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New models emerging for smart city development

Report from Analysis Mason and Huawei highlights how unique city requirements will effect the models and technologies used in smart systems

Cities need to plan their smart city projects carefully, and consider several factors for development, says Nazir.
Cities need to plan their smart city projects carefully, and consider several factors for development, says Nazir.

Cities around the world are looking to deploy smart city solutions to improve sustainability, safety and quality of life for their residents and visitors, and while the underlying aims are often the same, it is becoming clear that there are many different models for smart cities along with many different technologies to make them a reality.

A new report from Analysis Mason, commissioned by Huawei, is urging city decision makers in the Middle East to take into account a wide range of considerations when developing their strategy/approach to deploying smart city services.

In the report, titled ‘Approaches to deploying IoT and smart cities in the Middle East’, the authors note that there are many variables in developing a smart city, including the number and type of networks and platforms used to connect, different business models, funding models and the market participants who will design, build and support the solutions, with no single approach suitable for deployment across all cities.

Different solutions such as street lighting, city parking, smart metering, and waste management, will all have different requirements or characteristics from the underlying network, including cost of end point devices, security, power consumption, quality of service, area of connection and so on. Connectivity for these solutions could come from 4.5G and 5G/ LTE mobile broadband networks, which may be adapted for NarrowBand IoT (NB-IoT) standards, or from low-power wide-area (LPWA) networks.

“Cities in the Middle East need to start planning to support a huge number of connections across a wide range of smart city services,” commented Safder Nazir, vice president of Smart Cities &IoT at Huawei Middle East. “The deployment of the smart city projects will be driven by cities’ needs to reduce CO2 emissions, use fewer resources, increase productivity and improve well-being. As such, this research can help organisations in the Middle East to carefully plan their projects, maximize return on investment as well as to deliver further benefits to citizens.”

The report identifies three main approaches to smart city development — centralised, fragmented and hybrid, each with its own benefits and drawbacks.

A centralised approach is typically characterised by a central stakeholder or committee that drives the project forward and is responsible for aligning the requirements of disparate services and stakeholders. The centralised model would usually deploy a limited number of platforms and networks. This model is most suited to smaller cities or districts, or ‘greenfield’ sites. It has the benefit of controlling costs and not duplicating network infrastructure, it also provides for much better data  harmonisation. One of the main benefits of smart cities going forward is expected to be the ability to gather data from  a wide range of different systems and use it to provide analysis and reporting on the city as a whole and to detect underlying patterns. Centralised systems will be able to integrate data sources much more easily than other models.

On the downside, a centralised model is usually slow to implement because it is supporting a large number of individual services, each managed by a different stakeholder. It takes time to integrate the disparate services into an integrated framework, and the framework may be more inflexible due to this integrated approach.

The fragmented approach is characterised by a number of individual stakeholders who are each responsible for a specific service area and develop smart city services independently of any central authority. Often each service will deploy its own network and platform strategy tailored to the requirements of a specific service and may not be capable of supporting other services or be interoperable with them. This model is seen more often in older, established cities, and although it may be more nimble to tackle specific issues, it generally results in duplication of networks, with higher costs, and data that is siloed or even incompatible across different systems.

The hybrid model combines elements of both the centralised and fragmented models. In this model some common foundations are established, including the communications network. This model may also include a common enabling platform and data analytics platform. The network and platform may be developed initially to support an anchor service, such as street lighting, but would be sufficiently flexible to support other smart city services in the future.

“Cities in the Middle East should consider adopting the centralized or hybrid operating model approach to deploy a smart city project, as opposed to a fragmented approach, to minimize CAPEX and OPEX costs,” added Erik Almqvist, Head of Analysys Mason Middle East and Global Head of Performance Improvement. “They should also consider how to maximize the value of data that smart city services create.”

The report outlines four considerations that cities in the Middle East should review when developing smart city projects and deploying associated services, and also suggests that  stakeholders deploy an ‘anchor’ smart city service and develop a set of key learnings before moving onto other projects.


Four Key Considerations in Smart City Planning:

The operating model selected depends on a city’s circumstances

Cities in the Middle East could consider adopting a centralised or hybrid model as opposed to a fragmented approach. Both the centralised and the hybrid models use a common, select number of technology networks and a limited number of platforms to support smart city services. These models help to minimize capital and operating costs.

A limited number of networks that address the needs of multiple services

Many smart city services have similar requirements, such as an ICT network that provides wide-area coverage, delivers high propagation, and only needs to connect to low-cost devices powered by batteries. Cities that are planning their smart city strategy may consider how low-powered, wide-area (LPWA) networks will address their service needs.

Cities should consider how best to support future smart city services

Cities will have to support an increasing range of smart city services, many of which are not yet being commonly deployed as part of smart city projects. The characteristics of future services may differ from services deployed early on in a city’s smart city roadmap. For example, they may require additional privacy and security protection or have higher quality-of-service (QoS) requirements.

To maximize return on investment, harmonize data

Cities in the Middle East may need to consider how to maximize the value of data that smart city services create. Harmonizing data across the value chain is an important step to making data accessible to all market participants — whether that is a government entity, a service developer, or a local business. It is important to use standard formats to support data harmonization, and to allow that information to flow freely across networks, platforms, services and projects.