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Smart Cities: Building a People-Centric World

By Mao Huidong, Director of the Greater China Region, SCEWC Committee, and CEO of the Greater China Region, SCEWC

People are entirely responsible for urban development, but they are also the root of all the challenges during its process. Urbanization, alongside the aggregation and circulation of urban populations, promotes the development of civilization, commerce, and technology. Moreover, urban populations — those with high population densities and infrastructure — put pressure on urban management, social resources, and the cost of living, all of which cause urban development issues. To address these challenges, among others, Smart City projects are being established with the ultimate goal of using digital technology to create safer, more efficient cities — and a smarter world.

Using Information and Communications Technology (ICT), city managers can identify existing or emerging problems through effective analysis and use of city data, and collaborate with partners from different fields to formulate prevention plans and solutions, while improving service levels as well as the quality of life. Simply put, technologies drive urban development and benefit people’s lives.

As SCEWC CEO Ugo Valenti said at the Shenzhen Smart City Forum with International Friendship Cities, “innovative technologies, including 5G, IoT, AI, and cloud, are disruptively renovating how cities are governed and managed. By nurturing Public-Private-People Partnerships, a co-creation model among government, corporations, and citizens, Smart Cities will facilitate a more open decision-making process, and bring a people-centric new world.”

Different cities from around the world have distinctive construction ideas, all of which are people-centric. Three different Smart City construction cases are presented below.

New York (Winner of the 2016 World Smart City Award): Building a Smart and Equitable City

In September 2015, New York City named its Smart City development strategy “building a smart and equitable city,” and made detailed plans for five sectors: smart building and infrastructure; smart transportation and mobility; smart energy and environment; smart public health and safety; and smart government and community. New York City’s population — almost 8.6 million people — would all benefit from the proposed changes.

Since 2014, the New York City government has launched several projects to prepare for the subsequent strategy release.

• LinkNYC: In 2014, New York City initiated an ultra-high-speed Wi-Fi network project, with the aim of replacing traditional telephone booths across the city with 7,500 to 10,000 digital communication sites worth US$200 million. New York City adopted an innovative cooperation model to provide financial support for this project. The sponsor — CityBridge (a funding alliance consisting of Quantum, CIVIQ, and Intersection) — was permitted by the government to provide funds for the installation of digital booths, and charge advertising fees for them. The profits will be shared between CityBridge and the New York City government at the agreed rate. This 12-year project is expected to generate US$500 million in advertising revenue, covering the costs of device installation, maintenance, and digital advertising operations. In 2016, New York City raised US$1 billion through the EB-5 visa program for the second phase of the LinkNYC project. Investment from major enterprises, such as Google and Qualcomm, also helped bankroll the project. There are more than 7,500 digital booths in New York City. Not only do they come with free Wi-Fi services, they also provide tourists with free services such as direction lookup, phone charging, and 911 emergency calling.

• RLAB: A project that aims to construct a 16,500 square-foot collaborative laboratory for the research, entrepreneurship, and education of Virtual Reality/Augmented Reality (VR/AR), space computing, and other emerging media technologies. This is the very first VR/AR center sponsored by a city government. The New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) and the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment are going to invest US$5.6 million in RLAB to get this project started. Applying VR/AR to city planning and policy may exert a positive influence on New York’s economy and other industries, including (but not limited to) the media, entertainment, real estate, education, tourism, finance, and medical care sectors.

• Quantitative community: In 2014, New York University’s Center for Urban Science and Progress (CUSP) worked with the Hudson Yards community to establish the US’s first ‘quantitative community.’ This project aims to construct a sophisticated service system for a 17-million-square-foot residential and business complex by 2020. The service system will include educational institutions, hotels, public areas, renewable energy power plants, and waste management systems, and will continuously optimize community construction and environments by monitoring and analyzing air quality, pedestrian foot traffic and vehicle traffic, energy production and consumption, and people’s health status.

• Smart New York system: In 2015, Manhattan built a comprehensive city control system based on public data. It supports two- and three-dimensional linkage control. The two-dimensional interface facilitates the selection by tap mode, while the three-dimensional interface is more comprehensive. The system integrates multiple types of data, such as geographical information, GPS data, three-dimensional building data, statistical data, and camera footage. By interconnecting all types of data from different government departments and aggregating them on a unified big data platform, the system can monitor and manage the city’s overall operating status, such as public services, police services, firefighting, transportation, communications, and commerce.

