Smart cities: Intel’s IoT chief on how communities can win | Q&A

Smart cities: Intel’s IoT chief on how communities can win | Q&A

Intel sponsored a recently published report that said smart cities will give every person back 125 hours a year. The report then went deeper, showing how particular smart-sector areas, such as mobility, health and public safety, will contribute to that total.

Internet of Business spoke exclusively to Sameer Sharma, general manager (new market development) for IOT Solutions at Intel, to learn more about its smart city findings, and the implications for urban authorities.

Internet of Business: Your recent report Smart Cities – What’s in it for Citizens? says that smart cities can give 125 hours a year back to citizens in terms of reduced delays, more efficient systems, and so on. That’s an interesting way of evaluating the benefits. Why did you use it?

Sameer Shama, Intel

Sameer Sharma: “The notion of smart cities has been at the forefront of city planning for some years now, with disruptive technologies such as IoT, 5G, and AI. There are many benefits that a city and its citizens can accrue by pursuing a deliberate approach to smart deployments.

“However, often the benefits are described in macro terms. Millions of lives saved due to reduced pollution, efficient e-government – leading to more competitive cities that attract talent and garner innovation – and so on. What we set out to do is to personalise the benefits of smart cities, to make the concept more real and more tangible to the individual citizen.

“Working closely with Juniper Research, we looked at the many ways we could help illustrate the benefits at a personal, real level. Freeing up time – especially with our hectic modern lives today – topped the list.”

The report also revealed the top 20 smart cities worldwide. Do these leaders have any lessons for those further down the list?

“There are definitely some common trends that cities across the globe can make use of. At the same time, the precise path to smarter cities has to be hyper-localised, keeping in mind the unique needs of each city – demographics, the current state of infrastructure, cultural nuances, anticipated growth, type of economic activities, and so on.

All of the leading cities are using technology combined with the right policy decisions to benefit citizens. This is at the core of the smart cities movement.

“Some have pursued multiple siloed solutions, while others have a more integrated approach to smart city technology deployments.

“As leaders have emerged in the last few years, innovation has continued in parallel at breakneck pace. Our suggestion is that countries, cities, towns that are not as far along the maturity curve should study the approach that leading cities have taken, but also look to the latest technologies, such as open data platforms, ways to consolidate workloads and solution use cases, to develop even more efficient, more powerful solutions.

“In other words, there is an opportunity for cities that are just starting out on the journey to leapfrog some of the leaders if they choose the right mix of lessons, and apply the latest technologies and best practices.”

The report talked about mobility, healthcare, safety, and productivity. Should a smart city try to mix all of these, or can it major in one area and still deliver 100-plus hours for citizens?

“There is no one way to approach the opportunity. Factors such as the key problems that an individual city faces – pollution, crime, health and so on – play a major role. Availability of funding to pursue either a broad-based approach or a targeted solution is another critical factor. Political will is yet another one.

“What we generally suggest is that it is imperative to have a plan, to get started even if it is with smaller projects, and to move quickly with additional projects and opportunities. Getting to 100-plus hours of time-saving is a journey. The sooner a city gets started, the faster it will get to this goal.

Within the potential areas of time savings, efficient mobility clearly stands out, with potential savings of 70 hours a year.”

How should city leadership prioritise the infrastructure areas to focus on?

“Again, it depends heavily on the problems that the city is looking to tackle. Having said that, we see a few areas as common places to start: data strategy, mobility, security, and the environment – air and water. These can then be translated into the next level of detail.

“Smart parking is a quick route to ROI, generating a revenue stream for the city. Smart lighting also has measurable benefits, with savings in power bills.

“Video surveillance is another area that is really taking off, as cities look to make their streets and public places more secure, thus increasing the ‘liveability’ of the city. But smart traffic management has the largest impact on time savings specifically.”

The cities in your top 20 are all large ones, such as Singapore, London, New York, San Francisco, and Chicago – the top five. What are the prospects for smaller cities? Can they reap similar benefits? And how will they know the time is right?

“The prospects for smaller cities are excellent. They stand to reap all the same benefits that a larger city does, and many small and mid-sized cities are really getting energised. In many cases, they may be able to simplify and speed up the decision-making process. We have reached a tipping point and all the pieces are in place. Get going!”

• See Intel’s report in full Smart Cities – What’s in it for Citizens?

Internet of Business says

As Intel’s original report suggests, smart cities aren’t just about making life better for individual citizens – although Gartner has recently published a report saying that citizen benefit is the be-all and end-all of smart-city programmes. That’s good advice.

However, smart cities are also data conurbations: locations where millions of people may gather and go about their daily lives, creating a mass of real-time data that can be used to redesign services and create a more sustainable future in terms of resources, energy, and more.

Another key learning from the many smart-city reports that Internet of Business has published in recent months is that leadership and political will are critical: the ‘vision thing; is just as important as the enabling technology.

Here are some of our recent smart city reports: