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Founded in 1850, Rustenburg, South Africa is the largest and most-populous city in the country’s North West province. Local tourist attractions include Sun City, the Valley of Waves, and the Rustenburg Nature Reserve.

Home to one of the two largest major platinum mines in the world, Rustenburg’s mineral deposits have led to rapid economic growth and urban expansion, making it one of the fastest growing cities in South Africa.

In 2017, Rustenburg’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) reached US$4.42 billion (ZAR 63.8 billion), accounting for 21.1 percent of the GDP for North West province, and 1.28 percent of the GDP for South Africa. The mining industry accounted for 74.6 percent of the city’s GDP.


‘Rustenburg Vision 2040’ — The First Step to Intelligence

Platinum mining is projected to decline after 2040. To ensure the city’s long-term vitality and citizens’ quality of living, in 2014 the Rustenburg Local Municipality (RLM) began to formulate the Rustenburg Vision 2040, with the goal of becoming “a world-class city where all communities enjoy a high quality of life” — a city that is interconnected, energetic, healthy, green, friendly, secure, smart, prosperous, efficient, and sustainable.

The first phase is focused on addressing the city’s biggest challenges.

The number one challenge is public safety. Rustenburg’s population has increased by more than 400 percent in the past decade. During the same period, the urban proportion of the population has risen sharply. It now represents more than 75 percent of the greater Rustenburg area.

This has led to a large wealth gap and higher unemployment, along with increased crime rates. The city’s law enforcement capabilities have been limited by insufficient policing resources, such as video surveillance, and a lack of effective administrative and emergency response measures.

The second challenge is inadequate city resource management.

Public utility services like water, electricity, and transportation were difficult to manage. This led to 40 percent of Rustenburg’s water usage and 18 percent of its electricity consumption being unaccounted for, resulting in lost revenues. Additional risk exposures include insufficiently secured reservoirs, warehouses, and other urban assets.

The operating costs of public utilities remain high. Old buses with low management efficiency were still in use. Additionally, RLM lacked online self-service channels for its customers.

Rustenburg also lacked the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) infrastructures needed to support economic and social development, which kept the Internet penetration rate low. An inefficient transportation network and obsolete payment system caused longer commutes.

The third challenge is the city’s economic dependence on a single industry.

Rustenburg is highly dependent on platinum mining, with more than 50 percent of the city’s population engaged in the industry. Platinum price fluctuations have an immediate and direct impact on the local economy. This is compounded by the limitations of current digital technology investment that could be used to promote innovations.

The Rustenburg Smart City project aimed to address these challenges using up-to-date digital information technologies. By improving public safety and civic participation, this project will enhance living standards and facilitate enterprise development.


To effectively build Smart Rustenburg, RLM cooperated with multiple companies such as Electronic Connect, an ICT and financial technology company in South Africa; Huawei, a leading global ICT infrastructure provider; Sanchuan Wisdom Technology, a manufacturer of water meters and water supply systems; and Xiamen Lenz Communication, a solution provider for intelligent transportation systems.

“The Rustenburg Smart City project aims to develop the economy, enhance citizen participation, improve public safety and transportation, expand the scope of government services, and implement digitalized public utilities through leading technologies,” Rustenburg’s mayor said.

Electronic Connect is a mobile payments service that was founded by Telkom SA in 2006 in cooperation with bank technology experts.

“It is in our DNA to build and operate Smart Cities,” Electronic Connect CEO, Zamo Mthiyane stated. “We hope to work with partners like Huawei to make Rustenburg a Smart City through continuous innovation and feasible solutions.”

Unified Digital Platforms: Cornerstones of a Smart City

Huawei uses new ICT to build Smart City ‘nervous systems’ that integrate the Internet of Things (IoT), big data, video cloud technology, Geographic Information Systems (GISs), and converged communications technologies through a digital platform to share fundamental Smart City resources.

In addition, Huawei cooperates with partners to build platform ecosystems that support urban governance and innovation.

Currently, Huawei’s Smart City Solution has served more than 160 cities in more than 40 countries. The solution leverages Huawei’s extensive Smart City construction experience to help Rustenburg.

Huawei collaborated with Electronic Connect to discuss Smart Rustenburg’s top-layer design and business model, as well as its feasibility and sustainability. The overall architecture of Smart Rustenburg includes:

  • Unified digital platforms: Cloud, IoT, GIS, and big data — which function as the city’s nervous system
  • Unified city operations: Intelligent Operations Center (IOC) — which functions as the city’s brain
  • Unified data transmission systems: Based on a micro-services architecture
  • Unified IoT networks: Individual IoT and broadband networks
  • The unified IOC displays the city’s key operational data. City Managers can assess the city’s overall status in a timely manner, monitor traffic and key facilities in real time, and coordinate with related departments.

    The unified big data platform summarizes and analyzes all data in real time during business operations, improving decision-making efficiency by more than tenfold.

