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Optical Networks Light the Way for Smart Cities

By Jin Zhiguo, Vice President, Optical Business Product Line, Enterprise Business Group,Huawei

Because its big data and AI platforms can support the quick development and rollout of new services, many Smart City applications are deployed on the cloud. Meanwhile, the network is critical to connecting sensors and the cloud of a Smart City, with both the quick rollout of new services and their security also dependent on a solid, fixed network foundation.

Urban Optical Networks Accelerate Smart City Develop-ment

To provide data security and service flexibility, city managers must approach network construction from both technical and management perspectives. In this context, urban optical networks have become integral to Smart City infor-mation infrastructure; in fact, they're now as important as traditional forms of urban infrastructure such as water networks, power grids, gas networks, and road networks.

For Smart Cities, urban optical networks provide high-quality connectivity, fea-turing ultra-high bandwidth, physical isolation, and deterministic low latency — benefiting multiple fields, including government services, healthcare, educa-tion, transportation, and urban management.

For example, the Chinese government is striving to make all of its public ser-vices available online so that citizens only need to go to a single government office just once for an errand and, in some cases, may not even have to go to an office at all. This requires data-sharing and unified service-bearing across different government agencies. However, the streamlining of huge amounts of service data and numerous service systems will inevitably cause network con-gestion as well as security risks such as data loss and system freezing. The ultra-high bandwidth of urban optical networks supports the unified bearing of various government services and ensures absolute service data security through physical isolation. With urban optical networks, citizens' service expe-riences can improve, while government departments aren't troubled by prob-lems such as network freezing and data loss.

Meanwhile, in healthcare, telemedicine has become important for addressing problems related to the uneven distribution of medical resources, providing remote support for areas with limited resources. New medical service modes — such as real-time High Definition (HD) images, video communication, re-mote consultation, remote synchronization of medical images, and remote medical teaching — are made possible using powerful network capabilities. In the future, medical innovations, such as remote surgery and Research and Development (R&D) of intelligent medicine, will also be supported by urban op-tical networks.

Five basic forms of urban infrastructure

Elsewhere, for industrial manufacturing, the Industrial Internet is the future. The development of the manufacturing industry requires the deployment of many new industrial systems, as well as industrial intelligence and the Indus-trial Internet. Urban optical networks are critical for industrial digital transfor-mation. Urban optical networks' ultra-low latency supports important industrial innovations such as AI robotic arms, industrial Virtual Reality (VR) and Aug-mented Reality (AR), design simulation, and remote maintenance — realizing remote, unmanned, automated industrial operations. With the support of urban optical networks, large industrial equipment deployed in harsh environments — such as substation power equipment and mining machines — can now be re-motely controlled instead of manually operated. With workers able to remotely operate large industrial machines from their offices, industrial productivity is substantially increased.

Three Trends of Urban Optical Network Construction

To boost Smart City development and upgrade the fixed network infrastructure of cities, we have outlined three directions for the construction of urban optical networks.

Build an Urban Optical Network with a Latency of Less Than 1 Millisec-ond

Digital innovations such as the autonomous driving system, e-Government cloud, and desktop cloud mean that network delays can be greatly problemat-ic. However, in urban information systems, the overall performance can be constrained by any weaknesses in the network, so the network must be pow-erful in all aspects.

For Data Center Interconnection (DCI), low latency is imperative. To ensure data security and prevent data loss caused by power failures and natural dis-asters, DCs are often deployed in a dual-active mode. Data is synchronized between the production DC and the Disaster Recovery (DR) DC in real time through the urban optical network. If the production DC is faulty, the DR data center takes over services immediately to prevent data loss. The communica-tion delay between two DCs is critical, as the dual-active DC architecture can only work properly when the deterministic delay is less than 1 millisecond (ms).

Autonomous driving is another field in which low latency is crucial. In the event of an emergency, self-driving cars need to make judgments and take action within 10 ms. Clearly, network latency is critical to the entire self-driving sys-tem. Only deterministic latency of less than 1 millisecond can enable self-driving vehicles to obtain real-time data from the cloud and take measures in time to eliminate security risks.

We must build an urban optical network with a latency of under 1 ms. The tar-get optical network must guarantee services can be connected to the cloud in 1 ms from any location in a city, maximizing optical network performance and capacity.

Extend Urban Optical Networks to the Local Community Level

Urban optical fibers are mostly deployed in subdistrict offices, large campus-es, and municipal organizations. With increasing broadband access demands from governments and enterprises, last-mile urban optical networks have proven insufficient. To enhance Smart City construction and enable more widespread use of Smart City technologies, optical fibers have to be deployed closer to customers.

The extension of optical networks from subdistrict level to community level will resolve the problem of insufficient bandwidth in the last mile, providing ultra-high broadband access for each and every government bureau, school, and hospital. The community-level optical network will serve as the entrance to the expressway of the government information system, meet the isolation needs of various services, and safeguard core data's security. Extending optical net-works to the community level would mean that no additional network recon-struction would be required in the next decade or so. Meanwhile, core digital requirements such as healthcare, education, and government services would easily be supported; telemedicine and distance education would be widely available; and governments would also be able to integrate and streamline si-loed information systems to provide easy-to-use 'last-mile services' to citizens and businesses.

Cloud-Network Synergy: To Build the Cloud, Build Networks First

The upgrade of city management and industry digitalization means more and more services are being migrated to the cloud. In this context, the cloudifica-tion of government, enterprise, and industry services is inevitable.

Cloud computing can save huge amounts of computing resources and reduce costs for governments and businesses, while also improving data usage and service-bearing capability: This is critical in the industry digitalization process. However, as governments and enterprises migrate their services to the cloud, networks have to be built first, to establish cloud-network synergy. Without powerful network capabilities, the efficiency and speed at which governments and businesses access cloud resources will be compromised. Crucially, urban optical networks can intelligently identify cloud service requirements and per-form automatic network configuration, slashing the cycle for cloud-based new service rollout from several days to mere minutes.

Because both the cloud and the network are key to ensuring application expe-rience, instead of separate cloud and network deployment, we need unified planning and construction of cloud platforms and networks. As we construct networks, we need to take into account the cloud requirements so that the network can support the service needs of the next five to ten years. To boost industrial and economic development and to improve the lives of their resi-dents, cities should deploy vast urban optical networks — laying a solid foun-dation for them to transform into Smart Cities.

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Building Smart Cities that Provide a Sense of Security,Belonging, and Happiness

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