IoT: Helping smart cities turn the corner

Jul 02, 2018
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One area however where the future does actually seem to be coming more rapidly into focus is applications and use cases for the Internet of Things (IoT) in Asia’s cities.

At 2018’s Mobile World Congress Shanghai, IoT smart city innovations are setting the pace and path for regional telecommunications development.

At last week’s Mobile World Congress (MWC) Shanghai – the Asian edition of the world’s largest wireless industry symposium held in Barcelona each February – many of the next-generation concepts that seem to be just around the corner for years were on display. A casual tour of the exhibition halls still reveals scores of VR-helmeted visitors swatting and swiping at the air in front of them.

This image of a community groping towards intangible goals, provides a subtext for much of the communications industry, increasingly anxious that the corner will not be turned anytime soon. Uncertainty around the future of 5G is a root cause of this anxiety, which forks into many branches, ranging from the potential drag that the US-China technology industry trade war will have on the development of the technology’s standards, to the perceived lack of revenue-generating use cases that would justify the substantial investments that 5G will require.

One area however where the future does actually seem to be coming more rapidly into focus is applications and use cases for the Internet of Things (IoT) in Asia’s cities, underscored by continued innovations to produce lower cost, and lower-powered sensors, as well as the increased use of machine learning to optimise sensor networks. All of this has convened to start to create real scale in urban sensing networks, which is an end in itself.

Managing city street lighting more cost-efficiently is one quick win that the industry is turning to, enabled by technology developments such as the ‘ultra-low power’ NB-IoT lighting management solutions. Produced by Shanghai-based EigenCOMM Technology, it can increase coverage capabilities and reduce costs by using System on Chip (SoC) configurations and reducing the amount of silicon used. Connecting street lamps also turns lighting grids into platforms for other public security applications; vendors were demonstrating solutions that integrate facial recognition systems and security monitoring within the lighting management configuration.

Even more impactful for Asian urban sustainability efforts is a seeming raft of projects to monitor city air quality with greater granularity. A group from Finland’s University of Helsinki demonstrated its early stages of an intelligent air quality monitoring system, which employs machine learning to calibrate small sensors and create ‘virtual’ sensors to extend their coverage and accuracy. Currently, in active trials in Helsinki, the University team will soon be deploying 30 to 50 sensors in Beijing, in an effort that will ultimately need up to 100,000 such sensors for comprehensive coverage. Other Asian carriers looking to use air quality monitoring efforts as a tool for expanding IoT’s footprint in their smart city ecosystems include Korea Telecom for a project in Seoul.

Elsewhere, there are several efforts to bring location and navigation technology to bear on traffic management, autonomous driving and logistics. Astri, a Hong Kong government-run technology incubator, was showcasing the results of its V2X (vehicle-to-everything) networking architecture trials. Astri has long been active in ‘pre-autonomous’ smart parking navigation application development, and is now experimenting with self-driving cars navigating in Hong Kong, and communicating with various traffic and non-traffic IoT systems they encounter.

While promising, Astri’s trials have revealed the limitations of current GPS technology in a dense urban environment – high-powered GPS systems produce jitter and lack of definition in such close quarters. This challenge is one which 5G could be well-suited to solve.

Swedish mobile software firm Combain produces granular indoor maps generated by crowdsourced data from mobile devices and WiFi hotspots; the enthusiasm with which opt-in smartphone-wielding mall shoppers provide helps them comprehensively map out a mall or a hospital, accurate to within a meter, in a matter of hours. Combining user-generated views of urban spaces with GPS data will be a critical step in making IoT-based location services more capable and powerful.

Not all IoT efforts on display are geared at making Asia’s megacities more liveable. China Telecom has launched Small Vaquero, an IoT animal husbandry management solution that allows farms and agribusinesses to monitor individual cattle for location and health data, and analyse aggregate trend data. China Telecom currently claims some 200,000 head of cattle have been fitted with low-costs mobile sensors in Gansu, Inner Mongolia and other western provinces.

