Many of the exhibitors in the smart city section of MWC are technology vendors that work with business customers and not necessarily with city governments. For city governments, the upfront costs of IoT rollouts are a widespread concern. Infrastructure partners that AT&T is working with, like Ericsson and Intel, have expressed interest in helping communities pay to get smart city projects off the ground, while the vendors expect to see a return on their investments later on, Lurie said.
A couple of the more unusual smart city examples included a pedestal-sized smart parking meter from Parkeon of Paris. It is solar powered, but also had a display to give users information on nearby shopping and points of interest. It can be programmed to accept payments for train tickets. Some of the meters used in Australia along beaches will even supply information for surfers about where to find the best waves.
Also, Sec.Sense of Northern Ireland showed off a $99 sensor that can attach to a person's bike and be used to communicate information to city officials on potholes or even air quality. The sensor also has Bluetooth connectivity to a bicyclist's smartphone, so if the bike is stolen while the rider is away, an alarm will be sent to the phone.
Experts agreed that smart city and IoT rollouts are still in their early stages, even if AT&T has been pursuing opportunities for years, as Lurie said.
"The initial upfront costs could be huge" for smart city and other IoT deployments, said Bob O'Donnell, an analyst at Technalysis Research. Big companies like Cisco and AT&T will be able to absorb some of the deployment costs, but struggling cities will face a harder time, he added.
Businesses that deploy IoT technology will use it to improve their competitiveness, while cities will have to sell something less tangible to their taxpayers, he added. "Can you really sell quality of life because the traffic lights are connected to a smart network?" he asked.
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