2020 will be the year of making smart cities sustainable (The Business Times)

With half of the people in ASEAN already living in urban areas, governments in the region are increasingly looking to establish smart cities to make cities more livable, and offer new services and economic opportunities. Case in point: 26 cities across ASEAN are currently piloting smart cities projects, as part of the ASEAN Smart Cities Network (ASCN) initiative. Although the specific action plans for each city might differ, we foresee the following trends shaping the future of smart cities in the region. 

5G will help bring more smart city applications to life

5G is fast becoming a reality, with Asia Pacific leading the 5G race in terms of deployment and adoption. South Korea was the first in the world to launch commercial 5G networks last year, followed closely by China, and other countries such as Japan and Australia will do the same this year. Telcos in ASEAN will soon follow suit, with Singapore expected to kickstart 5G deployment in the region this year, followed by Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, and Thailand. As a result, management consulting firm Kearney predicts the number of 5G subscriptions in ASEAN to exceed 200 million in 2025. 

The expansion of 5G technology is one of the keys to smart city development. With its ultra-low latency, high bandwidth network, 5G will allow data gathered by IoT applications to be transmitted in real-time to central monitoring locations or other connected devices in smart cities. Malaysia’s Langkawi, for example, has deployed a smart signal system that uses high-definition videos and AI to identify traffic situations.

The system collects data on traffic patterns – such as the number of vehicles, wait times, drivers’ behavior when the weather changes – from connected traffic lights, and uses machine learning to reduce the waiting time at an intersection and improve traffic congestion. Transmitting high-definition videos from the traffic lights to the control center usually requires large bandwidth. With 5G, the transmission time is significantly reduced, enabling the control center to make real-time decisions for better traffic management.

5G on its own is not a game-changer. However, it will fuel the development and deployment of IoT applications in smart cities, especially those that are unmanned and inherently intolerant of latencies like autonomous cars, traffic safety controls, and smart grids. As IoT applications take off, companies collecting and using data generated from those devices will need to secure it. For this, we believe that as the smart city ecosystem continues to develop, data will be encapsulated with its own secure, intelligent model that dictates where and how it can be used.

The rise of open data will skyrocket the co-creation of smart city solutions

As building a smart city is a major undertaking, smart and sustainable urban development requires a collaborative approach from the government, private sector, consumers, and even between cities globally for it to be successful. This calls for open data platforms, which open up the public data collected from IoT devices in a way that is at once readily accessible and securely controlled. Such platforms do so by being able to support multiple data types and structures (such as telemetry, videos, audio), scale to match growth in data, process and store data, and readily disseminate the resulting intelligence to the relevant connected devices and stakeholders.

Take the case of Singapore, whose Smart Nation rests on an open data ecosystem, for instance. By making data sets gathered by government agencies publicly available and accessible through online portals, it allows residents and businesses to co-create smart city applications that respond to the needs of the people more effectively. To date, more than 40 mobile apps and services have been developed to address resident’s land transport needs based on the data provided by the Land Transport Authority.

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The Business Times

16 March 2020

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