Cities are popular, and they are growing fast. In fact, a recent Yale study suggested that by 2050, cities will be home to 70% of the world’s population.
Unfortunately, the traditional city model doesn’t scale well. Sure, you can add more of everything, but making sure these sprawling urban environments are safe, comfortable and convenient places to live and work is a constant challenge.
According to the Climate Group’s Smart 2020 report, the key to scalability and sustainability lies in making them smarter. Or, put another way, using information technology to create smart buildings, smart grids and smart almost everything.
Building a blueprint
The Hong Kong SAR Government believes in the smart city concept, especially in its ability to drive economic development and improve quality of life. In fact, the Government is formulating a blueprint for smart city development that looks at everything from policy objectives and strategy to development plans and infrastructure.
It has already covered a fair amount of ground. Trials of four smart city initiatives are planned for this year (2017) in Kowloon East. They include a mobile app to help pedestrians by exploiting interconnected systems and GPS to offer actionable, location-relevant information in real-time.
Another example is an advanced, IoT-based automobile parking navigation system. By tracking parking space availability second-by-second enables drivers to pick the closest and most convenient car park. This solution could allow drivers to quickly find a space, saving time, fuel and reducing emissions.
Smart city = Interconnection-oriented city
The term smart city could be a bit of a misnomer. A better description might be ‘intelligent interconnected’ city. I say that because the “smart” part is only possible when the different systems across the city can talk to each other – i.e. exchange data smoothly and seamlessly.
Talking is only the start of the process. But, to create value and act on “real-time” insights, you need to do something with the flood of data generated by the proliferation of developments like the Internet of Things (IoT). Doing that effectively requires an additional layer of technology to store, process and analyze all of that big-data across organizations and individuals.
In effect, the backbone of a smart city should resemble what many organizations have recently begun to implement – an Interconnection oriented Architecture (IOA).
Unlocking the future
IOA takes the fundamental delivery architecture of IT and turns it upside down. It puts data where it needs to be by building a bridge from one organization to other companies, locations, clouds and customers, no matter where they are. In simple terms, it transforms IT from standalone “siloed” solutions into building blocks that can be assembled into something entirely new, and the only limitation is imagination.
This means companies can innovate quicker and launch new offerings almost instantly because they are already connected to whatever they need to access. But, while IOA offers tremendous advantages to businesses, the opportunities for smart cities are potentially even greater.
Just imagine IOA in the context of building smarter transportation solutions. Instead of merely adding more vehicles that can cause congestion, IOA along with IoT technologies enable existing as well as new cars, trucks and buses to make the most of a city’s physical infrastructure.
For instance, have you ever waited ages for a bus that never showed up, or found it FULL when it arrived? Well, IOA can eliminate that entirely. Smart bus stops and IOA-enabled buses can tell waiting passengers exactly how far away the next bus is, and if there is any room. If the bus is already packed, passengers can make other plans, or wait for the next one if it looks less busy.
That’s not science fiction. With the right data management expertise, building an IOA-based smart transportation architecture, where data from public and private sectors can truly connect instantly, regardless of its locations, IT systems or cloud services providers, is around the corner.
Exactly who will get there first – whether it is the Government or the private sector – is still an open question. However, in the final analysis it probably doesn’t matter. When it comes to IOA, it’s critical mass that counts. Once that is achieved, the underlying logic and unceasing opportunities make the metamorphosis impossible to stop.