Smart cities are like the humans who live in them, behaving like complex creatures, constantly collecting and transporting information to make better sense of the world. In other words, they are alive.
And like all living things, smart cities possess DNA. In its conventional definition, DNA is biological, but in this context, the DNA of a smart city is entirely different. The engine that drives the ideal smart city lies in its’ usage of technology, designed to support and enhance the lives of the human beings living in them. Each city requires a unique arsenal of technological solutions, chosen to fulfil the specific needs of its citizens, economy and environment that contributes to the success of each smart city
While certain cities thrive on an abundance of Internet-of-Things (IoT) devices, intelligent kiosks and computers, others may prefer more minimalistic, hardware-lite designs. For devices to deliver life-improving benefits for their citizens, smart cities must have high-speed connectivity and IoT networks with sufficient coverage to penetrate all parts of the cities, including in-building areas. Also, successful smart cities usually have a platform and application layer that can conduct analytics to transform data into meaningful information, viewed in a command centre.
Similar to how human abilities can be enhanced through natural growth, self-actualisation or technological aids, smart cities have ways to boost their capabilities as well. Here are a few good places to start:
A hyper connected systems need to be in place for a smart city to meet efficiency, sustainability, productivity, and safety objectives. Reliable, high coverage, high speed and low latency connectivity networks form the foundation for almost all smart city systems and are things all smart cities need.
For example, a smart city should have a tech-based delivery infrastructure for public utilities such as water, electricity, waste, sanitation, sewerage and government services built on real-time connectivity. Connected technologies and IoT solutions that can constantly match the changing supply-demand gaps can rapidly improve living standards when integrated with existing infrastructure.
Local councils need to identify and prioritise the fundamental locations, facilities and infrastructure where they would deploy the millions of sensors and IoT devices and solutions in phases towards developing and building an action focused infrastructure framework masterplan or blueprint that would yield meaningful life impacting living and social environment to the towns and cities.
As digital and physical infrastructures increasingly converge, integrate, and interoperate, smart cities must embed the proper cybersecurity and privacy measures in each stage of development. Local councils must also sync cybersecurity strategies across smart city networks and design appropriate security and governance structures to protect their citizens.
The thousands of smart devices are double-edged swords. While they collect and feed helpful information into smart applications, they open up vulnerabilities in the more extensive IoT network. Physical tampering with smart devices can lead to backdoors and malicious implants that can potentially give unauthorised access to black-hat hackers and cyber terrorists.
In short, smart cities that thrive on the abundance of data collected by the network of sensors need to be mindful of data security. While it helps authorities monitor the health of its city, the possibility of a data breach needs mitigation to avoid crippling of city operations. Therefore, robust security policies and management is needed to ensure that governance over sensitive and personal data is practised and automatically managed across the digital, smart services and IoT solutions and systems deployed.
Even though data can be tough to handle, smart cities are valuable reservoirs of data. Effective data sharing and access to this data can unleash new opportunities to innovate and generate social and economic benefits. This practice is estimated to create the above benefits worth between 0.1% to 4.0% of GDP.
All data from devices, people, systems, and the environment go through a transformation process involving data management, integration, machine learning, and advanced analytics to become information that addresses real-time incidents and assists city planning.
One key area that benefits data analytics is the smart government component. For example, conventional government censuses are expensive to implement and often collect inaccurate data, leading to the low effectiveness of newly designed policies and initiatives. With accurate and reliable data, governments can better understand the problems, and improve policy-making abilities by solving the root causes.
Other areas of benefit include financial health, improved outcomes, operational efficiency, public engagement, crisis management and others.
Artificial intelligence (AI) is the piece of the puzzle that puts the word ‘smart’ into smart cities. By combining modern machine-learning, natural language processing (NLP), and computer vision with huge data lakes, AI is primed to drive efficiency and solve most problems local councils face.
As AI systems are fed with tons of data, the technology can identify areas of improvement and recommend an effective solution. For instance, AI-intelligent surveillance systems can provide continuous protection for citizens and effective system operations of the cities. This system uses facial and object recognition, behavioural and movement analysis algorithms and objective-detection programs to analyse live video feeds and identify potential risks or threats.
Therefore, gaining extra insights into niche aspects of a city by using AI is the natural step in the evolution of modern-day smart cities.
In Malaysia, many States have already started implementing smart city projects with the federal guidelines of Malaysia Smart City Framework, MSCF. These plans mainly revolve around transportation and cashless payments - two crucial focus in society.
Moving forward, smart city planners must adopt a systems approach, meaning that authorities need to compartmentalise the goals of adopting a smart city.
At TM One we applaud the commitments and efforts of various local smart city initiatives and we understands the enormous tasks and planning required. Our talents, partners and solutions are ready to help local governments turn their blueprints into citizen-focused action plans that will move the needle in terms of turning Malaysia into a digital-first, smart-city nation.