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If you follow technology trends, you've likely read up on Smart Communities and imagined what our cities might be like in the future - perhaps even the near future. At CIRA, we work with municipalities by helping them gather data on internet speeds in their communities through our Internet Performance Test. It's an exciting time for Canadian communities.

Understanding internet speed is one step in helping cities prepare for the future, attract business and innovation their way and benefit from new technology. Another is through Internet Exchange Points, or IXPs, which allow for local, direct connections that provide cost savings, greater bandwidth and higher speeds - ingredients for a Smart Community.

IXPs and Smart Communities: Some examples

First, imagine a future full of self-driving cars that need to connect to their environment - their travel routes, traffic lights, etc. With an IXP in place, all the Internet of Things devices that need to communicate with one another to make this run smoothly can do so directly. The data they send doesn't go through a third party, routed miles away often through the U.S., then back up in order to reach its destination. The street light sends its message directly to the car. There are no delays and no worries that the message will fail to reach its destination or will get there seconds too late. Imagine the consequences of that for a moment.

Another example is the gaming industry. To produce one game, there are often several companies involved working on different components. With an IXP, these companies can connect and send data (often large amounts) directly to one another. This allows users options such as purchasing a lower-cap data plan or eliminating the worry of exceeding their current cap. This is a cost-saver and again, ensures that data doesn't have to route miles away and back again. By having an IXP, a city is setting up an environment that can attract and retain these types of companies.

IXPs also provide a more secure environment for those companies that encourage or support working from home. An IXP ensures sensitive traffic remains local, rather than routing data through Seattle, Chicago or New York. Many companies employ high-security VPNs to combat possible exposure that southern routing creates. IXPs can eliminate that requirement or at least minimize it.

There are 11 IXPs across Canada today, and the more IXPs there are the more resilient the internet will be in Canada. Cities that currently have one are well-placed to embrace Smart Community advancements. I encourage the city, local companies and Internet Service Providers to connect at their local IXPs to reap the benefits, and I encourage municipalities to promote this benefit as part of their Smart Community strategies.

CIRA has long been an advocate and financial supporter of Canada's IXP network expansion. Learn more about Canada's Internet Exchange Point network. As well, if you are interested in learning more about Smart Community strategies, consider attending Canadians Connected: CIRA's symposium and annual general meeting, which will feature a panel discussion on this topic.