• IoT Blockchain Center of Excellence: In 2017, WISeKey, a Swiss digital security and cybersecurity company, established an IoT blockchain in New York to provide a secure IoT model for performing daily tasks such as transmitting, processing, and storing data. This is to increase the security of IoT. MXC, a non-profit blockchain organization, announced in 2018 that it would cooperate with MatchX GMBH and Citiesense to use the Mythware protocol in New York City’s Smart City IoT Standards. Starting from 2019, MXC has deployed smart sensors and Low-Power WAN (LPWAN) gateways all over New York City to ensure reliable and effective data transmission.

Moreover, after releasing the Smart City development strategy and winning the 2016 World Smart City Award, the New York City government launched a public data platform in 2017 — New York Public Data Portal — to support public and private organizations in using public data for Smart City projects, while benefiting related industries. New York City has also developed a real-time dashboard for the Mayor’s Office to integrate numerous real-time city data for urban management, such as the city’s traffic status, layout of traffic lights, and cleanliness of streets. This dashboard helps the mayor with decision-making, and makes it possible to provide high-quality government services to citizens.

Dubai (Winner of the 2017 World Smart City Award): Creating a Seamless, Safe, and Efficient City Experience

Dubai’s Smart City strategy was initiated in 2014 with the aim to transform Dubai into the world’s smartest city by 2021. Dubai established a Smart City office and launched the most ambitious ICT integration plan ever. In less than three years, beginning in 2014, Dubai’s government departments had worked with partners in private sectors to initiate more than 100 smart projects and more than 1,000 smart services. In addition, the government has developed a data-driven economy to help increase Dubai’s GDP by 10.4 billion dirham (US$2.93 billion) by 2021. Survey results have shown that these smart city projects have improved the well-being of Dubai citizens by 3 percent.

Dubai’s Smart City construction involves the following projects: turning over 1,100 fundamental government services into online smart services; introducing self-driving cars and smart transportation services; providing free high-speed Wi-Fi for the entire United Arab Emirates (UAE); building an ultra-high-speed train (Hyperloop) that connects Dubai and Abu Dhabi; and formulating and releasing the local AI development strategy alongside the Dubai blockchain strategy.

The Dubai blockchain strategy is prioritized among all the development strategies. The Smart Dubai Office and Dubai Future Foundation jointly proposed this strategy by continuously exploring and evaluating the latest technological innovations. This strategy strives to transform Dubai into the first city in the world to be solely blockchain-powered by 2020. It will benefit 3.13 million Dubai residents, who will enjoy seamless, safe, and efficient city experiences. Moreover, the Dubai government will also benefit from the application of blockchain technologies. It is estimated that 5.5 billion dirham (US$1.49 billion) will be saved annually in document processing alone.

The Dubai blockchain strategy is based on the three following key points:

• Government efficiency: Fully apply blockchain technologies to government services to achieve higher efficiency.

• Industry creation: Establish and enable the blockchain ecosystem for all enterprises, especially startups.

• International leadership: Guide the research of cross-border blockchain application cases, and direct blockchain pilot deployment.

In 2018, Dubai launched 20 blockchain service projects, including the following highlights:

• Dubaipay — the Dubai online payment portal — has used blockchain technologies to ensure the timeliness of online transaction settlement and reconciliation.

• In March 2018, Dubai’s tourism management department announced plans to overhaul its online tourism system using blockchain and smart contract technology.

• National Bank of Dubai — Dubai’s largest bank — launched a blockchain-based finance project in April 2018 to reduce check fraud.

• Dubai’s transportation department has launched a blockchain-driven vehicle management system that allows users to trace the entire life cycle of their cars from production to recycling. Currently, this system is only available to Dubai citizens. It will be promoted across the entire UAE in the future, effectively gathering the information of all vehicles in the country.

Singapore (Winner of the 2018 World Smart City Award): Upgrading from Smart City to Smart Nation

Singapore launched its ‘Smart City 2015’ plan back in 2006, which involved applying ICT to various aspects of daily life and economic development, such as digital media and entertainment, education and training, financial services, manufacturing and logistics, healthcare and bioscience, and eGovernment. This plan also contributed to the construction of next-generation national ICT infrastructure.

