It's apparent every city will soon be a smart city, gathering data from most services and users, empowering citizens, agencies and corporations to better use and manage daily life. But what's not less clear is what makes a city smart; which data and how much an urban area gathers; how that data is used and shared, and what access citizens have to information.
What is certain? Smart cities translate into opportunities for service providers.
Data is key. That means being able to gather, transfer, store and analyze data and then transfer useful, analyzed and edited data back to an end consumer, be it the municipality, commercial enterprise or citizen -- sometimes, but not always, as a paying consumer.
Planes, trains and automobiles
Early smart-city successes have come from transport. Overcrowded transport networks -- roads, buses, trains, trams and undergrounds -- universally plague cities. Gathering and analyzing data about journeys, congestion and passengers' travel habits can bring huge benefits.
Simply giving queuing passengers an idea of how long they must wait helps, but solutions offer much greater results.
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For example, Spanish telecom operator Telefónica has a big-data division called LUCA, an overarching suite of products called Smart Steps and, within that, a specific transport product. It is already working with seven municipalities around the globe to create smart cities.
Global smart cities
In Ecuador, Telefónica monitors Quito's metro travelers and uses anonymized mobile data to predict the movement of various groups of people throughout the city.
In Argentina, the city of Neuquén has the highest population density in Patagonia. There, Telefónica's mapping of population movements was pivotal in designing a new public transport system and the Intelligent Metrobus route.
A common factor in many smart cities is collaboration between government and commercial agencies. In Colombia, Telefónica worked with the UK Foreign Office, Atkins, FDI Pacífico and the city of Cali to renovate the Corredor Verde regeneration zone.
In Brazil, Telefónica worked with the World Bank and the University of São Paulo to gather data from Smart Transport Cards, mobile apps data and multiple telecommunications carriers in order to investigate the mobility patterns of people living in Paraisópolis, a favela area with approximately 55,000 inhabitants.
In the UK, Telefónica has been busy too. It helped Newark and Sherwood District Councils get the evidence needed to make a case to the County Council and the Highways Agency to tackle traffic problems in Newark. Using anonymized aggregated data, the operator delivered detailed information about the movement patterns of vehicles and driver profiles.
Telefónica also partnered with transport planner Jacobs, giving it access to aggregated and anonymized data sets to allow it to tap into streams of live data.
The Finland six
Some cities are attempting to cover all bases, digitizing services across their entire urban area. Tempere, Finland, identified seven key areas, from health and education to buildings and infrastructure, for digitization, said Tero Blomkvist, program director for Smart Tempere. (See Fiber-Friendly Tampere Gets Smart .)
It wants to develop policies and adopt standards and practices that mean it is never tied to a single supplier, but all potential providers of hardware, software, wired and wireless technologies and data analytics can become involved or compete for contracts.
The six biggest cities in Finland are collaborating on the smart city initiative. They plan to use open data to maximize use and insight.
"The challenge is how to get all that data into one place and to analyse it," Blomkvist told UBB2020.
Some cities have selected IoT, communication standards and suppliers, said Blomkvist. Instead, the burghers of Tempere believe an open system will produce better results through competition, he said.
"Companies will make their own business decisions about IoT," Blomkvist added.
The Smart Tempere team guides the city to ensure it connects the growing ream of data, relying on the private sector's innovations to deliver individual solutions, he said. Challenges include political pressures from foes of privatization of currently public services, multiple providers and fragmentation, said Blomkvist.
Du does Dubai
Some 400 miles away in Dubai, the city chose du as strategic partner in a competitive tender in late 2015 and has been engaged since 2016. It set up a special purpose vehicle with the city to run the show.
"The government of Dubai has a policy of making Dubai the happiest city on earth," Goncalo Fernandes is head of IoT and M2M with du, said in an interview. "The new oil is data. The focus is about how we make the data available to government, to companies, to citizens and to visitors to the city, so they have a more enjoyable experience."
That focus means du now must work with the companies it beat for the partner status -- the likes of IBM and Microsoft. There are at least ten firms now involved. Key to du's winning bid was that it proposed a solution that was "as vendor-agnostic as possible," Fernandes said.
The first stage involved gathering already available data collected by various government agencies, such as land registry, occupancy rates per square meter and energy consumption by buildings. That is then made freely available to citizens so they can see color-coded maps comparing where they live with other areas of the city. The service provider identified 400 data sets, which will be complimentary to citizens.
The next stage is to develop additional services, gather new data sets and make management decisions using the information. While the usual suspects such as smart lighting get a mention, new offerings are based on "smart risk management," Fernandes said.
Rules and regulations
Before work began, the government of Dubai passed a new law prior clearly stating what can and cannot be collected or done with data.
"That was helpful as it removed uncertainty. Grey areas are always a problem but we now have certainty," said Fernandes.
Individual districts within the city bring forward their own proposals and projects for how they can improve the experience for their tenants and visitors and how they can link their work to the citywide initiative.
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