    The unified data transmission system and IoT network reduce data-collection time from three days to one hour.

    Data sources include smart streetlights, smart water and electric meters, smart parking, public Wi-Fi, smart buses, as well as billing and payment systems. The unified cloud platform carries all data and intelligent services, and manages devices with IoT sensors in a unified manner.

    Efficient Governance for Public Safety

    Advanced communications, surveillance, video analysis, and identification systems will improve department collaboration to quickly resolve criminal cases and effectively reduce crime rates by reducing police response time.

  • IOC: Data from various sources (such as video surveillance, smart meters, and streetlights) can be integrated to visualize city operations, improve the city’s emergency response capabilities, and promote data-driven intelligent city management and decision-making.
  • Intelligent monitoring: Artificial Intelligence (AI) integrated into HD cameras process videos automatically, which enhances police efficiency. Based on deep learning, the system helps police automatically identify suspects according to gender, height, and clothing characteristics, and locate traffic violators based on vehicle type, brand, and model.
  • Data mining and applications: The big data platform analyzes data, checks the data against black/white lists, and finds links in big data for video created by multiple cameras. In addition, the platform supports video synopsis, quick searching, and map tracking functions to display the real-time status of available emergency personnel, vehicles, and other vital resources.
  • Rustenburg’s crime rate is expected to decrease nearly 50 percent year-over-year after project implementation. In this way, Smart Rustenburg will attract more investments and allow its citizens to live and work in peace.

    Effective Public Resource Management

    IoT and integrated payment platforms will help reduce Rustenburg’s overall public utility costs.

    As a fully connected city, Rustenburg will provide urban IoT innovation and Internet access services for everyone. Rustenburg’s IoT platform will connect and manage all sensor devices in the city. Based on Huawei’s eLTE-IoT and EC-IoT networks, all smart devices within the city will be connected.

    Smart light poles and IoT nodes will cover the entire city. In addition, the IoT platform will spawn innovative applications and public services, which will improve public resource management and lower operating costs.

  • IoT-based smart water and electric meters will give RLM 100 percent billing accuracy and implement pre-payments, cutting water loss nearly in half.
  • Public utility payment rates will increase from 60 percent to more than 95 percent through mobile payments.
  • Integrated smart streetlights can combine cameras, environment sensors, and Wi-Fi, which are ideal carriers for enabling smart cities. Smart streetlights send real-time sensing data to the backend management system via the IoT network. Multiple functions like real-time status monitoring, intelligent tuning, and fault detection save electricity, reduce power consumption, enhance maintenance efficiency, and improve lighting rates. Power consumption is estimated to be reduced by nearly 50 percent as a result of RLM’s Smart City initiative.
  • Smart parking will improve efficiency and boost fee collection rates, which will increase municipal revenue.
  • Free public Wi-Fi will reduce the digital divide by allowing the less fortunate to access the Internet and enjoy the benefits of a Smart City and a digital economy.
  • The integrated payment application system will connect intelligent services such as enterprise, transportation, digital payments, taxi systems, water and electricity services, and other public utilities.

    A centralized billing solution connects customers to utility companies and supports multiple payment methods, anytime, and anywhere. Residents can pay water and electricity bills online, resulting in up to a 90 percent improvement in on-time payments. In addition, mobile payments increase the public utility payment success rate from 60 percent to 95 percent or higher.

    In addition to public utilities, mobile payments can be implemented in shopping malls, supermarkets, and small businesses to increase payment efficiency by 90 percent. Moreover, taxi and bus fares can be paid through electronic cards. Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) can use online payments to promote e-commerce.


    At present, Smart Rustenburg has developed and pioneered multiple new applications like VAYA TAXI, which provides ride-sharing services.

    A comprehensive entrepreneurial platform has been built to connect SMEs, citizens, and governments, and additional efforts will be made to build a digital economy and innovative ecosystems in the near future.

    Rustenburg’s digitalization has facilitated free Internet access in poor areas, and the creation of two companies (Ontiretse and TNF9) in related industries has provided more than 1,500 jobs.

    The Smart City project has improved the connectivity, productivity, and participation of Rustenburg’s citizens, while its diversified economy and increased employment rate help stabilize society.

    Nearly 15,000 enterprise customers and 80,000 residents will be served by the early stages of the Rustenburg Smart City project. In the future, more than 600,000 citizens will enjoy the benefits of a Smart City and a digital economy.

    Mineral resources may become exhausted, but the ‘gold mines’ of intelligence will survive as long as Rustenburg perseveres.

    “Smart Rustenburg will be a demo site,” said Mthiyane. “Other cities in South Africa will quickly become Smart Cities by implementing similar digital platforms and technologies. In addition, all industries can benefit from the digital platform — the IoT, cloud, big data, and video surveillance. Other African cities can also take Rustenburg’s practice as an example of how to better connect municipal institutions, enterprises, and residents, for a better future.”

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