Building the ecosystem for smart solutions
Ericsson is developing solutions and partnerships for smart solutions in networks, transport and utilities
Developing smart government solutions often requires close collaboration between the public sector and technology providers, and in an era of hyper-connectivity, telecom vendors are often well positioned to play a key role as partners in enabling key government services. Telecoms giant Ericsson is looking to expand on its existing experience with government, and is setting its sights on creating a much wider portfolio of solutions for the public sector, in key areas such as utilities, transport, and private networks.
Ericsson already has a long history with governments in the region, explained Rutger Reman, Head of Industry and Society Unit, Ericsson Middle East, mainly based around providing dedicated fibre networks to government and also in delivering PABX telephone solutions. While Ericsson is no longer in the PABX business, said Reman, who was appointed to his role in February this year, it has a strong business in private networks, providing secure, dedicated network solutions to many government clients including Ministries of Interior and Ministries of Defence in the Gulf and the Middle East region.
These closed communications networks are still an essential part of the company’s work with the public sector, but since the appointment of Hans Vestberg as Ericsson’s CEO in 2010, the company has looked at diversifying its business from pure telecoms offerings and has looked for areas of synergy between its technology and customer requirements.
“Around six years ago, Ericsson’s newly appointed CEO started looking at areas where our technology would bring value, besides the operators of course. We started then studying the ‘non-telecom’ operations, and quite quickly looked at where connectivity can be used for services like e-government, or smart transport solutions,” Reman said.
The company identified three main areas of collaboration with the public sector, namely government networks, road and transport, and energy and utilities. In the main markets for Ericsson in the Middle East — the GCC, Turkey, Iraq and Egypt — the company found a good understanding of technologies among governments, and an awareness of how technology can help tackle development issues facing the region.
“We see that in these countries, government, including municipalities and other authorities, are well educated and they see that use of technology can help them to remove barriers to problems that they have. If they are a road authority, they can use technology to help them improve the usage of roads; if they need to have communication, they can have their own secure networks. In the utilities space, power generation and distribution companies want smart grids with smart metering, for electricity, water and gas; and all of these areas come together in smart cities,” he said.
For most of these areas of activities, Ericsson is looking to help develop solutions that will combine monitoring with connectivity to gather data about systems, whether it is a road network or a power grid, and then use analytics capabilities to process that data to give insights and actionable intelligence.
In the field of transport, this can have implications on roads, rail and metro for example. Reman explained: “You have sensors, you have cameras, you have road toll systems — you can use this data in order to use the roads more efficiently. Looking at global studies, if you use IT technology with connectivity, you can create around 15-20% more efficiency in use of the roads, meaning that rather than investing in new roads or adding lanes, which takes a long lead time and planning, you can instead use IT technologies, connectivity and the overarching analytics, consequently, you can smartly enable the traffic growth.”
In the area of power and water, the region faces issues such as lack of supply or inefficiencies in systems of production and distribution. Proper monitoring can help find and eliminate flaws in the system causing losses while better analytics can improve planning to meet peak demand periods and ensure that production and distribution is operating efficiently and in an environmentally responsible way, Reman added.
In the field of secure networks, as more government entities digitise their systems and look to connect to each other, so the demand for conventional secure networks has grown in the region. At the same time, Reman said, dedicated networks for emergency services, such as TETRA radio networks, are becoming out of date as organisations seek to increase the communications capabilities of their personnel.
“You cannot use a smartphone app on TETRA, so what these authorities are looking for now is using smarter phones, enabling their officers to take photos, live video feeds etc. with real time information. They want their networks to be as efficient as other networks using the same capabilities as public communications networks,” he said.
Another area where increasing complexity is creating demand for different types of connectivity is in protecting critical national infrastructure such as oil production facilities. In the past, Remand said, these facilities were protected with little more than barbed wire and some CCTV cameras, but they now require much more complex and connected systems such as high definition live feed cameras, movement sensors and so on.
In areas such as networking, the company has its own solutions, but it is also partnering in areas like transport and utilities to bring together different companies with different solutions to create an eco-system of partners to provide complete smart solutions and project delivery. This is particularly important in areas like smart cities where there are many vendors involved in fragmented ecosystems and where solutions are setting new standards.
Ericsson has invested heavily in R&D, Reman said, to develop both its products and services capabilities. The company has also invested in adopting its software solutions for telecoms vendors to carry out big data analytics over large scale networks, to deliver analytics capabilities in other scenarios and sectors.
“We have these service capabilities, to roll out whatever they need, we have the capabilities of integrating, and we have the analytics layer to help them manage the big data,” Reman commented. “We are not just bringing them a new system, we are helping them to transform their own organisation and their ways of working. At the same time, we have the supporting tools to help them through this journey.
“So many of these entities globally, are now starting to realise they can use technology to change their government or authority, they can make it more efficient, they can provide more accurate services to serve the population. They understand that they can use technology to make their countries more attractive to investment — if I can create the right platform, I will attract smart people, which will help my country further,” he concluded.