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Lighting up Thriving, Sustainable Digital Cities

Chen Banghua, Vice President of Huawei Enterprise BG

Enterprises are like the cells that make up the body of a city, while cities have become important platforms that support enterprise development. As new information and communications technologies (ICT), like the Internet of Things (IoT), cloud computing, big data, and artificial intelligence (AI), are increasingly adopted, enterprises are seeing productivity gains, while cities are operating more efficiently and becoming more hospitable, both to people and to businesses. This is undoubtedly driving digital economies forward.

Cities and enterprises find themselves in a symbiotic relationship as they pursue digital transformation. When one thrives, so does the other.

1. A digital city means better experiences

In Bangkok, an intelligent healthcare service system is taking shape. Siriraj Hospital and Walailak University Hospital have laid a digital foundation, allowing them to provide more intelligent healthcare services. At the Siriraj Hospital, for example, 5G-powered carts travel between buildings and distribute medical supplies, reducing contact between people and risk of infection. In addition, with the help of cloud and AI-assisted applications and image analysis technologies, a case can be analyzed in just 25 seconds.

Healthcare is just one of the many sectors in a digital city.

By putting people at the center of everything, Bangkok has also applied digital technologies to other domains, advancing its digital agenda while supporting enterprise development.

In the education sector, several universities in Bangkok, including King Mongkut's University of Technology Thonburi, Srinakharinwirot University, and Krirk University, have upgraded their ICT infrastructure to deliver better educational service experience. For example, Huawei has helped Srinakharinwirot University upgrade its Wi-Fi technology and revamp its campus network and monitoring system. This has cut the latency and increased the speeds of the campus networks, laying a solid foundation for smart campus applications. With the support of these networks, the university will be able to use applications that require higher network speeds, such as virtual reality (VR) and AI.

In the finance sector, Thailand's Government Savings Bank (GSB) now uses software-defined network technologies to launch new services faster and increase service stability. Kasikorn Bank has also optimized its data storage systems, allowing its 18.6 million mobile banking users to enjoy the benefits of digital finance services.

Dubai is another pioneer in building a smart city. The city began its digitalization journey in 1999, with the goal of becoming the world's first digital economy. Today, the residents of Dubai are already enjoying many of the predicted benefits of digitalization.

InfraX, the ICT arm of the Dubai Electricity & Water Authority (DEWA), has worked with Huawei to provide enhanced network features, including ultra-high bandwidth, high levels of user concurrency, and low latency. This is made possible by converged ICT technologies like data centers, campus networks, and wide area networks (WANs). These features offer a smart living environment for DEWA employees, increasing their satisfaction. The infrastructure is also paving the way for emerging diverse digital services.

Huawei also works closely with many higher education institutions. One example is Ankabut, the operator of the UAE's Advanced National Research and Education Network (NREN). Since deploying the Huawei Cloud Stack (HCS) – a full-stack hybrid cloud platform, CloudFabric, and OceanStor Dorado V6, Ankabut has seen tangible benefits. Resources that were previously scattered across different locations are now integrated and centrally managed, leading to better-informed business strategies and lower operational costs. The operator has also been able to create a new business model by establishing advanced education clouds in the UAE and across the rest of the Middle East. This allows them to offer more flexible services at more affordable prices, and maintain their leading position in scientific research and education in the regions they serve.

2. A digital city requires a solid foundation

Cities have traditionally been industrial economies driven by electricity and oil, but they are now becoming data-driven digital economies. Data is becoming key to digital transformation. A digital city is like a towering tree. Only deep roots can make for greener leaves. When building a digital city, it is essential that we lay a digital foundation to support comprehensive data sensing, transmission, storage, and analytics. Connectivity and computing are two pillars of such a digital foundation.

Connectivity is not just about connecting people, but also about devices and services. Digital cities require full connectivity, always-online services, and real-time interaction. For example, we can use a single F5G all-optical urban network that supports the services of all government departmxents in a city. Multiple legacy private networks can then be integrated, boosting the operational efficiency of multiple government departments. In addition, services can be migrated to the cloud within 1 ms and a 1-ms-latency circle across the city will become a reality. This will cut network OPEX and increase ROI.

Computing, on the other hand, is evolving from traditional computing and cloud computing to diversified computing. This has made computing power a key factor of production in a city. As digital services become more common, massive amounts of storage and computing resources will be needed for the new data being generated. AI services will need to be made more affordable, accessible, and secure. At Huawei, we are already working to address this with multiple cities in China, including Shenzhen, Wuhan, Xi'an, and Nanjing, to this effect by building AI computing centers and computing networks. Our goal is to make computing as affordable and accessible as electricity and drive socioeconomic development.

3. A digital city should be adaptable

Human traffic ebbs and flows in cities during regular commutes, festivals, and public holidays. The lingering pandemic and other unexpected incidents also create a lot of uncertainty in city operations. In a digital city, everything should work as intended, citizens should be happy, and government departments and enterprises should remain adaptive to all kinds of changes.

Digital cities need to be able to sense changes in individual nodes in real time, in order to better coordinate people and things. This would require self-learning and real-time updates to how urban infrastructure, like traffic lights, buses, urban rails, reversible lanes, and parking lots, is controlled. In a digital city, every piece of infrastructure should be able to function properly amidst changes, while citizens have the ability to adapt to such changes.

Data is the lifeblood of a digital economy, and citizens' voices are part of a city's big data. Maximizing the value of this data is becoming a consensus among city leaders. As digitalization continues, citizens will become customers who will raise new requirements and provide constant experience feedback. This will help build more adaptive cities that have a human touch while delivering better experiences to citizens.

Urban development is undeniably intertwined with digital technology, meaning the growth of cities is inseparable from that of enterprises. Ultimately, this will help light up thriving, sustainable digital cities, which will eventually be found in all corners of the world.

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Issue 33 — Digital City Special

Digital City Special

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