Huawei: technology alone doesn't make a city smart

Thursday 15 September 2016 | 15:47 CET | Background
The world's population keeps growing. From almost 7.5 billion people now, the population is expected to reach 9 billion in 2050. At the same time, more and more people live in cities, with the share of city-dwellers expected to more than double, from 30 percent of the total population 50 years ago to 70 percent in 2050 (Frost & Sullivan). 

This puts significant pressure on the manageability of cities. Most now are managed according to separates issues, with departments for the environment, health, traffic or waste management. However, these types of silos create problems when it comes to sharing information and building cooperation. A modern city can resolve these issues only when all the departments work together. 

Developments in the cloud, big data, IoT, mobile, SDN and smart governance are facilitating the involvement of NGOs, universities and residents in enhancing the livability of the city. At a roundtable session at the recent Huawei Connect 2016 conference in Shanghai, Huawei Enterprise Group CTO for Industry Solutions, Joe So expanded on Huawei's vision for the smart city. 

There is no smart city 

The smart city as such does not exist. It's not a solution in itself, but a concept built from various smart solutions that can help a city along in its development. Smart cities adopt ICT solutions in order address challenges. Huawei distinguishes three elements of a smart city: smart government (including safe city, emergency command, environmental protection and energy management), smart industry (smart tourism, smart park) and smart life (smart health, smart transport and smart education). These elements bring together the city administration, business community and residents across a ubiquitous network. 

A smart city supports sustainable growth, according to Joe So. All the solutions together offer cities new opportunities, such as offering more services, at lower costs. With ICT at its core, smart governance will offer cities the opportunity to transform into smart cities. Independent silos need to be interconnected, and Huawei is ready to contribute to building an integrated model. 

The company is already involved in over 100 cities in 40 countries. Projects have included the Nationwide Broadband Network in Singapore, Ultra Fast Broadband network in New Zealand and expanding network infrastructure in Cameroon. The basis of smart cities is connectivity, and there has been a great deal of progress in the past three years, according to So. But this alone does not make a smart city; a massive amount of planning and research is needed to start, he said. 

Building a smart city starts with a survey. The implementation will vary for each city, and the availability of technology alone is not enough; this does not solve any problems. Smart cities exert enormous attraction, and most cities want to move in this direction. So gave as examples cities such as Dubai, Melbourne and Nanjing, where Huawei has already started partnerships, and noted proudly that smart city is already coming top at the sales department. Even with the strong performance, Huawei finds the development of the smart city more important than its own sales growth. 

Open infrastructure, connected everywhere all the time

Huawei believes in open standards. Even though different standards are already in use and still being developed, this is not an obstacle as long they are open. Synergies need to be created between what Huawei classifies as device, pipe and cloud. 

A smart city is built up in layers. The basis is two networks: the ‘regular’ communications network of the city and an IoT network. These networks are connected to a shared cloud which in turns hosts three platforms: an ICT platform, a big data platform and a service platform. These platforms support the final application layer, with the actual smart solutions such as smart government, safe city and smart education. 

Smart ecosystem

A smart city is a system, built from multiple elements. This makes it important that the various segments (top-level design, investment partners, application developers) work with each other. Building on the core values of consensus, complementarity and open, Huawei focuses on the infrastructure and with the partners works further on developing the 'smart'. A single company cannot build a smart city; various partners are needed to create the ecosystem, based on the infrastructure from Huawei. Once an open ecosystem is created and maintained, more and more partners will be attracted to join in the project. 

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