As nations grapple with unprecedented rapid urbanisation there is much work to be done. The United Nations estimate that by 2050 about two-thirds of the world’s projected 9.7 billion population will be city dwellers. It is little wonder that, as a result, the global smart city market is predicted to be worth around $1.5 trillion by 2020.

Telecommunications giant Nokia is a major player in this market. Cormac Whelan, its UK and IrelandCormac Whelan chief executive, and says that the sheer pace of change is remarkable. “This densification of population centres is a trend we have never seen in history before, so it is a huge challenge on many levels.”

Today the Finland-headquartered company is a key supplier not only in the service provider markets but also in critical national infrastructure such as rail, road and utilities networks across the United Kingdom and elsewhere.

Mr Whelan says: “When it comes to communications, we supply all the major players in the UK: Vodafone, Telefónica, British Telecom, Sky and Virgin Media. As such we are active in a number of technology areas – wireless, fixed-access, core networks, broadband data networks – all the things that start to form the necessary infrastructure to deliver connected, smart cities.”
Nokia is helping cities to understand what they need to deliver communications infrastructure, because the networks it provides are at the centre of all critical national infrastructure, from the control systems in the utility networks to the traffic control on the UK’s smart motorways.

To explain what that means in practice, Mr Whelan points to the Bristol Is Open (BIO) initiative – a joint venture between the University of Bristol and Bristol City Council that Nokia has been involved with since its inception.

He says: “Bristol is more than just a smart city because it has created its own fibre network, and can plug in new technology [to the city’s systems], see how it would work with real-life infrastructure, and test application usage. BIO helps us determine whether applications live up to their expectations and now BIO is up and running, it should remain at the leading edge of smart-city technologies.”

“As a global organisation we have the ability to bring our learning from across the world to any local activity going on,” he says. “We have already got smart-city projects in the United States and India, and a large number of projects going on across Europe.
“Ultimately, for smart cities to thrive you need connectivity; it’s about density of network, speed of network and access to the network. And Nokia is probably in the best position, from a technology point of view, to deliver that anywhere in the world.”

Nokia are sponsors of the The Smart Cities Award at the World Communication Awards, where finalists include Indosat Ooredoo, Intersec, Greenwave Systems, and Magnet Networks. Bristol is Open with the 2016 winner of this category.