Smart cities and connected futures – a report
18 September 2018
At the recent Futurescope Conference in Dublin, Jamie Cudden, programme manager, Smart Dublin, moderated a discussion on the hype, current reality, and promises of the smart city concept
At the recent Futurescope Conference in Dublin, Jamie Cudden, programme manager, Smart Dublin, moderated a discussion on the hype, current reality, and promises of the smart city concept.
On the panel were:
1.) Stefano Gastaut, director IoT, Vodafone Group
2.) Charles Kennelly, CTO, Esri UK
3.) Lean Doody, associate director, Arup
4.) Paul Billington, commercial director, the Landing, Media City
What is the market opportunity for smart cities?
Lean Doody: “There was a lot of hype a few years ago, driven by technology companies. We then had the growth of uber and other private-sector companies who are having a disruptive impact. What we are seeing is that the cities such as London, Barcelona, New York, Sydney etc who adopted strategies at an early stage – we are now seeing some of those strategies become embedded.
“And as China is urbanising very rapidly, they need a lot of technology to do what they need to do. More and more we are seeing smart city strategies become statutory, like the London plan this year. It’s becoming a bit more mainstream. The problem that we have had is that we have had lots of pilots and not much more. This is still an emerging sector.”
Stefano Gastaut: “Obviously if you are building a city from scratch, it’s a no-brainer – you build a smart city. In Europe, Vodafone has done a lot of proof-of-concept projects, particularly in Spain.
“But even in Spain, where there is funding, political backing is still very hard to secure. Look at London, which is a very progressive city in many ways, but you still can’t make a phone call on the Tube. The reason is probably twofold. The political backing over the long term is too often lacking. Also, can private companies make money, and so justify investment in smart cities?
“Two years ago we worked with a Chinese company that made bicycles. They wanted to try something different. To cut a long story short, this company is now called Mobike. In two years, they went from being present in zero cities to 156 across the world, with seven million bikes in operation. And they are still growing on a monthly basis.
“The interesting thing from a city perspective is that these guys make money and have driven a fantastic service for the cities. You don’t need docking stations with these bikes. You lock and unlock them using your smartphone. You can see on an app where the bikes are available, go pick one up and drop it anywhere you want.
“The interesting part of it is that all the information captured by the app can be used by the city to decide where to build cycling infrastructure. It’s a virtuous cycle – the more cycle lanes you build, the more the service can be used.”
How are startups integrating into smart city strategies?
Paul Billington: “In the Landing in Manchester’s Media City we have got 118 small tech companies employing about 560 people. Media City itself is only seven years old, and is a privately owned mini-city, so it’s not got the constraints that you might have in other places.
“It has got 22,500 miles of dark fibre underneath the 40-acre estate. You have got a building management system operating from a central source for hundreds of companies across many different buildings. It’s a very connected space. Whether you are BBC, ITV, the Landing, a restaurant, a cafe, a shop or theatre, your lighting, air-conditioning and heating are managed from one central source.
“The big benefit of this is testing smart city IoT applications. Of the 118 companies that we have working out of the building, many of them are involved with connecting communitites. Media City has 7,000 workers and will double in size in the next 10 years.
“It’s fantastic to develop smart city applications. The drivers are the telecommunications companies because they are the ones who are going to generate income from the applications. 5G is going to be a major step. As soon as that comes in, because of where we are, we are in a great place to develop applications [that take advantage of it].”
What are the problems and challenges of implementing 5G?
Paul Billington: “There is going to have to be a return on investment very quickly, so greenfield sites have an advantage over everybody else.”
Charles Kennelly: “The strength of the signal is very much governed by the local environment. There is nothing worse than a wet thick spruce tree for blocking signals. So you start having to deal with vegetation management.
“Ports or nuclear power stations or airports are effectively mini-cities with a very distinct purpose. There is a drive to achieve something – to maximise economy or through-traffic. So in China, when they build a new city, the focus is on a very specific thing. In older cities, commonly the city isn’t managed by a common entity. It’s managed by a transport department, and a water department and so on.
“There are lots of competing interests. Suddenly, the desire to get a decent 5G signal to your phone is related to the grounds management department and this is not even on their radar at all. So some of the barriers that we face are political.
“And quite often, the thing that stops people is the quality of the data that they are working with – they are almost afraid to share it [because they know it’s not perfect].”
Lean Doody: “One of the big issues is that cities have outsourced management of different assets, and how they set up the data sharing agreements with those, what are the city services that actually need 5G and how does the ecosystem evolve to actually deliver that – these are big questions.
“A number of companies have told us they saw the potential for innovation in selling the consultancy services to large organisations and solving these problems.
“Cities are poorly represented in national government in a lot of places, and that contributes to a lack of understanding of city issues from national government. I think the European Union has helped in that there is a lot of research money.”https://www.engineersjournal.ie/2018/09/18/smart-cities-connected-futures-report/https://www.engineersjournal.ie/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/a-acit-1024x683.jpghttps://www.engineersjournal.ie/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/a-acit-300x300.jpgTechinfrastructure,internet of Things,technology