LoRa will be one of the preferred connectivity technologies for smart cities



The Seoul city government has launched a plan to implement city-wide iot deployment in Seoul, South Korea, by 2023, according to a new report from market research firm Omdia. The move by the Seoul city government is aimed at improving citizens' lifestyles and collecting data for companies and research institutions to develop more innovative use cases. The backbone of this public Internet of Things is the deployment of a LoRa network across the city, which will install 1,000 base stations in public facilities. Omdia analysts believe that the deployment of LoRa network will enable enterprises and developers to introduce more iot solutions in Seoul and put it at the forefront of smart city technology innovation.


Overview of Seoul Smart City
The South Korean capital is by no means new to the development of smart city plans, especially when it comes to adopting Internet of Things technology. In March 2019, for example, Seoul launched a smart city initiative that will spend about 1.4 trillion won ($1.19 billion at the time) by 2022. Part of the plan involves installing 50,000 iot sensors across Seoul to collect information on dust, noise, wind and light sources. The city will then use the data for big data analytics and develop smart city solutions.


Here are some iot technologies applied in Seoul:
City-wide deployment of smart light poles: these smart poles are equipped with iot sensors, smart CCTV and public Wi-Fi and can be used as street lamps/traffic lights. They play multiple roles in the city, including providing convenient street facilities for citizens, drone base stations and disaster monitoring stations.

Monitoring at-risk buildings: Iot and blockchain will provide round-the-clock monitoring of dilapidated buildings and slopes near residential areas, in the form of sensors, to reduce potential risks. Pilot testing began in February 2021 on 46 buildings, with an additional 824 to be added in 2022.

Deploy drones to combat air pollution: Deploy drones and measurement vehicles to monitor dust emissions within cities, particularly at construction sites. The goal is to encourage voluntary emissions reductions and address unauthorized operations and restricted facilities.

In November 2021, the Seoul city Government announced that it would develop a meta-cosmic platform in Seoul. The platform, called Metaverse Seoul, aims to create a virtual communication ecosystem covering the economy, tourism, culture, education and civic services. The platform is expected to be completed in 2026. Seoul has invested 3.9 billion won (about $3.3 million) in the Metaverse Seoul platform as part of the Seoul Vision 2030 plan. The Seoul Vision 2030 plan includes four visions for the city's future: to be a global leader, a city of coexistence, a safe city and an exciting city of the future.


Paving the way for the LoRa network
Connectivity is at the heart of iot deployment. Recognizing this, the Seoul city government announced in October 2019 that it would allocate 102.7 billion won ($85.8 million at the time) over three years to build a Smart Seoul Network (S-Net). The government aims to build a 4,237-km independent communications network, focusing on public broadband, deploying free Wi-Fi networks (based on the Wi-Fi 6 standard) and increasing the integration of iot infrastructure, especially in densely populated areas.

To achieve these connectivity goals, a 421-kilometer LoRa network will be initially built in Seoul in 2021 and 1,000 LorA-dedicated base stations will be installed in public facilities by 2023. As of July 2021, a total of 195 base stations have been constructed and deployed in three districts of Seoul, which are conducting pilot tests of iot networks covering security, administrative and environmental aspects.

The Seoul city government expects to install more base stations in 19 districts by 2022 and three more by 2023. In addition, the government will establish an operation platform at city Hall that will act as a central command center for real-time management of data collection and distribution in districts. Through the network, Seoul is expected to offer more Iot related services such as power monitoring for fire detection, remote water supply meter readings and movement detection readings for elderly residents.


What does that mean?
According to Gavin Eng, Senior IoT analyst at Omdia, the deployment of LoRa in Seoul solves one of the key issues in the smart city network's interconnected ecosystem: coverage. According to Semtech, a founding member of the LoRa Alliance, LoRa can connect devices 49.3 kilometers apart in rural areas; LoRa also has the same advantages in implementing urban environments. LoRa's features meet the needs of smart cities that require large amounts of network bandwidth to operate city-wide sensors. Best of all, LoRa uses very little power to transfer data and can scale from a single gateway device to a larger network. The technology is also known to be capable of penetrating buildings by bypassing obstacles and reaching indoor sensors such as basements and elevators.

Data is the most valuable component of running a smart city. With data collected from sensors covering areas such as environment, traffic and safety, the Seoul City government will be able to conduct trend analysis to develop better urban solutions. So far, the city of Seoul has begun to use this data to improve city-wide services, such as the aforementioned use of the Internet of Things and blockchain to monitor dangerous buildings. In addition, the data collected will be disseminated among district offices in Seoul, and the information will also be submitted to developers and research institutes to develop more innovative solutions that will benefit the city.

In addition, the Seoul Metropolitan Government mentioned that smart Seoul Network will serve as the core infrastructure to manage the entire Internet of Things network in Seoul, which is expected to increase the communication between things and people. In addition, with the deployment of the network, Seoul's existing mobile network is expected to be gradually replaced by the Smart Seoul Network, enabling more iot services to be widely implemented at lower service/data costs.

Omdia analysts believe that with all the benefits the network can bring to Seoul, the city can cement its position as a visionary and leader in urban technological innovation. Seoul can further export its smart city solutions to more cities/countries and establish cross-border partnerships with countries and private organizations to jointly innovate urban improvement solutions. In fact, Seoul is already doing so. For example, in October 2020, Seoul exported its smart city policy to Guayaquil, Ecuador. Through this collaboration, Seoul has provided consultation and support to the Ecuadorian city of Guayaquil on its smart city plan, covering areas such as safety and transportation, health services and smart education.


Looking to the future
Omdia analysts believe LoRa will be one of the preferred connectivity technologies for smart city initiatives because of its long signal transmission distance and low power consumption of equipment. LoRa also scales to a variety of devices with flexible installation options at a lower cost than traditional cellular networks. City operators can leverage its reliability to develop more iot solutions and use cases to improve the connected ecosystem of the city and enhance the lifestyle of its citizens.

The deployment reinforces Omdia's view that South Korea is leading the way in developing smart cities, with success stories such as Seoul, Sejong and Songdo IBD. The country is also investing in smart city initiatives. In November 2021, for example, South Korea's Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport announced a 256 billion won ($215 million) national project to build smart city infrastructure for 64 local municipal governments by 2025. The plan involves gathering the opinions of local residents to develop smart city platforms and services, while using technologies such as artificial intelligence, big data and automation to process real-time data collected by sensors installed in cities.

However, despite the huge potential of these solutions, Omdia believes that community support and education about smart city deployment is critical. This support helps eliminate the possibility of citizens opposing the plans for a variety of reasons, including lack of governance or security and privacy concerns. Therefore, Omdia believes that there needs to be a collaborative approach between government agencies, private organizations and educational institutions that focuses on the development of solutions while educating and raising awareness among citizens.

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