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Как в мире сегодня понимают Smart City

14 декабря 2020|

During almost thirty years of the existence of “Smart City” term, a final unambiguous interpretation of it has not been provided yet. Nevertheless, this does not prevent analysts from forecasting the growth of this area on an annual basis. According to Meticulous Research, the global market of smart city solutions will grow at an average rate of 22.9% per year and could reach $545.7 billion by 2027. Analysts at Mordor Intelligence predicted that the global market of smart city solutions will grow to $1.7 trillion by 2025. And according to IDC forecasts, the global spending on smart city initiatives will reach $124 billion in 2020.

ICT.Moscow tried to figure out how a smart city is defined today and what place is given to technology in this concept by discussing these issues with experts from Singapore, Vienna, Helsinki, Taipei, Sydney, Moscow and other cities.

The concept of Smart City before and now

In the strategies of a number of large world megacities, such as Barcelona, ​​Berlin, Vienna, Hong Kong, Dubai, London, Paris, Sydney, Singapore, Stockholm, Taipei, Tokyo the concept of a smart city is interpreted differently, and there is not a single pair of identical phrasing. Moreover, the lack of a common definition reflects the individuality of cities and the peculiarities of their “DNA”. Experts are questioning whether a single definition of a smart city can exist:

With hundreds of various definitions circulating in professional and political discourses it seems questionable to us whether there is one singular terminology that is subject to a revision.

Nikolaus Summer

Senior Expert of Smart City Agency (Vienna)

Sometimes the strategies provide rather abstract definitions of a smart city: Hong Kong is a city “characterized by a strong economy and a high quality of living”, “London is a “responsive” and “cooperative” city”. For Taipei, Smart City is an ecosystem in which government, the industry and citizens can prosper.

Smart City is not just about pushing technology for the sake of digitalisation. We need to translate the use of technology to people’s happiness, people’s jobs, and people’s access to services. Our goals and objectives have to absolutely be grounded by real-world results. 

Mr Tan Chee Hau

Director of Planning and Prioritisation at the Smart Nation and Digital Government Office (SNDGO) (Singapore)

For Moscow, the “smart city” concept has for a long time already been not a theory, but a practice. Without the introduction of modern technological solutions, the management of a multi-million megacity becomes simply impossible. That is why digitalization affects all sectors of the urban economy and the social sphere of Moscow. At the same time, in terms of digitalization, the city is always guided by the “technology is for people” principle: any IT solution that is implemented in the capital should improve the city management, the quality of life and doing business.

Eduard Lysenko

Head of the Department of Information Technologies of Moscow

Representatives of Russian companies that implement smart projects agree that the key element of a smart city is a person and his needs. For instance, Pavel Kondakov, Managing Director of the Center for Strategic Development and Digital Transformation of LANIT-Integration, believes that a smart city is an urban information environment created to improve the quality of life and provide better  personal opportunities for citizens.

A person should be in the center of a “smart city”, and the “smart city” should become an environment for a person, where he can live comfortably and safely. In our opinion, these are two words that define a real smart city. The shortest and most precise definition of Smart City is anthropocentrism.

Andrey Khrulev

Business Development Manager of biometrics division, Speech Technology Center (Moscow)

The plans of building smart cities are now less technology-centric, they are becoming more citizen-centric, or focused on the needs of the citizens. This conclusion can be drawn from a comparison of earlier strategies with documents that have been adopted recently. Previously, cities were focused on the development of ICT infrastructure (deployment of data centers, expansion of the Internet coverage area, etc.), but by the end of the 2010s, technologies were no longer perceived as something separate, and the issue was to integrate digital tools for solving various urban problems for citizens. The current strategies are focused on identifying scenarios for the implementation of technologies to generate definite and measurable benefits for residents.

Smart cities was a convenient label to describe any city that takes advantage of ICT to boost sustainability and liveability for its citizens. Big tech could use this label to push a digitalisation agenda via IoT sensors, big data capture, urban analytics, and activation (smart traffic lights etc.). What we are really talking about is ‘urban futures’ and how this will change for city dwellers as the digitalisation of everything continues apace. 