While perhaps not the most obvious revenue-generating IoT application, Small Vaquero demonstrates the growing will of Asian players to exploit the growing efficiencies of IoT devices and network infrastructure to build rich data sets, and set in motion a virtuous cycle for smarter cities.

Insightful reads brought to you in partnership with MIT Technology Review Insights.

Forging A New Future for Malaysia’s Manufacturers

Feb 24, 2021
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Digital technologies form a key component of generating recovery and building resiliency for the industry.

In the pre-digital era, manufacturing plants were deemed an unstoppable force in many economies. However, the Covid-19 pandemic has brought sharp lessons resulting in factory shutdowns and multiple supply chain disruptions. Even with the continuing battle against the pandemic, the manufacturing sector must intensify its efforts to survive and find new avenues of growth.

Digital technologies form a key component of generating recovery and building resiliency for the industry, a fact well-recognised by manufacturers across Malaysia and the Asia Pacific, said Sudev Bangah, Managing Director of IDC ASEAN, at the recent Smart Manufacturing Circuit 2020 virtual event organised by TM ONE. IDC analysis has also found that many companies are shifting towards targeted investments in machine learning, cloud, robotics, and internet of things (IoT) to drive a path through future crises as well as to secure growth.

Meanwhile, Maznan Deraman, Head of Innovative Solutions at TM ONE, the enterprise and public sector business arm of Telekom Malaysia Berhad (TM) believes, “Digital adoption brings great potential for improving product quality, increasing productivity and creating more high-skilled jobs.” He shared how TM ONE will support the manufacturing industry’s digitalisation journey.

Data-driven Efficiency

Data is deemed to be crucial for building a resilient manufacturing company. Understanding how well each part of the production line works will help managers minimise wastage, speed up production, and produce better products. Manufacturers need to think about what data they need and what tech they can use to collect it, shared Sudev.

Another crucial aspect is data analytics. Most manufacturers currently record data on paper and transfer it manually to a software for analysis, explained Nazman Fariz Mohd Noh from TM ONE’s Smart Manufacturing Solutions. “This is labour intensive and prone to human error.”

TM ONE has an analytics tool that helps companies gain deep visibility to their production processes. The Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE) platform delivers an overview of all the processes within a factory using data collected from IoT devices. Supervisors can use this to optimise production hours, identify faulty machines, redistribute production, and monitor products for defects.

The platform consolidates real-time data for each machine, including its schedule, availability, and effectiveness. Managers can chart this on a graph to monitor individual performance over time, or zoom out to see how the overall production line is faring.

The OEE shares all data via online through TM ONE’s Cloud Alpha platform. Staff can monitor the status of each machine anytime and anywhere, said Nazman Faris.

Minimising Costs through Predictive Maintenance

Predictive maintenance is a key feature of the OEE. This will help cut time and costs substantially. Manufacturing companies report that more than a fifth of its costs are due to downtime, and that 90 per cent of maintenance work is eaten up by having to fix breakdowns, Maznan shared.

The OEE platform monitors levels of concern for each machine: low means it’s doing well; middle to high means it might need immediate attention. It also automatically compiles a list of machines with higher attention scores, arranged according to severity.

Once a machine has been identified for maintenance, the technician will take a look at its timeline, alerts, and any notes on the OEE to carry out the repair work more efficiently. Machine experts can also study this information to analyse causes and develop better fixes.

Other Must Have Solutions for Your Digital Operations

In addition to the OEE analytics platform, TM ONE also offers cloud and cybersecurity tools to protect companies’ data. “Nowadays, we can’t have all information or systems on premise, because we know for a fact that on premise solutions carry a certain level of risk,” Maznan said. For instance, businesses may not have the proper disaster recovery services to react to potential cyber-attacks, he explained.

TM ONE is collaborating with technology companies such as Huawei to develop new tools for Malaysia’s manufacturing sector. Eng Chew Hian, Business Development Director at HUAWEI CLOUD Malaysia, shared details of how artificial intelligence (AI) can be used to improve manufacturing processes.

