Smart Cities Projects Growing in Importance for Comcast
These are pivotal times for cable companies. Having been a staple in U.S. households for decades, a growing number of customers are cutting the cord. The stock performance of Comcast in the past decade, however, has quadrupled. Part of its success is its diversification and its willingness to reinvent itself. “In the past decade, the very definition of a cable company has evolved,” said Jason Gumbs, regional senior vice president for Comcast’s Big South Region. The largest internet service provider in the United States, the company offers gigabit-speed internet to consumers and businesses.
The company also plays a supporting role for a range of Internet of Things initiatives, said Gumbs at the Smart Cities Summit event in Atlanta last week. One growing business for Comcast is the smart city segment. Its LoRaWAN-based machineQ service supports smart cities projects related to everything from asset tracking and geo-location to water metering. The machineQ service is designed to enable the transfer of small amounts of data across large distances inexpensively. The company’s high-speed connectivity supports organizations ranging from cities to management of the Atlanta Braves. Comcast supports the stadium as well as the mixed-use development nearby. “We built a multi-terabyte network that delivers 100 gigabits per second, and unparalleled Wi-Fi coverage to all 60 acres,” Gumbs said.
Comcast’s smart city clients include: Nashville, Philadelphia, Chicago and Atlanta.
Gumbs said his favorite smart city example is Project Greenlight in Detroit. “It’s an incredible neighborhood safety initiative in which we partnered with the Detroit Police Department,” he said. The initiative connected 500 cameras — located within buildings and outside — to police departments throughout the city. “It’s been a huge success substantially reducing violent crimes and carjackings to the tune of 50%,” Gumbs said.
In general, the smart cities projects Comcast executives see the most often include municipal services management, which revolves around facilitating communication with citizens. Utilities are next in line, including applications such as wastewater and electric grid management. Other smart city–related applications of Comcast’s networking include public safety and transportation. Finally, there are health care applications, including connectivity for hospitals, home care and emergency services.
To support such needs, the company has gradually been building out its fiber optic network, having quadrupled it in the past four years. The network is presently some 170,000 miles long.
Gumbs positioned Comcast’s network as an alternative to 5G. “So while 5G and other technologies may struggle with issues of coverage, latency and expense, our network
is built to continue to support virtually any form of smart city data transport,” he said. Earlier this year, Comcast Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Brian Roberts expressed a similar sentiment, stating that 5G services are “not cheaper, faster or better” than its high-capacity broadband services, according to Telecompetitor.
On the stage at Smart Cities Summit, Gumbs said he is confident the company will be well-posed to support the needs of smart cities in the next decade. While no one knows the future, “here’s what I do know,” Gumbs said. “I know that smart city will be powered by a high capacity high-speed network.” He also predicted a future in which “advanced sensors allow control over municipal services in real time.” In addition, smart cities will “use artificial intelligence to really drive performance and decision making.”