Mark Burry

Director Smart Cities Research Institute (Australia)

In other words, Smart City is now considered to be more than creating a high-tech urban environment:

A Smart City is a city that can solve citizen’s problems, improve the life quality and build the livable and sustainable environment for its citizens.

Dr. Chen-Yu LEE

Director of Taipei Smart City Project Management Office (Taipei)

Several strategies feature the technologies and technology areas that have been named by the world’s leading consulting agencies as the trends of this year.

The Internet of Things (IoT), artificial intelligence, autonomous vehicles and 5G are among the tech trends that have been highlighted by analysts and were featured in smart city strategies. And cybersecurity, BIM design and big data are among those frequently featured in strategies, but not intersecting with trends mentioned by analysts.

Forum Virium, an innovation unit which is responsible for the Smart City program in Helsinki, believes that the Internet of Things plays a supplementary role and should not be considered the core of a smart city.

In general, technology agenda in most strategies centers around acknowledging the importance of big data: only with its help the concept of a smart city can be implemented. Data collection tools, exchange channels and data processing methods - these issues are covered fragmentarily.

Taking into consideration the key role of IT in building Smart City, specialists note the importance of the participation in the development of smart city strategies of experts who understand the prospects and possibilities of technologies.

All strategies should be defined by an external committee of experts (not only the citizens proposals as many cities do). You need people with long term vision and acknowledge of the technological possibilities to be able to define something similar to a strategy.

Dr. Carlos del Río Bocio

Director Instituto Smart Cities (Navarra)

Digital technologies are creating an entirely new reality in the economy. Labor productivity and efficiency of all processes are increasing and new sectors of the economy are emerging. Fifteen years ago few people could have imagined the value of social networks and e-commerce markets, but today they make a significant contribution to the country’s economy. Moreover, the public sector digitalization, simplification of procedures for approving documents and obtaining permits make the city more attractive for investors.

Eduard Lysenko

Head of the Department of Information Technologies of Moscow

AI City

It cannot be claimed that smart city strategies are becoming less technological. Oppositely, the comparison of the current strategies and their previous and already irrelevant versions showed that in recent years the authors, although they have shifted their focus to solving urban problems and to human-centeredness, have more often turned to technologies. For instance, there are many references to artificial intelligence (AI) in the documents.

The frequency of AI references among the key smart city technologies is gradually increasing: 7 out of 9 mentions of AI in strategies refer to the documents released in 2017 and later. And for the 10 strategies of 2006-2016, including the early versions for some cities, there are only two references to AI:

The AI City concept is gradually coming into common use. Cities are launching initiatives that help understand the power of this technology. Within the framework of the EU-funded AI4Cities project, six European cities (Helsinki, Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Paris, Stavanger and Tallinn) are exploring AI solutions for the environment. Amsterdam and Helsinki launched open AI registers of city systems in September 2020.

The Russian Speech Technology Center company comments that the demand for AI City solutions was predicted a long time ago. The company sees an increase in demand for solutions in the field of intelligent assistants, voice and text robots, contactless biometric systems, multimodal biometrics, speech analytics and digitalisation of all processes using AI.

Today AI has not become the core in any strategy. However, these technologies are not only being more actively introduced by business, but are also becoming more interesting for states - national strategies of AI development, international partnerships in this area are emerging, are approaches to regulating this area are being sought.

At the beginning of the year, the EU presented the an approach to AI development. In September, the United States and the United Kingdom signed a declaration on cooperation in the field of AI, and in October the United States approved a strategy for global leadership in emerging technologies, including AI and neurointerfaces. The United States views China as its main competitor in this area, and China also plans to become the global AI leader by 2030. Russia is also developing national AI initiatives: at the end of August the Concept for the regulation of AI and Robotics was presented.

Therefore, it is fair to assume that one of the drivers for revising strategies in the coming years is going to be the increasing role of AI in processing the collected data and managing the resources and infrastructure of cities.

The AI should be a tool to create 'Smart Cities' if could not be an objective or strategy by itself. Artificial Intelligence should be used to appropriately manage the known data (Machine Learning, Optimizing tools, pattern recognition, etc.), and a huge amount of them (Big Data), to be able to optimize services to improve the life of the citizens of a city, pushing to create a Smarter City.