Huawei’s drone inspection tool uses high definition (HD) cameras, 5G connectivity and AI image processing to study the surfaces of planes. Aircraft technicians run on a tight schedule when conducting safety checks between flights, and manual inspections are time- and labour-intensive.

The drone flies through the plane to search for scratches, corrosions, and loose screws. It also cross-checks the model of the plane to ensure each part meets specific safety standards.

Huawei has also developed an AI image analysis tool for safer aircraft manufacturing. It uses thermal sensors to find gaps when wings are welded onto a plane. Planes have to withstand tremendous vibrations and wind speeds, and any gaps could be disastrous, Eng explained.

“Although the movement control order was gradually lifted, the overall impact on the whole supply chain has been dramatic!” said Maznan. Digital technologies such as IoT and data analytics are helping Malaysia’s manufacturing plants navigate the uncertainties in a recovering economy.

Next-Gen Tech Improving Emergency Preparedness and Response

Jan 07, 2021
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From drones to data, here are some ways that governments have harnessed technology to enhance emergency response strategies.

In an era of sudden terror attacks, pandemics, and natural disasters: countries must remain alert to counter any emergencies, which could bring devastating consequences. How are governments currently optimising their emergency management strategies to better protect the people and mitigate emergencies? 

With each technological advance, governments are taking the opportunity to consider reviewing and adopting their response strategies. Data and the increasingly sophisticated analytics is proven to be one of the fundamental keys to support more effective and faster response tools to governments and support agencies.

Here are some examples of how tech is helping faster recovery for citizens in Asia.

Malaysia’s Covid-19 App

In March this year, just three (3) months after Covid-19 first reached Malaysia, the government released a mobile application to help check and control the spread of the disease. With MySejahtera app, citizens monitor their own health status, and receive latest updates on the pandemic status.

The app groups citizens into categories based on their risk level of contracting Covid-19, and will inform them of the next steps to action. For instance, those under surveillance will have to quarangtine themselves at home for 14 days, while those at high risk must get tested at designated hospitals.

MySejahtera also serves as a contact tracing app. Citizens scan a QR code before they enter a premise or any public places, and the system logs where they have visited in the last 14 days. Users can also register family members who don’t have a smartphone.

The app supports teleconsultations, so that patients can speak with a doctor without having to leave their home. This helps them to stay safe, and eases demands on healthcare services.

Citizens can also plan safer routes by using the app’s hotspot tracker. The system taps machine learning capabilities to identify a possible sources of infection for each confirmed case, and maps it geographically, Dr Mahesh Appannan, Senior Principal Assistant Director of the Disease Control Division at Malaysia’s Ministry of Health told GovInsider.

Disaster Alert Systems Keep Citizens Informed

Managing impact from natural disasters relies greatly on early warning systems and maintaining a continual flow of information.

In the Indian state of Odisha, geoclimatic conditions lead to frequent natural calamities such as droughts, floods, cyclones, and unseasonal rain. Odisha has faced 17 large natural disasters in the past 20 years.

In 2019, the Odisha State Disaster Mitigation Authority developed “SATARK” (System for Assessing, Tracking and Alerting Disaster Risk Information based on Dynamic Risk Knowledge) in collaboration with the Bangkok-based Regional Integrated Multi-hazard Early Warning System. This mobile application provides automated early warning and real-time information about hazards such as lightning, heatwaves, cyclones, drought, and floods.

SATARK integrates different forms of data from national and international agencies to provide location-specific alerts. Drawing upon historical patterns, SATARK provides users with easily understandable advisories for their specific scenarios, underlining the state government’s guidelines about what they need to do before, during, and after disasters. To enhance user understanding, information is provided in both Odia and English. 

The SATARK system also allows users to provide feedback about forecast accuracy in their area, and uses machine learning algorithms to improve upon its advisory generation process. This information improves citizens’ disaster-preparedness, which could prove critical in their ability to minimise losses and injuries during calamities.

