The global smart city drive gaining traction

Nokia have begun implementing a number of smart city initiatives across the world. In the Tianfu New Area Chengdu Administrative Committee and Nokia have signed a strategic agreement (MoU) regarding digital city development.

Under the agreement, both parties will collaborate on the establishment of the new digital city including the construction of the data centre and related telecom infrastructure, the deployment of the trial network for internet of things (IoT), the incubation of IoT applications and devices, big data, and the deployment of an end-to-end optics network in Tianfu New Area. Mr. Luo Qiang, Mayor of Chengdu, attended the ceremony and witnessed the signing.

This agreement has built on Nokia’s ongoing engagement in smart city projects around the world, and follows the launch in late 2016 of the Smart City Playbook, a strategy report commissioned by Nokia that documents best practices for smart cities. The deal also highlighted the progress in Nokia’s strategy of expanding its customer base outside of the traditional telecommunications sphere, a key focus for the company.

>See also: The smart nation: Singapore’s masterplan

At the same time, servicing one of Finland’s largest municipalities, the ‘Smart Tampere’ initiative has been added to Nokia’s ever-increasing roster of support for smart city development around the world (and second effort in Europe, following last year’s Bristol is Open project in the UK.)

The Tampere initiative will bring together government agencies, local companies, NGOs and citizens to make the area more socially, economically and environmentally sustainable. The aim is to turn the city into a a test-bed for a range of smart services in areas such as smart lighting, smart energy, smart user experience at large venues, data management, e-health and smart mobility

Jacques Vermeulen, Director of Smart Cities and Customer Operations at Nokia discussed this global trend toward city modernisation and how Nokia’s IoT and network expertise are playing a critical role in the transition.

Can you tell me about the smart city initiatives that you’ve rolled out in Finland?

As we speak, in Tampere we are still defining the use cases that we will implement. Most likely they will be use cases around wireless broadband access and augmenting user experiences around large venues for sporting (or other) events that Tampere will be hosting this summer. We are discussing other potential use cases with the city. However, they are not fixed as we speak.

>See also: The smart nation: Singapore’s citizen-centric drive

There are a couple of things we are doing with 4G, 5G and test networks as well. This is for preparation for those cities, in order to build an ecosystem on top of network infrastructure, in order to prepare for the smart city use cases.

Why smart cities?

The key is urbanisation. More than 50% of the global population are living in cities, the first time the figure has reached this high in history. By 2050 this is predicted to grow to 70% of the world’s population.

This puts a pressure on governments and the scarcity of resources, while also increasing the issue of mobility and social inclusion. That being said, the traditional notions of governmental organisations, social and environmental sustainability are in global competition.

Six of the largest cities in the world are contributing to more than 50% of worldwide GDP. That means size does matter, and cities are definitely competing as well for a part of their local enterprises to propel them into the $15 billion – predicted by 2018 industry of direct monetisation from IoT data.

What Nokia brings to the equation is with network infrastructure and wireless. That means as well, solutions in the cloud as well and IoT platforms that are horizontal, meaning that cities can include more analytics solutions on top of IoT and network infrastructure and I will give you an example.

If you have an established shopping area, you might have in that mall Wi-Fi deployed for wireless broadband, or a smart building solution for heating and ventilation, and even access control to the premises. Location-based services can also send incentives and coupons from the individual’s preferences.

>See also: The role of telcos in smart cities

This is all well, but the moment you have a calamity in the shopping mall, in the form of a malicious attack or fire, that means you want your emergency forces to come onsite. That means you’re all of a sudden in traffic control, and you don’t want additional people coming onto the site, so customers need to be warned as well on a highway that is a couple of miles away as well, not to take the exit.

You want the emergency services to have access to have access to operational surveillance cameras in the area so they can assess the situation. Personal location-based data can also be used by the emergency services to locate those still stuck inside the mall. Once found, I want them to have access to my medical records in case I need medical attention and I have a specific condition. You need to have access to all these networks.

This is an example of the horizontal network infrastructure. All of a sudden for a smart building you are in traffic management, emergency response, video access etc. Those operations you can only do if you have universal networks, with access to the different parts, and you can connect to third party networks when you need to, so the the wireless and wired network infrastructure is very important there. And then, as well, you need an horizontal IoT platform that can get data from different verticals in order to assemble and provide that data to, in this example, the emergency services. Conditioning of a siloed solution smart building to transition to an IoT platform.

More and more cities are realising they need this capability, and Nokia has these networks and IoT platforms, where third parties can build their intelligence and applications. We help them to shield the complexity of sensor, gateway and lifecycle management to troubleshoot them. On the other side as well, we help them with effective data acquisition of those sensors, devices and gateways.

Is the IoT the foundation of smart city? And if so, are there any challenges in driving smart city initiatives?

Smart cities are for citizens, visitors and enterprises. This is for the people. In our context – as being Nokia – what we can help with is ICT.

Security is very important, and with the spate of recent ransomware attacks more people are beginning to see the importance of security. What we do in this space, is implement basic security into our products, next to our network infrastructure.

>See also: The future of connectivity and delivery

There are a couple of things we have built into our products to look at security, but if you look at devices like CCTV cameras, they are only protected with basic passwords. If these are hacked with a DDoS attack then the network is infiltrated. This means if that CCTV camera is allowed to be connected to the network it, you need to know how it behaves. You need algorithms to detect behaviour end-to-end in the IoT use cases to monitor behaviour. We are also working on those kinds of solutions, which are looking at behaviours of the IoT stack and in fact, to examine if that IoT stack is doing what it should actually do.

These kind of solutions are also updating themselves, learning from new viruses in order to detect new patterns and counteract them accordingly. There is also a willingness from cities, governments and nations to propel their local economy into an IoT-driven smart city, because there is a desire to become the next disruptor.

What you see next to IoT platforms and IoT end-to-end use cases, is that in order to address the operational challenge of cities, cities are looking to enterprises to stimulate them and provide secure platforms. It’s very difficult for smaller companies or companies that don’t invest in security as a priority to mitigate these threats. So they come to us for help with security device management, lifecycle device management and data acquisition to deliver that secure platform.

Is the IoT playing a critical role in the transition to smart cities?

What we see with the smart city is a couple of things. First, you need to have your basic network infrastructure running into a city. If there is no connectivity, there is no communication between applications and sensors. Cities like Calgary and Singapore, over the last couple of years, have understood the importance of implementing this basic network broadband infrastructure. This is necessary to deploy an IoT platforms connecting to device sensors and to applications as well. That was like one of the first phases.

>See also: Total connection: Singapore’s public Wi-Fi

What we see now is that more and more cities are engaging IoT not in a silo manner, but in a scalable way. Therefore, it is very important in IoT to have this basic infrastructure and network in order to provide capabilities to build applications, to connect devices through the gateway in a secure form.

Do you have any smart city predictions for the future?

Moving forward what Nokia wants to bring to our customers and to the world is the idea that it is not about machines, it is about people. This is about addressing mobility, remote working, and improving solutions and services that will help enhance productivity.

Providing real-time capabilities are providing the context, the impact of IoT will be felt in every day lives – automating decisions based on real facts in order to enrich people’s lives.


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Nick Ismail

Nick Ismail is a former editor for Information Age (from 2018 to 2022) before moving on to become Global Head of Brand Journalism at HCLTech. He has a particular interest in smart technologies, AI and...

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