The creation of technologies to make our cities and everyday lives smarter is a growing reality - not least with emerging 5G broadband technology and the growing applications within the Internet of Things (IoT). But as these smart applications grow, both in their innovation and scope of use, so does the need to build a partnership ecosystem through which we can roll out innovations that are leading to nothing less than a digital transformation.
The figures speak for themselves. A report published by the McKinsey Global Institute suggests that 600 cities contribute 60% of the global GDP, meaning cities are a robust engine for sustainable growth. At least 20 countries are considering smart city construction as part of their national strategies and formulating guidelines on investment priorities, technologies and services.
As of 2016, it is estimated that 75% of countries and local governments are using external data, including real-time and traffic and crime data. In order to ensure privacy and safety, 90% of cities are planning to issue policies on the public and private use of drones and sensors. In large cities, 60% of robots and machine-to-machine communications will be applied to unmanned or semi-automatic vehicles. Much of this is currently government-driven. And Huawei works closely with governments across the globe to realize their smart city visions.
Continuing into 2017, we will see a burgeoning level of smart investment into the public construction sector. Such investments will include smart lighting and intelligent water services, resulting in substantial commercial value. Once again, local governments are taking the helm, investing an estimated 50% of the total in automatic alarm reporting, notification and prediction systems in smart homes.
Bridging the challenges - a unified approach
Suffice to say, there are challenges in creating an efficient and cohesive partnership ecosystem. But through cooperation and collaboration, our industry is innovating an increasing number of ways to overcome them.
At the core of smart applications is data. It follows that only through the smooth sharing and exchange of data can its true potential be unleashed. Currently however, while governments may be driving the digital transformation towards a smart city infrastructure, data is not so freely shared across government agencies and industries. This will serve to hinder the development of smart applications. Addressing this issue, Huawei provides a secure cloud data center based on an open architecture. This helps to integrate and share city information sources, improve government service efficiency and decision-making accuracy. In addition, our Big Data Platform shares historical and real-time city data with all agencies. Big data comprises the large data sets that discover patterns, trends and associations that relate to human behavior and interactions. It is the catalyst for informed decision making. It provides timely, efficient and intelligent information services for residents, enterprises and society as a whole.
Another potential challenge is insufficient IoT coverage, awareness and connectivity. Huawei's wired and wireless broadband networks enable ubiquitous broadband coverage that places services at the public's fingertips. Our Urban IoT network accommodates data services for new industry applications using the most lightweight IoT operating system - LiteOS. This is in addition to a wide range of access gateways, and our cloud data center mentioned earlier.
An example of how the cloud, ubiquitous high-speed broadband and big data combined can work together is as follows. In the e-government sector, service-oriented governments can provide cloud-based online services - such as passport or visa issuing - via websites and mobile applications. Governments can adopt big data technologies to analyze traffic conditions, notifying drivers in real-time and avoiding congestion. They can predict weather changes and even notify citizens of possible meteorological disasters. Such innovations are the way forward in managing cities and better serving their residents.
The partnership ecosystem in practice
Working with our global industry partners in building a better-connected world, we have deployed smart city innovations in more than 100 cities across 40 countries, forming alliances with more than 400 solution partners. We offer open capabilities, enabling Huawei products to be easily integrated and helping our partners to improve their capabilities.
As part of developing our smart city projects, we team up with independent software vendors (ISVs) and system integrators to create innovative solutions for our customers. We also establish OpenLabs in order to develop solutions with our partners. Our aim is to enable developers from any organization to easily make open interfaces and quickly develop integrated smart city applications. Through this spirit of collaboration, we continue to engage in ambitious smart city partnerships and projects.
Aligned with the Dubai Government's own ambitious smart city agenda, in June 2016 Huawei partnered with SamTech to develop a connected-vehicle solution to improve public safety and comfort across all forms of transport, including buses, taxis and heavy goods vehicles. Combining technologies such as cloud computing, big data, the emerging 5G broadband and SDN (software-defined networking), the connected-vehicle solution features safety and security services which include in-vehicle video surveillance, accurate passenger tracking, emergency services communication, real-time vehicle health data analysis and a range of multimedia passenger entertainment services. High-speed internet connectivity will provide access to high-definition in-vehicle video surveillance to monitor driver and passenger status, analyze driver performance, and highlight potential safety issues such as passengers not wearing seatbelts. It will also provide swift connectivity to emergency services in the event of a road collision or accident.
In another smart transportation initiative, in May 2016 Huawei formed a partnership with Intel Corporation to introduce smarter buses and promote the uptake of smart transport within the city. Combining Intel's X86 platform (enabling the storage of huge amounts of memory) with Huawei's IoT gateway, the partnership will deliver smart transportation services which include in-vehicle video surveillance, accurate passenger tracking, emergency services communication, real-time condition data analysis of the vehicle and multimedia passenger entertainment services.
Similarly, Huawei has collaborated with the free zone technology park, Dubai Silicon Oasis Authority (DSOA), to create the region's first smart street solution. Digital signage will display news and information, while CCTV will provide intelligent surveillance. Environmental sensors will monitor outdoor temperature, air quality and humidity, and enable greater energy management and efficiency.
Another smart city application is within retail, where Huawei has recently partnered with Walkbase, a leading retail and venue IoT analytics platform provider. The partnership's crowd analytics and marketing solution will allow venue owners across districts, malls, airports, events halls and other venues to measure crowd flows and densities in real-time. Using wi-fi, the platform anonymously analyses customer behavior to help tenants and venue owners understand the paths visitors take, what they look at, and when they arrive and leave. This data can then be monetized to enhance the visitor experience, offer personalized content to visitors through push notifications and digital signage, or identify overcrowding to help reduce queue-waiting times. Crowd analytics can also measure customer conversion and capture rates.
In November 2016, Huawei formed a strategic alliance with visual communications developer, Four Winds Interactive, to provide a smart signage solution. This allows for the cloud-based management and scalable publishing of high-quality content to any connected device or on-premise digital signage display. It will enable the deployment of interactive and non-interactive content on web pages and mobile devices, as well as the ability to implement a multifaceted, multiplatform visual communication strategy. At the same time, the smart signage will support other verticals such as smart transportation (through in-vehicle advertising and real-time content) smart parking (way finding), smart offices, smart malls and retailers.
To conclude, ICT as a whole is naturally migrating towards more open standards and ecosystems. The smart city ecosystem in particular, is too all-embracing to be completed by a single player. A smart city needs seamless collaboration by players in all domains - a meeting of minds and the joining of different areas of expertise. There can be no doubt that in building the smart cities of the future, the whole will be greater than the sum of its parts.
By Safder Nazir, Regional Vice President, Digital Industries, Huawei Enterprise Business, Middle East