In Malaysia, TM ONE, the public sector and enterprise business solutions arm of Telekom Malaysia Berhad (TM), collaborated with the Royal Malaysian Navy and ICT company, Acasia, to develop Kesedaran Keselamatan Komuniti Maritim (K3M) or Maritime Community Security and Safety Awareness, a web app and a mobile app to deliver early warning and real time maritime hazard alerts. The K3M app is connected to various maritime authorities, and available for widespread use including commercial shipping companies, tourism operators, fishermen, and maritime recreational users. Users can also make emergency SOS calls that are routed to a Naval Operation Centre, which will coordinate assistance.

Enhanced Training Systems for Effective Crime Engagement

The Singapore Police Force (SPF) is increasingly adopting technology-driven systems to help officers optimise their training and to maximise success when engaging with suspects.

In 2019, the SPF adopted the Range Enhanced Liver Firing Range System, a training aid that provides detailed information to officers during marksmanship practice. This system analyses each shooter’s posture, breathing, gaze fixation and weapons-handling and supplies real-time suggestions, helping officers improve the accuracy of subsequent shots.

The SPF also introduced the Impact Measurement Trainer, a training system to improve the self-defence skills of police trainees. The training system make use of force sensors in mannequins to precisely measure the location and strength of users’ strikes, then provide instant feedback for trainees to improve their techniques.

Such smart systems turn specific data into actionable insights for officers, improving training efficiency to ensure that police officers are able to effectively respond to conflicts.

Leveraging on cloud to support search and rescue operations

Meanwhile, Malaysian emergency response authorities are leveraging cloud computing platforms to improve search and rescue (SAR) operations. Working together with TM ONE, the emergency response agencies utilise the Search and Rescue Operation Coordination System (SAROCS) to support the planning, execution, management and coordination of SAR activities during an emergency.

In SAR operations, comprehensive and timely information is critical. The cloud-based SAROCS enables the data from multiple devices and systems to be integrated onto a single platform, allowing multiple SAR agencies to access crucial data to facilitate an operation remotely. The solution is equipped with a mobile application, which allows users connect to a secure Internet connection and access the main system database, providing on-the-go information to the users. For example, it can provide tracking information to the Rescue Coordination Centre to facilitate the deployment monitoring of search and rescue units by SAR coordinator.

When SAROCS is hosted in the cloud, the search and rescue units can benefit from advanced analytics and artificial intelligence-assisted capabilities powered by cloud to successfully facilitate an operation. For example, they can simulate or forecast oceanography and meteorological data to improve their understanding of search area conditions, which are essential in SAR operations.

The cloud in particular is playing a fundamental role in managing emergency response strategies at scale. While no government can guarantee to stop an emergency, the harnessing of technologies including cloud to gather and analyse massive amounts of information in real-time is equipping citizens and professionals to improve preparedness towards crises, respond more effectively and rapidly during emergency situations, minimise the impact of disasters, as well as improve recovery results.

Cloud ⍺ Series #10: Forging the Future of Public Services with Cloud

Oct 06, 2020
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By shifting to cloud computing, government services and citizens are only one click-of-an-app away, many processes can be made more efficiently.

Here’s how governments around the world are using the cloud to build better lives for their citizens.

Malaysia, Singapore and the US are among many governments announcing their intent to pivot their operations to the cloud in the next few years. What exactly will this mean for public services?

The Government services sector is different than the enterprise or corporate sectors because it impacts and is responsible to all citizens, totalling more than 30 million Malaysians as well as 10 million business entities. Needless to say, the amount of data it holds is massive and it is crucial to keep these data ultimately secure, said Ahmad Nazri Ambi, Head of Digital Government at TM ONE.

Cloud computing offers huge potential for innovating varieties of new services to support citizens and enhance aspects of the quality of daily life. Thanks to its ability to handle large volumes of information, governments could collect the Internet of Things (IoT) data and develop actionable insights to enhance efficiency and address various issues. The cloud also enables governments to quickly expand new services across different agencies, according to the Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC), a public agency driving digital adoption in the country.

