Worldwide: What Do Data Centres Need To Provide To Enable Smart Cities?

Last Updated: May 15 2017
Article by Jocelyn S. Paulley

Most Read Contributor in Canada, October 2018

The global interest in smart cities should capture the attention of any data centre operator. Connected devices are no use without the compute power to bring all of their data together and extract the information which can transform the efficiency of cities. Without a data centre, smart cities will be dumb.

Why the smart city drive?

Whilst "smart city" can sound futuristic, the drivers are very real and very current. It addresses environmental concerns to reduce carbon consumption (and other waste), and it achieves cost savings across five key verticals - transport, energy, waste, water and assisted living. Given that urbanisation is increasing and by 2030 over 92% of the UK's population will live in a city (according to the World Resources Institute), these pressures are only going to increase.

The global market for smart city solutions (and the services required to deliver them) therefore unsurprisingly predicted to be some £408 billion by 2020. Funds are likely to come from both public and private sectors. The report commissioned by the Department of Business Innovation and Skills in October 2013 indicates the UK government's interest in being a world leader in this area. The UK has been the most prolific user of the Horizon 2020 fund established by the European Commission to run pilots for smart cities. Whether this trend continues post Brexit, given the funding that had been made available through Europe, remains to be seen but it could be an area which actually comes to greater prominence as a result. The massive cost savings that could be realised for utilities should also stimulate private investment; a 2013 survey of water utilities found that utility companies could save between $7.1 billion and $12.5 billion each year by using smart water solutions.

What do data centres need to provide to enable smart cities?

Smart cities will collect data from the IoT and connected sensors embedded in the physical infrastructure of cities. This data will be analysed to extract information to perform functions like direct cars to free parking spaces, redirecting traffic around accidents, managing power based on demand and turn lights and heating off in buildings when not in use.

To meet the needs of these data-driven cities, data centres will need to be capable of handling vast quantities of data. The 130 Exabytes now running across global networks will be dwarfed by the 40,000 Exabytes predicted by 2020. Processing more data does not require data centres to get bigger (although with the demise of More's law that may change) but it certainly does require a lot more power. This needs to be factored in to the choice of location, arrangements with the national grid and contracts for back-up power in the event of outages.

Many of the advantages of smart cities will come through real-time processing of this data. For example, sensors in the road will adapt traffic light sequencing to minimise queuing traffic. Low latency will therefore be critical to ensure almost instantaneous response. This leads to the need for data centres that are physically close to the cities that they will serve. These are known as 'edge' data centres, being literally on the 'edge' of the network, close to where the real-world data is being collected and where an output needs to occur. These will be very different to the hyperscale data centres that we associate with the likes of Facebook, Amazon and Google today.

Resiliency and reliability will also be fundamental to the safe, 24/7 operations. Recent outages at hospitals have hit headlines, with operations cancelled or postponed, and the occasional outages in some of the major cloud providers' operations also cause major disruptions to a variety of their corporate customers. The risk of a connected city going dark would clearly have major implications for citizens in their homes, individual businesses and safety.

Security will clearly be a major concern too. If cities are going to be run by connected networks, the security of that network will be paramount to protect against malicious attacks, hacks and take-overs. Adding many more access points to a network creates a security threat, which those intent on creating large bot-nets have already taken advantage of using home wi-fi routers, IP security cameras and digital video recorders. Operators of critical networks and essential infrastructure within an ecosystem, including data centre operators as the guardians of the physical aspects of security, will need to work together to provide the best cyber-security possible.

DCs as a part of the fabric of the smart city

As major consumers of power themselves, the data centre will need to conform to the energy-efficient, smart energy ethos of the smart city. Achieving a low power usage effectiveness (PUE) has long been a mark of a well-designed data centre but it will be critical to walk the walk within a smart city. As businesses with experience of energy management systems, there could even be scope for outsourcing of this knowledge to others within the ecosystem.

Data centres even have the key to unlock one of the challenges to operating a smart city: power generation. Data centres all have redundant generators within their infrastructure which are maintained and tested so that if there was a grid outage, the generators would keep the lights on until the grid came back on. For the vast majority of the time though, these valuable assets sit idle. Some operators are already in discussions with the grid to sell power back to the grid at peak times using their own generators. In a city with a smart energy monitoring system which could manage power inputs from multiple sources and direct power to where it was needed, when it was needed, data centres can become both the consumer and the producer.

To truly embrace the ethos of energy and waste management though, data centres need to look to their own waste: heat. The Scandinavian countries put the rest of Europe to shame with their heat exchange systems where waste heat from a data centre is used to heat houses, businesses and water. Working examples like this in the UK are few and far between but this would be the end result of a truly smart city.

Power to the data centre!

As the boundaries between our physical and digital lives blur, our realities become augmented and we rely increasingly on the power of the smart-everything to optimise our lives, there is no doubt that the data centre will play a fundamental role in our towns and economies. The size and design of the data centre may need to change to accommodate advances in processing capacity, power consumption and federated vs hyperscale models, but there is no chance that a smart city will exist without one.

This article originally appeared in Data Centre News, April 2017.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

In association with
Related Topics
Related Articles
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Registration (you must scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of

To Use you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions