understand a bit more the this private LTE campus network? Is this kind of like the decision between CapEx and OpEx? Is it then saying instead of paying a carrier every time we want to move a data package from one of these millions of sensors or endpoints that we have in the city, we're going to put in the infrastructure and at least locally then we can move the data around on our infrastructure without paying transport fees, and then we have greater control of also of the connected infrastructure? Is that kind of the value proposition for private LTE network?

Sanjeet: Basically, they would like to ensure that they have the best of the network reliable, ensuring that there is monetization, ensuring that they maximize the return, and instead of moving the data back from here to there, and paying somebody else ensuring that this is all captive and in-house.

Erik: I've been seeing also a fair amount of deployment or interest in this around airports and others. And often as I understand, there's also some issues especially related to safety, maybe transportations, where the some of the bandwidths are getting a bit crowded right now. So being able to control access or determine where there should be more capacity for a particular type of solution is also sometimes quite important to operators that have these health safety security responsibilities.

Sanjeet: Absolutely. I think it's more and more obvious that the cities would like to ensure that they have their own fiber, if they're rolling everything out, and if there's citizen band make them available, why not roll out their own private LTE network?

Erik: So where are we today in terms of 5G rollout? To some extent it's been accelerated a bit by the pandemic, to some extent it might have been delayed because of the challenge of getting an infrastructure up. Are we looking at right now 1% of cities having a substantial 5G deployment or 5% or 10% maybe in the US? So just if we first take a US perspective, where are we today in terms of actually having with a functional 5G rollout where people can start building technologies and solutions for these networks?

Sanjeet: Well, I think the first intersection point of 5G that has happened across has been in rolling out the mobile network. I mean, the mobile networks from Verizon and AT&T and T Mobile, they've taken it to the next level. There has been a plethora of networks all over the world where the people have ruled out 5G.

Now, when you come to 5G rollout on data and mobile side versus 5G-enabled rollout of use cases, there is a delta. You got to have the roads before the cars come up, and that's exactly where we are. Where we are in a position to kind of right now say, okay, we have 5G here, we have fiber there, let's roll out these use cases. So the rollout has been tremendous. As I said, the rollout of 5G has been much faster than the rollout of 4G from moving from 3G.

And I think leveraging those 5G deployments across various other IoT domains is something that we would like to leverage upon with the carriers and with the system integrators like in smart manufacturing, or in smart logistics, or even maybe in autonomous driving and also first responders on intersection points. So having the 5G infrastructure rolled out in cities, at least in the core of the city, has really accelerated and acted as a catalyst towards these use cases that we plan to ride on once these networks are fully rolled out and fully built up.

Erik: So we're making good progress, then it sounds like on getting the fundamental infrastructure, and then of course, having everybody put R&D resources into enabling their products and solutions that there's a delta there that takes time?

Sanjeet: Absolutely.

Erik: Anything that we haven't covered yet, Sanjeet that's important to here?

Sanjeet: I think one thing I want the listeners and everyone in the industry to know that Qualcomm has really cracked the code in this segment. We surely did take our time. And we didn’t jump into this unthought of. We thought through the process, we realized what needed to be done, we took our time, and we're doing it right. And we are the first to bring this all together. And we are so much grateful to the ecosystem members and the members of the smart city accelerator program to bring the best of the breed. Because as I said, there was a lot to be done, and we alone couldn't do it all. But we sure did take everybody along and ensure that everybody played their part to the best.

Erik: And let me maybe have one last question here. Which is then if some of the companies that are listening to our podcast right now are interested in getting involved in this ecosystem, how can they get involved? And then I guess we have the multinationals that seems to be pretty simple, if it's kind of a Fortune 500 clear path, what if it's a medium sized company, a tech startup, a local system integrator that may be doing a lot of work just in their city but they're interested in learning about what you're doing and seeing if there's opportunity to work more locally? So for also these smaller and medium players, what would be a mode for them to also get engaged in this program?

Sanjeet: First of all, there is nobody small or big; everybody adds the right value at the right intersection point. We don't differentiate among this kind of stuff. I think the most important thing we'd like to do is for these companies, may be a Fortune 500 company, this process remains the same. Even if it's a small startup that only builds an app or a trashcan that is connected, or even just has a bucket truck and goes and hangs antennas, the process remains the same. They apply to the Qualcomm advantage network. You can just Google it, or Yahoo. Or using your browser just go in and just type ‘Qualcomm Advantage Network’ and in that you could apply using the smart city accelerator program, and we will be more than happy to have the extended team look at your offering, look at and making sure that you're vetted and categorizing the right program, and immediately onboard ensuring that you're a part of the match.com family

Erik: Sanjeet, thank you so much for taking the time to speak with us today about this. I think this is super interesting area of innovation. And I'm personally really looking forward to seeing what cities look like in 10 years, I'm quite sure it's going to be different than what we experienced it.

Sanjeet: Absolutely. It's been a pleasure talking to you. Thank you for the opportunity, and allowing Qualcomm to express what they do in this practice. Appreciate it. Thank you so much.

Erik: Thanks for tuning in to another edition of the industrial IoT spotlight. Don't forget to follow us on Twitter at IotoneHQ, and to check out our database of case studies on IoTONE.com. If you have unique insight or a project deployment story to share, we'd love to feature you on a future edition. Write us at erik.walenza@IoTone.com.

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