The Singapore Government announced its ‘Smart Nation’ plan in November 2014 and upgraded Smart City 2015 to Smart Nation 2025 to construct Asia’s leading smart nation.

The Smart Nation plan focuses on the collection, processing, analysis, and application of big data, and includes the following measures:

• Establish a technology agency: In October 2016, the Singapore government established the Government Technology Agency (GovTech), to coordinate various public sectors, integrate and promote the government’s digital technology strategy, and develop technologies such as IoT, big data analytics, geographical space technology, and AI. In terms of data collection and application, the ‘Big Data SandBox’ has been adopted to monitor the real-scenario application of technologies and gradually introduce mature technologies to society.

• Build an Internet Data Center (IDC): The key to the ‘Big Data SandBox’ is support from the cloud computing data center. Singapore built a ‘data center park’ using government planning and enterprises’ self-built data centers, and launched the world’s first tropical data center project, which uses natural wind and freshwater for cooling. The project was designed to promote the construction of a new data center.

• Converge with global networks: Singapore aims to benefit citizens with data and promote international interconnection at the same time. Singapore has now reached agreements with New York, San Jose, and San Francisco to give Singaporeans free access to local Wi-Fi. Similarly, US citizens can use wireless infrastructure when they are in Singapore.

• ‘Hyperlink building’: Hyperlinked buildings can help digitize people’s activities, and collect holographic and social data to provide reference for various responding measures.

In April 2017, Singapore appointed the Smart Nation Digital Government Group to lead the project to accelerate the development process of Smart Nation. Singapore invested US$1.7 billion in the IT industry, and also increased its investment in sectors such as data, network security, and smart nation application to satisfy the needs for developing the digital economy, eGovernment, and digital society. Driven by IT and digital technologies, Singapore’s Smart Nation construction has achieved the following outcomes:

• Wireless Singapore: Singapore now has 7,500 hot spots, equivalent to 10 public hot spots per square kilometer, covering the airport, CBDs, and shopping districts. It is expected that by 2020, all MRT lines, light rail routes, and bus transfer stops in Singapore will be covered by wireless networks.

• Online public services: 98 percent of public services can now be accessed online.

• Intelligent transportation: The MyTransport.SG app enables its users to search for information such as arrival time in real time. The Parking.SG app allows people to select parking lots, query parking fees, and check parking times.

• Smart healthcare: Singapore has established a comprehensive healthcare information platform that integrates the national electronic medical record system, comprehensive clinical management system, individual health record plan, and remote cooperation solicitation plan. By 2017, telemedicine videoconferencing medical consultation was being widely promoted. The VidyoMobile app has made it possible for people to seek medical treatment at home.

• Smart education: A tablet-assisted education model — featuring education-themed games and fun courses — was introduced alongside a 4D simulation laboratory, built to enable direct interaction between synchronous multi-touch screens and the 4D environment. This teaching mode has been widely adopted in elementary schools.

• Smart street lights: In June 2018, the Singapore Land Transport Authority (LTA) announced its cooperation with Itron and Guangdong Rongwen Energy Technology Group to upgrade and transform the country’s street lights. By adopting the IPv6 + MESH communication technology and using the stability, communication speed, reliability, security, and scalability of the central management system, the LTA is exchanging the existing 110,000 high voltage sodium lamps in Singapore for smart LED street lamps with a smart control system, reducing energy consumption and maintenance costs, while also improving operational efficiency, and achieving on-demand lighting.

From Smart City to Smart World

The original Smart City was first proposed over 10 years ago. The Smart City Expo World Congress (SCEWC) Committee — as one of the leaders in the construction of the global Smart City ecosystem platform — is glad to see that more and more countries, regions, and organizations are becoming part of this revolutionary movement. The international community is now actively (and more effectively) exploring the ways to build Smart Cities instead of simply discussing whether Smart Cities shall be built. As such, expect the global construction of Smart City-related domains to increase, including eGovernment, smart society, smart transportation, and emergency response. Meanwhile, Smart City construction is bound to affect global cooperation in more profound ways, while promoting economic and scientific development.

The promotion and application of 5G will enable new ICT such as cloud computing and IoT, and Smart City construction will enter a period of fast development. In the future, Smart Cities will evolve into Smart City clusters and smart nations — maybe even a smarter world.

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