Safe city is the foundation for smart city

Huawei sees a growing number of safe city projects in emerging markets providing the base for future smart city development

Tags: Huawei Technologies CompanyKenyaPublic safetySmart cities
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Safe city is the foundation for smart city Nazir: Huawei is delivering most elements of smart city solutions to its customers. (ITP Images)
By  Mark Sutton Published  January 16, 2017

Public safety is becoming a major driver of smart city projects in emerging markets, according to Huawei. The company says that is it seeing growing demand for all types of smart city solutions and projects, but in emerging markets, many cities are beginning with projects which are focused on public safety, and then leveraging those projects and their underlying infrastructure to develop systems serving other needs.

Speaking to .GOV, Safder Nazir, regional vice president, Smart Cities & IoT, Huawei commented: “We see a trend globally, that there is generally an initial project, a major infrastructure investment, which drives the rest of the smart city initiative. In North America and Europe, smart grid and smart metering in particular has been a major infrastructure driver.

“In emerging markets, we see that safe cities is a key trend, or at least driving a lot of the major infrastructure spend. There is not one answer for everyone, but we do see an increasing number of emerging market countries having safe city country programs first and then building the other elements of a smart city on top of that.”

Huawei has been closely involved in many of these safe city and smart city projects, Nazir said, across all stages of development. Typically cities or regions go through three stages of development – initial infrastructure roll out, modernisation of infrastructure and investment; development of specific vertical projects or vertical themes, such as safety, education or healthcare; and then the third wave of innovation, apps and analytics, where initiatives are focused on the outcomes for residents.

In the infrastructure domain, many of the network technologies and approaches have become standardised over the past ten to fifteen years, which has simplified decisions and deployment. Almost all buildings now are built for a converged IP network, and in many large scale buildings such as malls and hotel, fibre optic is becoming the new way of delivering services, Nazir said, resulting in lower cost, lower energy, lower footprint deployment, and more reliable connectivity. At the city level, Gigabit Passive Optical Networks (GPON) have become the standard, and many operators doing FTTX roll out are using GPON.

For the smart city, Internet of Things networks, the low-power, wide area networks (LP-WAN) space, Nazir said there is some confusion in the market, with multiple protocols including WiFi, Bluetooth, ZigBee, SIGFOX and LoRa available. Huawei is a strong advocate of Narrowband IoT (NB-IoT), which has also been selected by UAE telco Etisalat), and is working with standards bodies in this area, and to develop the ecosystem, to enable a standards based approach for more flexibility and better security.

“A big theme for us is narrowband IoT, and building the ecosystem around that. Narrowband is only a technology, but it is incumbent on companies like Huawei to enable the ecosystem, make sure that we are doing the integration testing, so that the operators can then have a choice, and customers can have a choice, of which device they use,” he said.

In the solutions area, Huawei is developing many different solutions, often working with partners to develop vertical specific solutions. The company has opened a Middle East Solution Development Centre, and it has a number of projects underway in areas such as connected vehicles, building facilities management, digital signage, smart street furniture and public space analytics and location-based services. One local example is a systems developed with a local software company, which tracks school children on their journey to and from school by bus, which utilises GPS location tracking and mapping, SMS alerts and so on.

“Part of what the lab is for is to develop replicable solutions, so we are not just doing this as a one-time effort. We develop the solution, we are then using it to develop the material to train our teams as well as our partner ecosystems, so these solutions can be replicated very quickly, to give a point solution and deliver a benefit and a direct impact for the customer adopting it,” Nazir said.

Developing solutions which can easily be adopted by other city projects is an important step in gaining wider roll out and also in acceptance, he added: “For the longest time, smart cities has been an abstract concept, [pre-developed solutions are] bringing it down to the ground in terms of delivering solutions, and more importantly, delivering visible results for the people. When we are talking to cities, in terms of what you execute, one of the priority factors should be citizen visibility - if we are doing something, it should be of benefit and visible, to make sure that people buy in and understand there is some benefit for them.”

The solutions centre and similar development labs that Huawei is involved in also play an important role in innovation and developing new solutions with stakeholders, to address their specific needs and leverage new technologies. One such area in safe cities is the development of intelligent command centres, to enable citywide command systems. The platform Huawei is developing in this area are empowering multiple agencies, and are also creating new streams of data that can then be shared and mined with data analytics for more value and to develop new systems.

One such solution is the safe city solutions which Huawei provided to the city of Nairobi, Kenya. This award-winning safe city network was deployed following high profile security incidents in the city, and partly in response to high crime levels, and incorporates communications, cloud, surveillance and analytics.

The network of surveillance cameras and networks, which links over 1,800 surveillance cameras with 195 bureaus and 7,600 police officers, serves the Ministry of Interior, police and emergency medical services, and has been credited as being partly responsible for a 46% reduction in crime in the city in the twelve months since it went live in 2015.

The surveillance network enables city-wide monitoring, while high-capacity, resilient communications networks links the command centre and various agencies, while other capabilities such as GIS or GPS location tracking enable richer services to be developed. A video cloud storage platform from Huawei enables cross-agency video sharing, and delivers multiple services such as real-time surveillance, video browsing and evidence collection. Sophisticated analytics tools provide a greater insight and intelligence into the data and the status of the city, and increase the capabilities of the client agencies to utilise the information.

The shared information platform has allowed other functions to be added, and for other agencies to access data, for example, in using cameras to monitor traffic congestion, and enabling a safe city solution to expand into a smart city system.

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