Johannesburg - The smart city is so much more than cool technology thrust into inanimate objects.
It takes the elegance of the Internet of Things and wraps it around the functional challenges that impact cities and communities, using technology to understand what can be done to improve quality of life.
It is the crafting of solutions using legacy and innovative technology that redefines how communities engage with services and infrastructure.
READ: Why SA is lagging behind global smart city developments
“The smart city isn’t about an unrealistic and unattainable goal, it is about bringing smart initiatives to life within the city and deploying them in an intelligent way,” says Edwin Diender, Vice President of the Government and Public Utilities sector at Huawei Enterprise Business Unit.
“It is about combining elements that are already in place like traffic lights or streetlights with technology to create smarter solutions.”
Diender takes the example a step further – imagine if a street light had sensors that could detect movement.
They would stay off if there was no activity, thereby saving power consumption, but they would activate if movement was detected on the street.
For people out at night, the lights add an element of safety to their journey. The lights could also use data to ascertain the direction people are travelling and turn on a series of lights ahead, providing pedestrians with a clear line of sight at night.
The foundation for a smart city however, should be for it to first be a safe city: a street light could also be fitted with a video camera that can detect movement and record.
Every moment captured and stored to safeguard against crime and to help services such as police or firefighters locate an incident at speed.
“The benefits to using technology in these types of smart installations are multiple,” adds Diender.
“Communities are better protected and departments have access to data that can completely change how they operate. For example, if there is a sensor in a tunnel and it detects that it is about to flood, it can activate control room protocols and reduce the impact of the disaster. Stopping people from entering the tunnel or perhaps even preventing the flood in the first place.”
For city operations, the economic value of this level of control is exceptional. Foreign trade and investment, increased opportunity for skills development, job creation and a more economically productive and engaged workforce.
Kenya has already ticked this box and is seeing impressive results, after turning to technology to overcome the challenges that it faced when it came to crime in Nairobi.
“Kenya invested in the Smart City initiative with Huawei,” explains Diender. “The solution consists of a converged command system, an eLTE broadband trunking system, a cross-region and cross-agency video cloud and a Safe City ICT infrastructure. The result? The cities involved have improved their local security significantly – crime has dropped by up to 46% in areas covered by the project.”
In addition to cutting crime, the investment into smart security for the city has allowed for the country to rack up its tourism and economy. Safe cities attract people, and this inspires entrepreneurs.
In turn, this has led to a surge in small companies registering themselves with the government.
“Infrastructure designed to enhance city safety extends beyond the immediate management of a threat, it transforms industry and economy and the growth prospects of a region,” concludes Diender.
“While the talking robot isn’t part of the immediate future, one that secures the community is part of today.”
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