We explore how different countries have adopted the cloud to transform the way they serve their citizens by taking advantage of the cloud’s scalability.

1. Expanding digital identity services

Digital identity services have great potentials to enable the government to streamline their services and enable advances in service delivery. A citizen could pay taxes, book a hospital appointment, and apply for loans all in one place without having to re-enter personal information, which contributes to creating a more seamless experience.

Not only it will benefit the citizens – McKinsey research revealed that countries could unlock 3 to 13 per cent of GDP in 2030 by implementing digital identity programmes – as a potential result of increasing shift from the informal economy to the formal economy, increased employment and greater financial inclusion.

The opportunity for digital identity services has increased exponentially with technology advancements, greater access to smart devices, and lower implementation costs. We have seen many nations implementing such services, and initiatives such as the World Bank’s ID4D will help more countries build inclusive and trusted identity systems.

GovTech Singapore leverages the power of the cloud as it works with developers and partners to create more services that build on its national digital identity system. These services are built on a developer platform that is hosted in the cloud, which allows them to quickly scale up and build more services as demand from businesses increases, reports Computer Weekly.

The cloud also makes it easier for GovTech to manage ongoing projects. The agency receives status updates on the progress of each project, and the system automatically sets up a testing environment once the software is ready for trial. It also benefits from cloud analytics that provides key service statistics to aid GovTech in its decision making.

2. Predictive public services

Numerous events throughout history – including the current Covid-19 pandemic – prove that governments must adopt an anticipatory rather than a reactive stance. After all, as the adage goes, prevention is better than cure.

Advances in data analytics and artificial intelligence have enabled governments to stay ahead of tax evasions, floods, overcrowding in hospitals, and many more.

In the United States, residents of Kansas City now hit fewer bumps in the road. Thanks to data analytics, the city is able to predict potholes before they appear.

The city government uses existing traffic cameras to gather data on factors such as the age of the pavement. This is combined with information on the weather, traffic accidents or road maintenance to predict when and where potholes might form, reported Government Technology magazine

City leaders expect that this will allow Kansas to repair or resurface up to 70km of roads a year, up from only about 30 to 40km before. This technology is parked in the cloud – and is another good example of how the cloud can help governments quickly build all sorts of specific solutions to improve citizens’ lives.

As seen from Kansas City’s case, integrating a data analytics tool into existing infrastructure resulted in significant cost savings for the city. It is the added convenience of not having to install new equipment or find new power sources. Large amounts of data are stored in a central and accessible cloud and rapidly processed.

3. Emergency Financial Assistance

The Covid-19 pandemic has created turmoil across the global economy. Economic activities were halted and livelihoods were impacted, spurring intervention measures from governments. The Malaysian government has deployed several financial assistance programmes for individuals and businesses. The Movement Control Order (MCO) measures require that applications must be processed online.

This is where the government’s IT infrastructure was put to the test, noted Ahmad Nazri. “The government was swift to act by shifting several critical services that were previously hosted on-premise – and were facing the risk of overload to the cloud. This helped the services to remain accessible despite simultaneous access requests from millions of citizens.”

Shifting securely to the cloud

We’ve looked at examples of the broad range of uses made possible by cloud computing in the public service sector. Governments have been forced to recognise the advantages and efficacy of shifting their services into the cloud; however, security remains a top concern.

The cloud holds enormous potential for business efficiency and innovation, but also can create a ‘wild west’ of broader and more distributed environments for organizations to manage and secure, said Abhijit Chakravorty, Cloud Security Competency Leader, IBM Security Services.

According to an IBM study, the two biggest cloud security risks are data theft and ransomware. Organisations have to take a unified approach that combines both cloud and security, rather than rely on cloud providers to provide security.

That’s why governments have taken care to guide their agencies into safeguarding their networks during the shift to the cloud.

The Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) released specific guidelines on how to choose a cloud platform. This includes advisories for organisations to carefully consider what services or data they can put on the cloud and to assess if a cloud service provider is reliable and competent.

As the enabler of Malaysia’s digital government, our own cloud platform, Cloud Alpha promises top-of-the-game cybersecurity and data sovereignty, so government agencies can rest assured that citizen data will be protected. Cloud Alpha is hosted in our highly secured Tier III data centre within Malaysia, so data residency is assured, Nazri explained when discussing the key features of Cloud Alpha. In the past, the government was obliged to host all of its data on on-premises infrastructure, but there is now a realisation of the potential power of the cloud for certain applications.

With Cloud Alpha, civil servants can seamlessly make use of emerging technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), IoT, big data, and blockchain to improve citizens’ lives. As the government is adopting an open data policy, a data lake stored and processed in the cloud will become a powerful source of insights and innovation for government services moving forward, concluded Ahmad Nazri.

When facing the next normal, leaders often find themselves hindered by limited data processing capacity, slow tech-building and ageing infrastructure. By shifting to cloud computing, government services and citizens are only one click-of-an-app away, many processes can be made more efficiently – with the bonus of innovative new possibilities to enhance and forging new services. The ultimate result will be better outcomes for citizens.

Connecting People with Available Parking Space

Mar 10, 2020
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For both drivers and municipalities, the root cause of their parking problems is a lack of real-time data, specifically on empty parking spaces and parking payment status.

Streamlining Parking for Citizens and Municipalities

Drivers can waste a lot of time looking for somewhere to park, making it hard to plan their journey and contributing to congestion. At the same time,municipalities can find it hard to collect payments: a parking attendant may have to scan number plates one-by-one to check each vehicle’s payment status. This method consumes a lot of time and manpower. For both drivers and municipalities, the root cause of their parking problems is a lack of real-time data, drivers don’t know where the empty spaces are and the authorities don’t know the payment status of vehicles parked in ticketed bays.

To give drivers and authorities real-time information, mobile operator TM ONE has developed a smart parking solution, which can show drivers where spaces are via a smartphone app and a dashboard accessible through any device connected to the Internet. It also provides parking authorities with a single platform through which they can monitor all the spaces under their purview.

The solution combines cameras and sensors, connectivity, artificial intelligence (AI), data visualisation and analytics on a single platform. The data captured by sensors and cameras are processed by an AI system at the edge of the network, which
then transmits the metadata via TM ONE’s 4G network to the cloud to be analysed and displayed on the smart parking dashboard. As a result, drivers and municipalities can see all the information they need, including real-time availability and payment
status. Drivers can even use the smartphone app to book a vacant parking space before they arrive.

For parking attendants, the solution can pinpoint vehicles with unpaid or expired parking fees, making enforcement fast and accurate. It can also be used to vary prices according to demand. TM ONE says that will translate into higher revenues and lower operation costs for the local councils or parking operators that run the outdoor parking spaces.

Real World Deployment – Smart Parking in Subang Jaya City in Malaysia

TM ONE has deployed its smart parking solution for Majlis Perbandaran Subang Jaya, the local authority that manages the infrastructure and municipal services in Subang Jaya city in Malaysia. The end-to-end service includes the smart parking solution, a mobile app drivers can use to pay for a space, a round-the-clock service helpdesk and a monitoring and management centre.

TM ONE is now enhancing the smart parking solution further. For example, it is integrating parking space availability alerts with a navigation system to guide drivers to the nearest empty parking spot. The operator also plans to provide parking attendants
with a smartphone app and a compound ticket printer, which can be integrated with other parking systems.

As 5G connectivity becomes available in Malaysia, TM ONE has also piloted the solution over 5G in Subang Jaya as part of the field trial organised by the Malaysian Communication and Multimedia Commission (MCMC). The 5G-enabled smart parking supports real-time video streaming from AI-based cameras to enable the detection of irregular behaviour, thereby providing safety and surveillance capabilities.

This article was first published on GSMA

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