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What The Future Of Smart Cities Looks Like

As cities around the world grow, the need to transform them through the application of smart cities becomes an ever-greater concern. Cities are pillars of economic growth for a nation, but they are also often examples of severe inefficiency – as more people move to them, creaking infrastructure can no longer support the population, critical services go undelivered or underdelivered, and the sprawl becomes unmanageable. People feel isolated and lonely within the concrete jungle, and in general it becomes an unpleasant place to be.

The understanding that smart cities are critical in allowing cities to again become that beacon of possibility and economic growth is being seen across the globe. The recent Smart City Expo World Congress – the leading event for discussing the future of smart cities - attracted over 20,000 visitors and 400 speakers, representing 700 cities across the planet.

Huawei is a global partner for the event, and a number of its partner cities for smart city projects were recognised for their commitment to, and innovation in, these projects. One of the key themes driving this year’s Smart City Expo World Congress was determining how to structure smart cities in a future-proof and innovative manner. As a leader in the provision of the technologies underpinning smart city infrastructure, Huawei is well positioned to identify and define the future of smart cities.

What a smart city should look like

Building truly future-ready smart cities should be structured as a four-step process, from the foundational infrastructure – where many cities are now embarking – through to the management layer at the end where the greatest value will be derived:

  • Infrastructure – Where cities deploy new and modern ICT infrastructure to establish the foundation for digital economic development.
  • Security – Covering both physical and virtual world, and a necessary step on the ladder in ensuring that as more critical applications can be developed into the smart city, there is no risk that the city will become compromised.
  • Digitalization – At this stage the city will help its industries achieve digitalization, and bring them into the fold, so that the entire city is unified around the vision of the smart city.
  • Management – This final step is the “brain” of the smart city; a management platform across the city that features AI and machine learning to complement and enhance the efforts of the city managers.

These steps towards a smart city need to be approached in methodical order in order to stablish a stable and adaptable framework. Furthermore, not just any technology can be used successfully. There are three key traits that technology needs to reflect to be appropriate for use in smart city projects:

  • The technology should be open source – Smart cities are collaborative projects that bring together industry, government, and a wide range of technologies. The only way these projects can work efficiently is if everyone approaches them from an open-source perspective.
  • Data should be open as well – One of the key outcomes from smart city projects is the collection, management, and use of data. Again, for a smart city project to be successful, agencies and bodies need to be able to share data in an efficient and open manner.
  • Application-driven – The end goal of any Smart City project is the applications that drive the improvements in living and workplace standards, and city efficiency. Any smart city project needs to keep this in mind from the outset.

The end goal of a smart city project is the creation of what Huawei terms a “digital twin of a city.” Through the technology rollout, and the strategy underpinning it, a smart city is one that takes all the data from the physical world, stores it in an effective and readable manner, and is then used by both humans and AI to deliver back innovation and efficiencies to the city.

How smart cities are delivering human outcomes

One example of a smart city project that Huawei has worked on, which has delivered a meaningful improvement to the lives of millions, is Chengyang. Chengyang is a pioneering city in using saline-alkali land, in combination with sensors, wireless technologies, data modelling and deep learning technologies, to convert the land into arable land, capable of growing “seawater rice.” That innovation is now being applied in other areas of the world and it is projected, based on current projects, to eventually feed 80 million people using previously unusable land.  

As a technology giant with a particular interest in smart cities, Huawei has been instrumental in establishing the very idea of what a smart city should be. The company has been involved in the establishment of standards around smart cities, such as the P2413.1 Standard for a Reference Architecture for Smart City, an international standard which was established in China, with the standards that Huawei champions focused on establishing that openness and communication between parties in smart city projects.

Additionally, Huawei works with over 30 core partners, 1,100 solutions partners, and 5,600 channel and services partners across the globe, having undertaken projects across more than 40 countries and 160 (now smart) cities. The scope of smart city projects is such that no one company can do it all – again, pointing to the fundamental need to have open platforms and data sharing – and much of what took place at Smart City Expo World Congress was in looking to establish those frameworks that will shape the collaborative approach that must take place to establish cities as the smart cities of the future.

As one of the global leaders in R&D, Huawei has a wide range of technology solutions to benefit enterprise and government alike. Click here for more information on the full suite of services.

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