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Riding with the urban drift

2010. 1 September

How cities can meet the challenges of growing populations
Citizens can use self-diagnostic devices to send information to doctors via the tele presence at their home, as well as check email and use city concierge services.

( With 500 million more people expected to be urbanised over the next five years, today's technological systems could struggle to cope with the increase in demand and usage.

But the answer posited at the Expo 2010 in Shanghai is the theme of Better City, Better Life, an example of smart, connected communities.

Pressure from the increasing rural-urban shift is driving city governors and local governments to plan for more efficient community services, according to Steve Leonard, President, EMC Asia Pacific & Japan, speaking to the press at the Expo's Cisco Pavilion.

One hundred more cities are expected to reach populations of 1 million-plus by 2025, and the world's top 20 metropolises will use 75 percent of the world's energy, so the need to balance social, economic and environmental issues is of paramount concern for governments.

Statistics show that major cities will spend 54 percent of their overall budgets on information technology and communications to help city planners manage facilities and deliver services.

EMC together with Cisco aim by 2020 to have established network-enabled "smart" cities which allow people to connect through networks with intelligent capabilities.

The Smart +Connected Communities (S+CC) initiative can help realise sustainable economic growth, enable environmental sustainability through resource management and operational efficiencies, and enhance quality of life for residents.

Anthony Elvey, Director, World Expo 2010 program at Cisco Systems (China), added that convergence of all kinds of data across a unified IP network will make it possible to develop a wide range of new services.

A city travel station providing route suggestions, mass transportation service schedules such as trains and buses and providing digital coupons for the traveller to drop at the next stop.

The cities and communities that adopt smart and connected solutions stand to benefit in areas ranging from utilities, safety and security, to real estate, transport, healthcare, learning, sports, and government services.

Such cities can integrate different network systems such as security network operations, smart grid monitoring consoles, mass transportation and logistic systems for emergency response.

Par Botes, Chief Technology Officer, EMC Asia Pacific and Japan, said today in China, the government uses sensor data in mass transport combined with weather sensor data to forecast transportation patterns in real time.

This allows mass transport to better prepare for citizen movement patterns and divert resources to where they are needed. For example, when there is rain, or a lack of public taxis, mostly citizens will take an underground train, and the train operator can monitor the density of usage in real time and allocate more carriages where necessary.

Transportation is the first and easiest stage in adopting smart connected communities, but the most important consideration for governments is for a smart grid which delivers electricity from suppliers to consumers using bi-direction digital technology to control appliances at consumers' homes to save energy, reduce costs and increase reliability and transparency.

The technology overlays the electricity distribution grid with information from sensors and smart metering systems.

Consumers have become the biggest energy users, surpassing heavy industry due to the increasing population and variety of home electronic devices. Smart grids can help to shape better usage of energy.

Elvey added that studies show that if consumers adopt energy-use visualisation tools, they may cut back by 10 percent or more, and if this trend can be replicated through the supply chain and ultimately change consumer behavior, there may be savings of 30-40 percent in energy usage.

Botes continued that smart grid could route transit and traffic, and control heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems for greater efficiency.

"This can bring huge amounts of data through the data centres of the utilities operators, and utilities and energy companies will become huge network operators," he explained.

To handle the increase of complex and dynamic information, data centres will have to upgrade to next-generation technology, with physically borderless features bringing together numerous data centers connected to cloud computing.

EMC and Cisco, together with VMware, aim to collaborate in forming a Virtual Computing Environment coalition (VCE) to help achieve pervasive data center virtualisation and a transition to private cloud infrastructures, increasing business agility through IT infrastructure flexibility, and lowering IT, energy and real estate costs.

Vblock combines pre-integrated, validated and certified storage, with Ionix 's data center management software from EMC, network and Unified Computing Systems from Cisco and vSphere virtualisation product from VMware.

"Vblock is the building block of smart connected communities that help the virtualisation of a city's data centres and preparation for private cloud, enabling a variety and flexibility of citizen services through trusted reliable government clouds," said Botes.

"Customers who use private cloud can save costs in the consolidation of infrastructure by at least 40 percent and gain a return on investment within 12-18 months."

He believes within the next three years, video surveillance will be a key driver for governments to adopt security cloud services because currently there is sufficient availability of bandwidth and a reducing cost of cameras.

CCTV is being rolled out more and more in public places and business properties, even covering small shops and individual households.

"Many governments, including China, the UK, Singapore and Thailand, continue to invest in CCTV, which accelerates the needs for private cloud computing," Botes said.

Elvey added that those cities which implement private cloud infrastructure to provide services for their citizens to lead smart connected lives will not only gain better facility management and planning, but will also encourage new opportunities for government monetisation.

For example, if bus transportation systems enable wireless routers and the use of GPS (Global Position System) in their vehicles, citizens will be able to access wireless network services available on board.

This could include marketing information aimed at passengers using mobile phones.

If these users are interested in the marketing message, they could download digital coupons and to redeem when they disembark at a stop where the relevant merchant is located.

This business model can encourage revenue sharing between the public and private sectors.

The government can also set up travel kiosks which provide maps, route suggestion, concierge community services, transport scheduled or other mass transportation services, as well as digital coupons from advertisers, such as shops and restaurants along the route.

In another scenario, imagine if a city government decided to forbid its citizens from owning privates, instead providing rental services on a pay-as-you-go basis. In this model, the government could monitor car usage and most popular routes.

Elvey continued that in order to establish smart connected communities, cities will have to build Service Delivery Platforms (SDPs) which are comprised of borderless networks, enabling communication between anyone, anything and anywhere at any time.

Such collaborative technology enables access to the broadest range of communication media and data centre virtualisation. Such services would be delivered through cloud computing.

Currently, the implementation of these technologies is already being planned in Chinese cities such as Chengdu and Chongqing, as well as in the state of Colorado in the United States and in Songdo, South Korea, where Cisco is helping incorporate networked technology directly in the city infrastructure.

Botes continued that in order to build smart connected communities, governments will have to provide network availability which allows everyone access to the services, and then roll out a variety of services to citizens in multiple locations and harmonise technology compatibility and standards, as well as partnering the public and private sectors to exchange data and services, including brainstorming for regulatory framework.

The establishment of the Asia Cloud Computing Association, which is formed of collaboration among cloud stake holders, is set to accelerate the growth of the cloud market in Asia.

In Thailand, telecom service operators are expected to be the first adopters of private cloud, which is expected to take place this quarter.

Operators are then expected to provide their services to the cloud, such as Infrastructure as a Service, or IaaS, around the beginning of next year.

"At the country level, EMC can be a trusted advisor, but the important thing is all stakeholders, ranging from policy makers and governments, to influencers, academics and businesses, have to set a cloud computing framework and create best practice for security, sharing of private information and mixing of ubiquitous access," said Botes.

"Urbanisation will be a key driver of the adoption of cloud technology to bring smart connected communities, which could possibly happen over the next 10 years, much like we are seeing the dynamic changing of urbanisation economies from many rural areas over the past decade."