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Qualcomm Smart Cities Accelerate 2021: Leaders discuss digital transformation to empower cities and industries

Oct 6, 2021

Qualcomm products mentioned within this post are offered by Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. and/or its subsidiaries.

Our cities are evolving amidst seismic shifts in societal needs. Technologies are redefining urban communities, with smart traffic systems for smoother transportation, low-latency connections for remote education and healthcare services, and more scalable, efficient industries and infrastructure fueling an enormous network of connectivity and innovation. Our goal at Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. is to continue using wireless technology like 5G to bridge the digital divide so that everyone in a city has access to this exciting digital future. That’s why we’re fostering ecosystems of cities and industries to build equitable, efficient systems centered on 5G, private networks, and IoT-as-a-Service within a 21st century smart city.

The third annual Qualcomm Smart Cities Accelerate 2021, held in San Diego on September 28-29, continued this vision of bringing city and industry leaders together to discuss new digital transformation solutions aimed at solving common challenges for fully realizing the future smart city. Panels and discussions with Qualcomm Smart Cities Accelerator Program ecosystem members, industry executives, and city leaders focused on how we can build systems and business models for urban digital transformation in productive, equitable ways. Through continued deployments of 5G, private networks, and other critical digital infrastructure, Qualcomm Technologies set the stage for leaders to meet and discover technologies for the connected intelligent edge for use in applications and smart verticals to strengthen economies and enhance citizens’ lives.

Our guest speakers shared thoughtful, actionable ideas with Qualcomm CEO Cristiano Amon and other moderators on ways companies and cities plan to grow smart cities across the country. If you missed the livestream, you can still watch the keynote talk and full Qualcomm Smart Cities Accelerate 2021 video. Here are some key highlights:

Keynote focuses on digital equity and equality

Qualcomm President and CEO Cristiano Amon was joined by Earvin “Magic” Johnson and James Reynolds, co-founders of JLC Infrastructure, for a discussion on how digital transformation is fueling tomorrow’s modern cities, spaces, and experiences. Amon talked about how digital transformation is reimagining several industries, including education, healthcare, factories, construction, and transportation.

IoT will play a big role in the continued transformation of cities, Amon said, and that’s why it’s quickly become one of our fastest-growing segments. Cities will be vast IoT hubs where technology keeps everyone connected to every aspect of urban life, enabling more opportunities and more resiliency in the face of hardships like the one we’re battling in the pandemic.   

Reynolds and Johnson dug into how increased technology and 5G deployments stand to benefit everyone in a city, including underserved communities, which is one of Johnson’s biggest reasons for creating strong smart cities of the future.

Expanding infrastructure to serve all people in a city, especially those that continue to lack the necessary digital tools and services for education, finance, and healthcare, is the paramount focus for urban digital transformation. Deploying 5G and wireless networks, IoT technologies, and other digital services should first center on digital inclusion: kids that need wireless connections for remote education, people who need fast networks to keep their jobs and run their small businesses, and lower-income communities that have historically lacked reliable digital access. For a truly successful digital transformation into future smart cities, Johnson and Reynolds said, equity and equality need to be a top priority.    

City mayors discuss the importance of broadband connectivity access and smart city innovation

St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones, San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo, and Miami Mayor Francis X. Suarez took the stage to discuss the crucial role mayors play in transforming cities through funding strategies, partnerships, and innovative solutions. Cities face both similar and unique challenges over the next decade, such as fostering digital equitability, operating within financial constraints, and growing sustainability goals. The mayors each spoke about their vision for incorporating digital tools that address these issues like the efficient expansion of citywide broadband and 5G to treat digital infrastructure as a broad utility similar to water and electricity. All of these ideas revolve around the evolving landscape created by the COVID-19 pandemic and how further collaboration between cities and communities will foster a digital transformation that serves everyone.

How 5G Private Networks can help accelerate digital transformation

Industry leaders from Microsoft, Google, Black & Veatch, and Qualcomm Technologies took the stage for a panel discussion highlighting how different industries are utilizing 5G for foundational changes in cities. A transformational element will be the proliferation of 5G private networks, which promise dedicated enterprise or industrial networks for optimized, secure connectivity across entire cities. One question the panelists discussed revolved around the gap between 5G and LTE network providers and city IT management officials. How do we ensure cities and enterprises create a sustainable ecosystem that works well for both networks and IT personnel? The roundtable explored how the deployment of 5G private networks that connect city leaders and government agencies with enterprises will integrate complicated components across several different networks into one seamless experience for all citywide end users.

The challenges of deploying 5G private networks was another question the industry experts discussed. What are the biggest hurdles for deployment, and how can everything be stitched together to provide that seamless experience for end users? Increased collaboration and partnership between public and private companies, panelists said, would solve some of the major challenges of having all networks and relevant technologies operating under shared, easy-to-use systems.  

