Speaker Series 2023 #11 | Harnessing Co-benefits of Communications Infrastructure

Nov 2023

About the Session

The Speakers

City sustainability and resilience come in many forms beyond the minimization of disruption caused by natural disasters such as floods, earthquakes, fires, and food shortages. A key element in the backbone of a resilient city is a robust data communications infrastructure, which is also a precursor to any smart data services provided. Just as cities strongly desire to employ sustainable and resilient design principles and practices to provide resilience against natural disasters, food and water shortages, health care, and climate change related phenomenon, the same type of attention and focus can be provided in ensuring that the city infrastructure remains robust. Proper planning and design of data communications pathways will enable not only reliable and sustainable future-ready data needs but will also provide a multi-use backbone that can provide additional value for a wide variety of life safety and resiliency-benefitting monitoring services for the cities.

The eleventh session of the Cities on the Frontline Speaker Series, 2023, with the support of and co-hosted with Orbia focused on ‘Harnessing Co-benefits of Communications Infrastructure’. We were joined by Dr. Paul Dickinson, Director of Business Development, Dura-Line & Chairman of the Board, Fiber Optic Sensing Association (FOSA), David Basto, lead for the new Technology Integration Centre (TIC), City of Calgary, Kyle Glaeser, Director of Emerging Networks, Underline and JJ Williams, Global Commercial Director, Luna all of who are deeply invested in infrastructure resilience and future technologies that support resilient cities. The session focussed on how cities can advance digital resilience by responding to challenges and strengthening predictive capabilities within their complex interdepartmental systems creating lasting co-benefits. The panel was moderated by Dr. Paul Dickinson and Isabel Parra, Communications Manager, Resilient Cities Network.

Key insightful takeaways from the panel were:

  • City sustainability and resilience has many forms, and one important one is digital or data driven​ resilience.
  • Globally, there are increased levels of funds available to cities to help enhance digital infrastructure though the cost of implementation can still be a major obstacle and self-limiting in the ability of cities to provide these services to all the communities.
  • Properly designed and installed optical pathways and infrastructure that is scalable, flexible, and smart is the best way to ensure digital robustness and resilience.
  • It’s critical to be aware upfront of both the financial and technical opportunities in the design and implementation of the infrastructure, to enable opportunities rather than limit them down the road.
  • Networks that are cyber-secure, dynamic, and designed to maximise future applications are foundational to sustainable and resilient digital infrastructure.
  • Fibre networks are not just for communication but can also be leveraged for sensing. Fibre optic sensing can be used to monitor assets in cities for applications like traffic monitoring, fire hazards, service utilities, security and also early warning to shocks like earthquakes through seismic activity detection.
  • Co-benefits for such infrastructure include minimizing future infrastructure costs​, leveraging assets for improved return on investment​ and using the infrastructure for novel applications enhancing life safety, security, predictive maintenance, and/or damage mitigation of critically needed assets such as utilities.
  • Strategic implementation of smart communications infrastructure will require city planners, various multilevel governance authorities, utilities, and ISP providers to work together in unison for the common good for a technology plan using shared right-of-ways and dig-once principles.

David Basto, lead for the new Technology Integration Centre (TIC), City of Calgary

Governments, both federal provincial and municipal governments need to work together, to align digital infrastructure strategies together to ensure that there’s enough open access and infrastructure. So there’s a number of things that can be done. But I think the first step is for all levels of government to work together on a digital infrastructure strategy and focus on a policy and regulatory change.

Kyle Glaeser, Director of Emerging Networks, Underline

“We cannot have a great urban resilience project without including people in the project, accompanied by access to housing, education and economic development. If we do not have an integrated approach to resilience, it will not work.”

JJ Williams, Global Commercial Director, Luna

“Fibre that is already out there or is being newly installed can be leveraged for resilience as well as communications. And that can be through monitoring the structure of a bridge, monitoring traffic flows, ensuring that escape routes from the city are clear during an emergency event. So city planners, stakeholders and utilities should always consider technology as well as communications when they’re making these investments.”

Dr. Paul Dickinson, Director of Business Development, Dura-Line & Chairman of the Board, Fiber Optic Sensing Association (FOSA)

“It matters geographically where you install the infrastructure. You need to  carefully plan the conduit and fiber cable installation locations now so that they enable not only the broadband use which reduces the digital divide for your citizens, but also enable other valuable multi-use applications which protect your infrastructure and enhance life safety.  This is going to pay dividends in the future. Another aspect is that while new installations in cities may be the most important and the most considered right now, it’s important to note that there is also a tremendous opportunity to leverage existing conduit and fibre infrastructure for multi-use.”

For more information please contact markus.Laubscher@orbia.com and paul.dickinson@duraline.com

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