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Welcome to the smart city

Welcome to the smart city
November 9, 2011in Technology2011-11-092013-02-13technologyen
Cities throughout emerging markets are struggling to cope with rapid urbanization driven by population growth and economic prosperity. The answer could be to look to ICT infrastructure technology to create a sustainable urban environment. There are now as many people living in cities as...

Cities throughout emerging markets are struggling to cope with rapid urbanization driven by population growth and economic prosperity. The answer could be to look to ICT infrastructure technology to create a sustainable urban environment. 

There are now as many people living in cities as there are in rural areas: by 2050, the UN believes that 70% of the world's projected nine billion people will live in the urban environment. Most of this growth is happening in emerging markets: Africa, Asia, the Middle East and South America. Even developed countries face this trend. Forrester Research foresees that population growth in developed countries will only be 3% between 2010 and 2050, but the size of the urban population will increase by 18%.

According to Forrester Research's Jennifer Blissent, "Many cities are stretched beyond the capacity of their existing infrastructure and resources. The growing influx of migrants into cities requires new thinking about how to meet the demand for public services."

The problems brought about by rapid urbanization stem from aging public infrastructure unable to cope with swelling populations. A lack of clean water, energy, efficient transportation and broadband communications can negatively impact all areas of civic life, from economic competitiveness

to poor standards of public health to environmental degradation. Because of this, the challenge of renewing (or rebuilding) our cities falls upon a wide range of vertical sectors including healthcare, government, transportation, energy and real estate.

smart thinking
The solution to these challenges could be the smart city, which Gartner Group describes as "a city that looks at all the exchanges of information that flow between its many different subsystems, analyzes this flow of information and services, and acts upon it to make its wider ecosystem more resource efficient and sustainable. At its simplest, think of smart cities as energy efficient, consumer focused and technology driven."

Smart cities are not short-term projects that yield immediate results. They are large-scale, long-term projects where billions of dollars can be at stake. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the Middle East.

In the Arabian Gulf, countries like Saudi Arabia, Qatar and UAE are now looking to transform their economies to be less dependent on oil revenues. The recent bountiful years have given the region the wherewithal to modernize its aging infrastructure and create new cities to attract tourism and inward investment.

Lionel Reina, Vice President EEMEA, Orange Business Services, estimates that there will be $2 trillion of committed investment in infrastructure in the Gulf over the next 10 years. A large part of this will be in cities created from sand and sea, but it also includes major infrastructure projects, such as airports and ports that require smart management.

To support innovative governments and far-sighted private sector organizations that transform the cityscape, improve quality of life and achieve environmental objectives, Orange is at the forefront of developing new services that utilize a wide range of converging technologies, like smart metering, embedded sensors, cloud computing and IP communications.

In Lebanon, Orange worked with Solidere, the Lebanese company charged with developing and reconstructing the central Beirut district. Orange implemented an IPTV service with over 100 on-demand television channels delivered over a high-speed metropolitan ethernet network.

And in Saudi Arabia, where there will be $385 billion invested in the next five years in infrastructure and five new economic cities, Orange has worked closely with leading real estate stakeholders to create a smart city vision. This includes a new financial district that aims to become the financial hub of the Gulf region and a new techno-park located in Riyadh.

"The interest in smart infrastructure started with property developers who wanted their developments to stand out and be more appealing to buyers and tenants," adds Reina. "Now there is a longer term vision of social and urban change based on converging technologies."

While greenfield developments in the Middle East are common, redevelopment is the focus elsewhere. "Think of the completely different challenges in a small, high-tech district of Riyadh attracting young and affluent people, versus maybe an old city like Cairo or Istanbul where water leakage solutions or pollution sensors are much more important," comments Reina. "The same issues impact megacities in Asia, Africa and South America."

sharing the knowledge
"Much of the experience we have learned from consulting and designing the smart-city vision in the Gulf and Middle East is very relevant to the rest of the world, even in brownfield environments," says Giorgio Heiman, head of Global Services for Emerging Markets at Orange. "We make our experience of building customer and consumer-oriented technology services available to people who do not necessarily have the expertise or track record to do so."

Consider smart metering: Orange and water giant Veolia Eau are helping to drive smart-water metering forward in France. The "m2o city" project combines smart water meter reading technology for end users with environmental sensors to detect water leaks and pollution in the delivery infrastructure. To collect the data from the meters and environmental sensors, m2o city is developing a new ultralow energy radio network that it will operate on behalf of civic authorities. Networks similar to this one could eventually be deployed to simultaneously collate data from many different types of meters and sensors, for example electricity, gas and environmental sensors.

Also in France, Orange has been working on other sensor technologies in Cagne-sur-Mer, a city with 40,000 residents located near Nice. Orange sensors measure and control certain aspects of the city environment including water, street lighting and air pollution. The project involved testing Wavenis mesh networks in a live environment.

The experience gained from partnerships and projects like these is relevant to both greenfield and brownfield environments. "With greenfield, the focus is on automating data collection to enable faster service. From the developer's perspective, this means faster deployment because of uniformity of equipment, there are no tenants in yet, and you do not need to retrofit into an existing urban landscape," says Heiman. "In a brownfield environment the costs are higher, so the business case and ROI are more difficult, and typically objectives may be different." And this is not limited to energy management: smart metering can also be applied to waste and water management.

smart life
Smart-city activity is not limited to real estate, intelligent buildings and facilities management. The ambition is to invest in many other verticals like transportation, health and education to dramatically improve living standards and government efficiency.

For instance, with the rising cost of oil, road congestion and CO2 emissions, governments, logistics companies and fleet owners are all looking to improve public roads. "We have a lot of experience in M2M fleet management and tracking solutions, digital signage and location services in France and internationally," says Reina. Orange's fleet management solution is currently used in 40,000 cars, mostly in France but expanding in other countries."And, as a group, we are heavily involved in intelligent transport systems and smart cars - this is another vital part of the smart-city vision."

And so is healthcare, where Orange is a recognized world leader in M2M remote heart monitoring (in partnership with Sorin) and is pioneering the centralization of patient X-ray records without film.

"The important element is that the aim of smart cities is to leverage a strong ICT infrastructure and innovative ICT services to foster social, economic and environmental objectives,"says Heiman.

Being able to share its experience is part of the Orange commitment to being a major stakeholder in smart cities. Orange recently joined the New City Foundation, a partnership between major cities, industry giants and technology giants to pool their knowledge into how to build smarter, cleaner, safer and wealthier urban environments. According to Reina, this is evidence of the Orange standing within the emerging smart cities community.

"Orange is not only a global operator, but also a global integrator. One of our major strengths is our ability to combine these two roles and deliver them consistently on a global scale. In smart cities, we can leverage our experience in harnessing business and technology together and making it available to consumers in a service-oriented fashion," said Heiman. Alone, each individual technology component of a smart city is not difficult to achieve: the vision is in how to bring them together.

changing time
It is believed that by 2050, 18% of the world's population will face water scarcity, and another 24% will experience water stress or shortage.

The OECD estimates that energy consumption (from industry and transport) will increase by 84% in non- OECD countries, compared with a 14% increase in energy use among the 33 OECD countries. In 1950, there were just two megacities (with 10m population). Today, Asia has 11 megacities, Latin America has four, and Africa, Europe, and North America have two each. These 21 megacities account for nearly 10% of the world's urban population.

By 2050, the percentage of the population over 65 will be located: 32% in Germany, 33% in Italy and 38% in Japan. The over-65 population will be just 13% in India, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the Philippines.

(source: Forrester)

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