Following the roundtable, Qualcomm Technologies Senior Vice President and General Manager of 5G Durga Malladi dove deeper into the accelerating demand for 5G private networks. Building focused ecosystems to better connect cities with industries will inevitably lead to greater efficiencies and cost savings, data security, and sustainability moving forward. The rapid deployment of 5G private networks, Malladi said, is a huge part of digitally transforming cities for stronger economies and efficient productivity.

Qualcomm IoT Services Suite offers new drag-and-drop features

Qualcomm Technologies Senior Vice President and General Manager for Connected Smart Systems Jeff Lorbeck introduced IoT-as-a-Service in relation to the digital transformation within smart cities and the enterprise. Lorbeck talked about the growing need for sourcing, developing, and integrating many different technologies when crafting connected spaces and building a smart city with an ecosystem of support. At Qualcomm Technologies, that answer lies in the Qualcomm IoT Services Suite, which delivers comprehensive, end-to-end solutions for companies and city managers to deploy and manage networks across a wide range of industries and connected spaces.

Director of Product Management at Qualcomm Technologies Ashok Tipirneni conducted a live demonstration of how the Qualcomm IoT Services Suite and the IoTaaS 2.0 platform allow users to effortlessly utilize intelligent “drop and drag” features across a singular platform in areas of smart construction, asset management, drone inspection, smart lidar capabilities, and more.  

Collaboration for increased innovation

CTIA’s Vice President of Strategic Programs Michelle James spoke on the importance of collaboration between the wireless communications industry and other community institutions like education and transportation. James touched on how connected infrastructure will benefit many citywide sectors differently and highlighted several trends, use cases, and best practices for collaborating with wireless companies to build smarter, safer, and more connected communities.

Accelerating 5G digital transformation with Cloud and AI

The final panel of the day featured leaders from IBM, Google, and Microsoft focusing on ways 5G digital transformation can be accelerated through cloud and AI technologies. What are some key benefits for using AI and cloud computing for cities and industries, and how can 5G enable this rapid change? The panelists discussed how cloud and AI applications continue to grow exponentially across most industries, and that 5G connectivity fosters connected intelligent edge systems that increase the speed and efficiency of digital services in a smart city.

For example, smart traffic systems make use of AI processes to optimize routes and corridors for less congestion, while 5G-enabled drones and cloud networks help city emergency services survey threats or natural disasters from safe distances. But how can companies and enterprises work together with cities to appropriately use AI and connected intelligent edge for an accelerated digital transformation led by 5G? Distributing cloud, central, and on-device processing across fast 5G networks, the panelists said, has the ability to efficiently scale digital transformation between municipalities and industries for smart infrastructure and data management. The combination of cloud, AI, and 5G promises to be the defining core of a smart, connected city and spaces.

Day 2: Highlighting our ecosystem partners

While Day 1 of Qualcomm Smart Cities Accelerate featured special guests and engaging panels on today’s relevant topics, Day 2 was all about the ecosystem. The spotlight was on the ecosystem showcase, where more than 40 participating ecosystem partners showed off their end-to-end, commercially available solutions. Six of those partners took to the main stage to give attendees a closer look at their breakthroughs and answer any questions. Finally, to ensure the continued momentum of the smart cities movement, we held hundreds of business match-making meetings to bring together key players throughout the smart cities ecosystem.

See you in 2022 for our next Smart Cities event

The enthusiasm for digital transformation from city officials and industry leaders at Qualcomm Smart Cities Accelerate 2021 has grown tremendously since our first event in 2019. Connected spaces and smart cities powered by 5G networks unlock an entirely new world of opportunities for businesses and citizens as we look to tackle ongoing challenges and foster innovative new solutions. This year’s set of roundtable and panel discussions featured incredible ideas centered around connectivity and collaboration, with 5G private networks, AI, cloud and Qualcomm IoT Services Suite highlighting the impactful tools already at our disposal for quick, efficient deployment and integration.

By bringing together key drivers of our industries and cities around 5G and wireless technology, Qualcomm Technologies looks to promote a vast ecosystem that accelerates digital transformation to enrich lives and transform industries within connected smart cities. Be sure to check back with us soon to see continued on-demand sessions. We look forward to talking again with leaders and sharing even more progress with you all next year.

Qualcomm IoT Services Suite is a product of Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. and/or its subsidiaries. Qualcomm Smart Cities Accelerator is a program of Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. and/or its subsidiaries.

Opinions expressed in the content posted here are the personal opinions of the original authors, and do not necessarily reflect those of Qualcomm Incorporated or its subsidiaries ("Qualcomm"). Qualcomm products mentioned within this post are offered by Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. and/or its subsidiaries. The content is provided for informational purposes only and is not meant to be an endorsement or representation by Qualcomm or any other party. This site may also provide links or references to non-Qualcomm sites and resources. Qualcomm makes no representations, warranties, or other commitments whatsoever about any non-Qualcomm sites or third-party resources that may be referenced, accessible from, or linked to this site.

The OnQ Team