Tuesday, December 6, 2022

Flexible Optical Networking Technologies to Enable Smart Cities

With an ever-increasing focus on people, processes, and technology, cities are finally on the path to becoming smarter. Driven by innovations in Information and Communication Technologies (ICT), smart cities help drive economic growth and improve people’s quality of life. An important aspect that cannot be overlooked to enable the vision of a Smart City is ’digitization’. Citizens interact with the smart city ecosystem in different ways, such as using smartphones, smart parking or driving autonomous cars. In most ways, fast connectivity is the key to achieving the dream of smarter and safer digital cities.
As work from home recently became the new normal, with people managing offices, schools, businesses, and events virtually, there was a rise in bandwidth demand to make this all possible. Also, with disruption caused by 5G, Internet of Things (IoT), Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML), and Augmented Reality (AR) revolution, the bandwidth demand is to grow incessantly. Combining automation, ML, and IoT helps smart city technologies for many applications.

But this gives rise to an important question: Are the cities ready to meet this insatiable demand for bandwidth and implement these technologies?

These technologies cannot do wonders without the presence of a robust underlying communication infrastructure network to transport an enormous amount of data from one end to another. To make this possible, fiber is the best choice because of its high speed, low latency, and unlimited bandwidth potential. Its advanced methods of data transmission have made it possible to implement AI and automation in different infrastructure ecosystems. Whether it’s an intelligent transportation system with smart traffic lights to manage congestion or prevent accidents, a video surveillance system for crime prevention, or smart buildings enabling efficient and economical use of resources, all applications operate with the help of fiber optics in smart cities.

With video representing most of the mobile traffic in the coming years and the content located at nearby and distant data centers, the full, guaranteed end-to-end performance promise of smart cities can be realized by upgrading the entire fixed wireline network between the Radio Access Network (RAN) and data centers. This can be achieved by choosing the right next generation networking technologies and upgrading legacy networks to support huge bandwidths of data.
In today’s digital era, as everything is online, bandwidth demands may increase or decrease anytime, which helps us realize the importance of flexibility and adaptability, even in the case of networks. For instance, if the city is hosting a big sporting event, high bandwidth at the time of broadcast would be required. Taking increased bandwidth service enrollment all the time to meet this demand is a financial hit and an ineffective use of resources. Wouldn’t it be great if the operator could bill for bandwidth only when it is required? This flexibility can be achieved by adopting flexible optical networking technologies – an important move towards smarter networks.

One such technology is FlexEthernet, also called FlexE, which is a flexible Ethernet client interface standard as defined by the OIF. It provides flexibility to operators to remotely adjust service bandwidth on demand and helps maximize efficiency at each network layer. FlexE also plays an advantageous role in edge networks as it allows lower granularity down to 5Gb/s.

Another technology which is analogous to FlexE is Flexible Optical Transport Network (OTN), also called FlexO. It is defined by ITU-T Recommendation and provides modularity by bonding standard-rate interfaces, enhancing the capabilities of the Optical Transport Network. It is used beyond 100G line-side and client-side interfaces and can be used for line-side interfaces up to 25.6 Tb/s.

Advancements in the field of fiber optic technologies, such as beyond 100G OTN, enables transmission of higher data rates to support voracious demands for more bandwidth. FlexE provides flexible Ethernet interfaces between switches/routers and transport equipment and enables increased router efficiency. FlexO provides flexible hand offs between OTN transport equipment and enables bonded connectivity supporting new high bandwidth services. The flexible nature of FlexE and FlexO enhances the dynamic configuration and recovery capabilities of the transport and switching network, and plays a vital role in the development of smart cities. FlexE and FlexO are some of the many other essential network engineering choices for successful implementation of smart cities. So, thorough consideration of the latest technologies are required to choose the best solution suited per the needs to design the networks of the future.

Fiber optic cables are a vital aspect in transforming a city into a smart city. In planning the infrastructure for a smart city, it is important to start with fiber-optic networks providing the physical connectivity for communication and data traffic in the whole city. The key to shaping the future of city life comes with smart and flexible networks for successful implementation of smart cities providing state-of-the-art infrastructure.

About the author
Richa Daga has vast experience working in the telecom and optical networking domain as an embedded software engineer at Ciena. Before this, she worked at Cisco Research and Development offshore center and has developed cutting-edge products supporting data traffic up to terabits of speed. Her passion lies in technologies and chipsets that connect the world. She was the chairperson of the IEEE Women in Engineering group of her alma mater and is a core member of the she peaks bureau initiative, supporting the cause of Diversity and Inclusion. She is a global speaker at Internet of Things Community’s conferences and had shared her insights regarding 5G, IoT, Smart Grids, Edge Cloud, Submarine Networks, cybersecurity, and optical technologies in her past IoT Slam talks.