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Smart City Collaboration— An Interview with Hexagon Solutions

At the “2014 Huawei Cloud Computing Conference,” ICT Insights interviewed Dr. Horst Harbauer, Business Development Manager of Hexagon Solutions, about Smart City technology.

ICT Insights: Dr. Harbauer, would you please describe the position of Hexagon in the industry, and especially your Smart City solutions?

Dr. Harbauer: Hexagon is a Swedish company with a global presence, headquartered in London. About five years ago, Hexagon acquired Intergraph Corporation. About one year ago, Hexagon formed a new division called Hexagon Solutions to create synergies between different components of the Hexagon Company, as well as partner companies, to make complete solutions. One very important partner company for communication and IT is Huawei. We are forming this partnership for building Smart City solutions, especially the Safe City.

ICT Insights: Considering the Smart City as an emerging concept, what features could be included?

Dr. Harbauer: In the Hexagon and Huawei partnership, we can provide many important components for Smart Cities. Huawei is providing the communication and information technology. I see it acting like glue between different applications. Hexagon provides many applications for vertical units of a Smart City such as police, fire, emergency services, traffic management and transportation, city planning, electric supply, gas supply, and some others. We have the dedicated vertical applications as well as geo-spatial data — another key advantage we have — and they all need to be connected by communication.

ICT Insights: What is the vision of the Smart City?

Dr. Harbauer: In general, the concept of a Smart City is to improve the communication between different departments, to improve the efficiency of different vertical units, and to enable different departments to work together better. Here you can see immediately that communication, which Huawei provides, is an important element. Hexagon develops the applications. This combination of applications and communications is really the core of a Smart City concept.

ICT Insights: What do you think are the difficulties in Smart City implementations, and how can we overcome these difficulties?

Dr. Harbauer: I think the message is, “You cannot eat an elephant with one bite.” This is from a humorous story about how to eat an elephant. You need to eat one bite at a time. For Smart Cities, you may need to start with a Safe City, with emergency services, and then implement a few other ones and, finally, integrate them into a Smart City. Don’t try to do everything at the same time, because it would be too complex and carry a risk that it could fail. Doing things step by step would be on the safe side of implementation.

ICT Insights: What do you think are the differences between a Safe City and a Smart City?

Dr. Harbauer: A Safe City is more orientated towards the police, emergency, and fire response, and emergency rooms. The Smart City is a broader item. I personally see a Safe City as part of a Smart City. They are vertical components of the total story.

ICT Insights: Hexagon has many success stories all over the world. Could you give us some typical examples of projects?

Dr. Harbauer: Let’s start with traffic management and urban transportation in the Brazilian city of Sao Paulo, which has a population of 25 million. They’re using our software systems to manage the traffic, bus lines, and traffic lights. This is one element. Let’s switch to Zurich, Switzerland. They have combined operation centers for police, emergency services, and fire into one combined operation center. Then let’s go to Dusseldorf, Germany. They have many elements in a common municipality computer center. They’re doing city planning, environmental planning, sewage planning, and some other elements. You see that different areas are starting from different points, but they are all going in the same direction.

ICT Insights: What kind of cooperation do you think is needed in Smart City implementation? Which is better, choosing one supplier for all products and solutions or many suppliers in separate areas to provide the products and solutions together?

Dr. Harbauer: This is the dream, let’s say, when we see that Huawei and Hexagon together could provide everything. This would be the easiest solution, but looking more to reality, many cities have already started with some components. So we need to interface with and integrate existing components, especially specialized applications from some specialized companies. We are not starting from scratch, so we need to integrate these applications.

ICT Insights: What’s your opinion about the advantages of Hexagon and Huawei working together? What benefits can we provide to customers?

Dr. Harbauer: The combination is an advantage. I personally see Huawei as the leading technology provider for LTE, a next-generation communication system. In Europe many years back, the European government established an initiative called TETRA that resulted in a digital radio application. But TETRA is very slow, with limited bandwidth. Now, even for Europe and other areas, LTE is a very modern, high-capacity, and high-bandwidth wireless communication system. This could include radio, telephony, video, and social media. All these elements that you need to integrate into your Smart City system are provided by enterprise LTE — eLTE, as Huawei calls it. I think it’s a perfect combination.

ICT Insights: Hexagon and Huawei established a joint innovation lab in July 2014. What is the purpose of this lab?

Dr. Harbauer: The lab is to showcase to the public what we are able to provide. We want to show our customers that we are able to execute what we say in our presentations, not just offering theory.

ICT Insights: What is the goal of the Hexagon and Huawei cooperation? And how about the progress so far?

Dr. Harbauer: I think that it’s moving fast. We started to get to know each other about a year ago, and then Huawei started to build the first integration. We identified opportunities worldwide, and they are now ready to pursue them, hopefully in the next few weeks or months. So this is quite rapid development. I’m looking forward to a lot of successes here.

By ICT Insights