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IOCs: The Engines that Drive Cities

By Qin Minggang, Senior Architect, Global Government Solution Integration Design and Verification Department, Enterprise Business Group,Huawei

As urbanization accelerates, city governance faces many challenges, such as overpopulation, traffic congestion, environmental pollution, and an increase in the number of emergencies. To tackle these issues, key decision-makers pur-suing the healthy and prosperous development of their cities urgently need the most advanced 'cockpit' — a series of data applications — to help sense the city's real-time running status at all times. In some domains, if a key indicator or an emergency occurs, the system will generate an alarm and notify relevant personnel for immediate and end-to-end response, greatly improving the city's governance capabilities.

Three Obstacles to Governance

Cities face various challenges in digital transformation because they have dif-ferent ideas about the concept and their informatization levels vary.

Late Incident Awareness

Key decision-makers are typically among the last to be informed of an incident. This makes it difficult for them to fully understand problems or events during city operations. Taking this into account, a warning system is urgently needed.

Experience-Dependent Decisions

Data sharing and exchange systems have been built in each region. However, data sharing and exchange are still subject to delays. Not all data is aggregat-ed in real time, so government agencies are often unclear about their data as-sets. What's more, there are no decision-making assistance models enabled by big data, so experts and decision-makers have to rely on their experience for analysis and decisions. For example, if you want to predict the peak tourist flow of a holiday this year, typically you have to check the previous year's data and make deductions based on the data on weather, traffic, and ticket volume of the current year. However, the data sets aren't easy to gather, because they are scattered across different government agencies. Even then, it's not possible to really capitalize on the data because there's a lack of proper mod-els. Essentially, using this data usually fails to adequately support decision-making.

Lack of a Citywide Unified Command and Scheduling System

In cities with advanced ICT infrastructure, the departments for public security, emergency response, city management, and so on build their own command centers. When major emergencies occur, decision-makers often have to go to the scene, or convene a meeting with relevant departments at the command center, to obtain first-hand information for command and scheduling. In this case, the information they get isn't updated dynamically, and this impedes the effectiveness of their command actions. Clearly, city governors urgently need a citywide unified command and scheduling system to make some critical de-cisions during city operations, and to facilitate easier command across de-partments and levels amid major emergencies.

Building IOCs Focusing on Management, Service, and Command

For decision-makers in cities, Huawei City IOC, as the brain of the city, meets their urban management needs, and enables them to fully control the city by monitoring its operation indicators at all times. The decision-making assistance model uses a massive amount of industry-specific data to make predictions. At critical moments in emergencies, the video surveillance system will be activat-ed to schedule manpower and resources, building mobile command centers and improving the governance of cities.

Management: City Operations on One Map

The City IOC can help decision-makers with their critical missions. It collects data about key indicators from each government agency, and formulates a comprehensive city operation map. This map functions somewhat like a gen-eral practitioner, enabling decision-makers to understand the city's operations and health status in real time. If an indicator goes beyond the normal scale, the map immediately sends an alarm that could be in any of four severity lev-els (from low to high): blue, yellow, orange, and red. Warnings are issued for events, and they are handled based on their severity levels. The indicator data is analyzed in depth to explore the root cause, and then assigned to the re-sponsible body for handling. In this way, the events are identified effectively and can be resolved more easily.

In the Shenzhen Municipal Government Management Service Command Cen-ter ('Command Center') — which is connected with 82 urban systems and col-lects various types of data — a 100-square-meter City IOC screen shows in-formation about 14 fields, including economic operations, ecological environ-ment, government service, and city governance.

In the IOC Suzhou Industrial Park project, Huawei applies video and AI tech-nology to automatically sense and warn of 13 events that occur most frequent-ly in every corner of the city, at all times. For example, the IOC identifies vehi-cles in prohibited parking areas and sends messages to vehicle owners, notify-ing them of the problem and pushing information about nearby public parking lots. If the owner doesn't respond within a specified time, the IOC will call the law enforcement brigade for on-site administrative processing.

Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) are used to automatically and continuously patrol an area. In terms of potentially harmful materials, abnormal levels of blue-green algae are identified and sorted out in real time using AI technology. A report is output and automatically delivered to municipal administration and environmental protection departments for early risk detection and handling, improving the effiency of water environment governance and ecological resto-ration.

The IOC also integrates monitoring resources from both high and low altitudes around the Jinji Lake Music Fountain in East China's Jiangsu province, detect-ing the real-time population density using technology that creates a live digital image of the scene. Sensing of and warning about densely-populated scenari-os happens in real time in 2D and 3D mode, meeting the requirements of hy-per-converged AR command and coordinating multiple parties, such as inte-grated law enforcement, healthcare, and transportation. The system learns the status of the city's operation indicators in real time, and puts early warnings into different categories and levels, enabling decision-makers to comprehen-sively understand the city's health status. This is the first step in the City IOC implementing its management, service, and command concept.

