The IoT Heralds a Healthy, Holistic Smart City
You’re listening to New Horizons, the podcast channel for Huawei’s ICT Insights Magazine. Join us as we talk to innovators and thought leaders from around the world.
New Horizons: Well, thanks everyone. We’re back for Part Two with Edwin Diender and Smart Cities and we’re going to talk about IoT, which also ties into, of course, Artificial Intelligence that the IoT provides the sensor bases for. So, educate us on IoT in Smart Cities.
Edwin Diender: Well, the element of IoT, so the Internet of Things, have been available to cities already for a long time. One key example is one that I think originates from the 1970s, where sensor technology is being used as a copper wire ring that sits in the tarmac that you’re standing on with your car when you’re waiting for a red light. All the lanes and all the crossroads at a junction have these links. There is a system behind it.
You could say maybe that time wasn’t connected to the Internet, but it was some sort of a network of things that understands that in lane one, from north to south, there’s a car waiting at a red light; and the other three lanes, or the other three entrances and exits of the crossroad doesn’t have a car at all; or maybe they’ve got two, and one lane has five. So that’s more cars waiting. So that has some sort of intelligence already behind it and it has some sort of a network of things already attached and combined and working for it. Interconnectivity and network of interconnected things. So we’ve got a World Wide Web, not of computers, but a World Wide Web of sensors and a World Wide Web of things which are connected: sharing information, messaging, sometimes talk to each other, and IoT in a city provides the ability to not have a human eye with a human failure of the eye, looking at things maybe with a certain latency or a certain preoccupancy, but it’s very straightforward. It’s very black and white.
It could be a sensor that understands humidity, it understands pollution in the air, it understands water pressure, and all these things combined can provide input to what you could say is the ‘brain’ of a Smart City: An Intelligence Operations Center that translates and transforms all these pieces of data into information and that converts this information into insight and that can give maybe notification. A notification that in linkage with perhaps the weather report, water rises at a certain area, or in a certain rural area, or in certain outskirts of a city to a certain level which is similar to three, four years ago when we had a major flood. So we probably need to anticipate.
New Horizons: Right and there was an interesting partner exhibition at CeBIT 2018, where there was a smart manhole cover, where it was not only able to monitor potential water rising, but monitoring access to the conduits that run there that are you know actually quite valuable in the materials that are used. So in maybe rural areas you want to monitor access to those so people don’t come in and steal copper, or you know, electrocuting themselves.
Edwin Diender: Correct, I don’t know how many kilovolts of electricity that goes through copper wire infrastructure. Do we close it at the moment the manhole cover goes open: yes or no?
New Horizons: Excellent point.
Edwin Diender: I think it’s also fair to say that sometimes ICT, or computing technology, has been put in place to take away the human resources on that, because a computer can do it better and faster than a human. I think that’s not the way we should and that’s not the way we have to look at it. What it should do and what it does in the majority of the cases is, number one, it is adding to the resources. Every investment in computing requires almost four or five people around it to maintain it, to manage it, and to uphold it. Does it take away jobs at some point? Yeah it does, but it creates five other types of jobs back.
New Horizons: Right.
Edwin Diender: In return, perhaps it makes the job of the current people more efficient and more productive. So it doesn’t take away the job from them. It makes them more focused on the actual job that they have, or the thing that they need to do in their job, in the right priority, and in the right priority settings.
New Horizons: Well, maybe reducing a mundane or boring job which they may end up losing focus on over time and relegating that to a particular device to do that, so they can focus on higher level.
Edwin Diender: Or get rid of paperwork.
New Horizons: Right.
Edwin Diender: Or repetitive actions, or repetitive activities which are a waste of time, and there’s a lot of time wasters. Another example of the Internet of Things in Smart Cities is where all things connected create a more holistic view of anything and everything that goes on in a certain area, which is very key for City Managers to understand what goes on in their city and if they need to anticipate on it. The Internet of Things allows us, together with backend infrastructures where big data analytics and Artificial Intelligence component sits, to help us in a decision-making tree and a decision-making process to do things faster, more on point if you like; or because of the time-saving component within it, it gives us more time to rethink, or to think better about the decision that we’re about to make, which lowers the level of mistakes actually.
New Horizons: Well you know and that ties in to something you were mentioning: water and floods. But also when you talk about utilities you know, water quality, water main breaks, electricity breaks, gas line breaks.
Edwin Diender: Anything.
New Horizons: Things like that. It gives you the ability to understand what’s happening in the environment so you can dispatch services to take care of those problems and make sure that people’s services aren’t interrupted.
Edwin Diender: Very, very true. Just like with any other piece of information or information system that is out there, there’s two ways of looking at it. We look at it from a project-by-project basis, which has a stop and go motion. There is an issue somewhere, we need to solve it. Can we find sensor technology, or is the element of Internet of Things helping us to do so, to create this holistic environment that has a 360-degree view on everything and anything that goes on in the city.
The point I’m trying to make is the idea and the principle of the Internet of Things from Huawei’s point of view is to provide a platform that understands and that speaks the majority of all these different languages that are already out there, and that creates a horizontal layer of technology that is capable of bridging and overlaying all these information silos without necessarily needing to replace, or needing to upgrade them. The focus that we have at our platform is to integrate and to create an interoperability between all these silos and take it from there as a starting point. The Internet of Things for Huawei is also to look not just at the things, but at anything, at any moment in time.
New Horizons: And I think that’s a perfect stopping point for our second part in the three-part series. Edwin, thanks for your expertise in IoT and again, I’d like to come back at some point in the future, and explore it a little bit more. It’s a very deep subject.
Edwin Diender: My pleasure, thank you.
Thanks for listening to this episode of New Horizons. If you enjoyed it, please be sure to share it on social media. Once again, thanks for listening.
As Chief Digital Transformation Officer in the Enterprise Business Group, Edwin helps to advise our customers and partners regarding innovation, business, and growth using Digital Transformation with a focus on Smart City/Safe City economics, eGovernment and Government cloud, and Big Data Analytics and Digital Transformation for Smart Cities.