Service: One-Button Decision Suggestions

The IOC detects city operation data in real time. When a monitoring indicator becomes abnormal, the IOC uses big data and AI technology to fully analyze the root cause and provide suggestions about decisions.

To provide a better all-domain tourism experience, Huangshan Municipality, in East China's Anhui province, built a City IOC (the city's brain) to monitor the real-time tourist flows in key tourist attractions around the city. In the past, tourist flows were always measured by manual sampling. Now, enabled by ICT, the collection period has been reduced from 30 days to two days, repre-senting an 80% improvement in efficiency. Then, prediction models are used for tourist flow for the following two days. If tourist flows reach or exceed the threshold set by the tourist attraction's manager, the system will push an alarm. Evacuation suggestions are provided based on the traffic, checkpoint, tourist density, and other related data, reminding decision-makers to prepare contingency plans to ensure tourist safety and improve experiences for tour-ists. The City IOC also brings many other changes to scenic areas: Services have gone from passive to active; decision-makers have begun to remotely command multiple tourist sites, and they never have to be on the scene to manage situations.

In the past, whenever there was a special government meeting, participants had to make preparations many days in advance and take a lot of materials with them, including indicators, data, and reports. In a project in Longgang Dis-trict, Shenzhen, Huawei helped migrate an economic situation analysis meet-ing online, removing the need for tedious document reporting. Data is dis-played on the screen, which is connected to the service system; this removes the need for spending a lot of time preparing reports, indicators, and data. In cases such as these, the meetings become more efficient, and the meeting preparation period has been shortened from 20 days to just one day. What's more, a set of algorithms concerning indicator prediction, associated indicator analysis, and problem attribution have been developed, to help decision-makers analyze scientifically and make accurate decisions.

The decision-making assistance function provides some services for fields such as problem discovery, diagnosis, and decision support. It has proved sci-entific and efficient, and has become an important tool for decision-makers.

Command: Collaborative Emergency Services

The unified command and scheduling platform in a City IOC works in two modes: routine and emergency. In routine mode, it helps with duty arrange-ment and collaboration; in emergency mode, it enables immediate command and scheduling.

Located on China's south coast, Shenzhen is a city prone to typhoons, heavy rainfall, and other types of extreme weather, particularly in the summer. In the Shenzhen IOC project, decision-makers can view the real-time trajectory of typhoons and forecast future trends on the IOC screen by accessing data from the Meteorological Bureau, and then initiate typhoon prevention plans based on the typhoon's impact. If an accident, such as a landslide, is caused by ex-treme weather, the IOC will generate an alarm on the screen. This means staff can immediately access nearby cameras, UAVs, or terminals worn by grid-based patrollers to view accident details and determine the severity.

The IOC screen displays the distribution of nearby rescue materials, and dy-namic information about all rescue personnel, on the Geographic Information System (GIS) map, enabling the commander to understand the situation com-prehensively and formulate a scientific handling strategy. With accurate infor-mation from the scene, the commander can convene a videoconferences for comprehensive analysis and execute the rescue plan through converged voice and videoconferences.

In the Suzhou Industrial Park Smart City project, the IOC is integrated with re-sources from multiple departments and levels, simplifying the process of call taking, dispatch, command, and scheduling. Enabled by Augmented Reality (AR) command, UAV auto pilot, videoconferencing, and other technologies, an AR command platform is built to cover both air and ground scenarios. The whole event handling process is displayed and managed on the IOC screen, including event awareness, early warning, intelligent analysis, and emergency scheduling — greatly improving emergency response efficiency.

During emergency command and scheduling, the IOC applies Huawei's ad-vantages in converged communications, helping organize and execute rescue operations.

As the 'blood' of a city, data is a kind of basic production material while imple-menting IOC service scenarios. The greatest difficulty in making use of data in this way has often been aggregating data from various government agencies. This relies on manual census, and requires all the data to be accessed from each scenario. Further complicating matters, event management, service, and command aren't separated; they're fully integrated.

An event is managed based on monitoring operations data and sending alarms if necessary. If an event is detected, the IOC applies big data and AI technolo-gy to provide customers with decision-making support. If an event needs to be collaboratively handled, or an emergency occurs, the command and schedul-ing function is initiated. The three processes are coordinated and connected to each other to ensure the issue is completely resolved.

The Future: Advancing the City Brain

Huawei has cooperated with partners to build more than 40 City IOCs around the world, playing a key, active role in urban operations and governance. From these success cases in recent years, it's clear that a sustainable operation system — including infrastructure operation, data operation, and service oper-ation — is needed once an IOC has been built. Only in this way can City IOC keep evolving, achieving the goal of having stable architecture, fresh data, and the latest applications.

Just as the human brain has evolved urban IOCs are growing as the brain of Smart Cities — ensuring smarter and more intelligent urban governance.

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Issue 31 — Digital Government

Building Smart Cities that Provide a Sense of Security,Belonging, and Happiness

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