Dr. Carlos del Río Bocio

Director Instituto Smart Cities (Navarra)

AI-based solutions are implemented in many important sectors in the city. For the citizens, AI has become a common phenomenon. At the end of last year, analysts of the IT department of Moscow government carried out a study that showed that 9 out of 10 Moscow residents have used AI-based services at least once and 93% of residents support the further development of these technologies. Moscow is ready to be a flagship of AI development in Russia, including under the federal law on an experimental legal regime in the field of AI that has been adopted this year.

Eduard Lysenko

Head of the Department of Information Technologies of Moscow

Nevertheless, not all experts who were interviewed agree that AI will take a special place in building smart cities:

AI, along with IoT, 5G and Blockchain etc. are fantastic technologies that definitely can make our city smarter. That would also works if we replace AI to any other name of technologies and to claim a new generation of city is coming 

Dr. Chen-Yu LEE

Director of Taipei Smart City Project Management Office (Taipei)

Lanit, a large Russian integrator, fears that if the Smart City concept is replaced by AI City, it will hinder the development of cities. But here the social factor plays an important role, because it will become more difficult to explain to residents what it is all about.

If the AI ​​City stage is really approaching, then, in my opinion, this is a step that we are taking in the wrong direction. By emphasizing technological effectiveness using this name, we do not bring these technologies closer to people; it is more like we put a barrier for some of the citizens by declaring: “this city is for programmers”. The more invisible a particular technology is to the user, the better.

Pavel Kondakov

Managing Director of the Center for Strategic Development and Digital Transformation of LANIT-Integration (Moscow)

The Moscow IT department experts believe that, taking into consideration the fact that AI technologies are relatively young and more and more cases of their application are constantly emerging, it will take some time to assess the effect of using artificial intelligence in city management.

The implementation of AI in the city is already paying off. For example, the virtual operator of the citywide contact center processes already about half of the calls of citizens, helps to reduce the time for obtaining information and reduces the load on operators. During the pandemic, AI helps CT specialists to analyze images and cope with the increased workload. But the global effect of AI implementation in the urban economy and social sphere will be assessed later, when more AI solutions are implemented in urban projects.

Eduard Lysenko

Head of the Department of Information Technologies of Moscow

How the pandemic affects cities

In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic has become a significant driver for revising the Smart City concept. We can already see how cities are updating the global agenda taking into account this experience. The spread of the virus made almost every country and metropolitan area search for their own ways to cope with the new disease. Experts believe that the pandemic is not only a challenge that must be taken into account in the further development of smart cities, but also a powerful catalyst for the digitalization of many processes.

Local government will hopefully look to embracing ICT further to ensure that the pandemic has accelerated some of the digital capabilities previously eschewed by vested interests (in Australia telemedicine has suddenly become viable whereas previously it was regarded as a no-go area).

Mark Burry

Director Smart Cities Research Institute (Australia)

COVID-19, in a way, has accelerated the digitalisation process as citizens and businesses are forced to adopt digital tools and services to adapt to current situation. The question for the future is whether we, as a Digital Government, are able to continue providing tools and services that people can and will find useful. 

Mr Tan Chee Hau

Director of Planning and Prioritisation at the Smart Nation and Digital Government Office (SNDGO) (Singapore)

The coronavirus pandemic confirmed the importance of digitalization. Due to the implementation of the systemic policy aimed at introducing technologies in all sectors of the urban economy and the social sphere, during the start of the pandemic Moscow had an already formed and well-functioning IT infrastructure. This allowed Moscow to quickly deploy a range of technology solutions, that is still helping the city to contain the spread of COVID-19. And the electronic services and services available to the users of the digital ecosystem of Moscow have given residents and business the opportunity to work comfortably and solve any life problems while staying at home. Thus, the pandemic confirmed that the Moscow digitalization strategy is relevant and became an impetus for the development of new services.

Eduard Lysenko

Head of the Department of Information Technologies of Moscow

With multiple dynamic megatrends constantly challenging us a long term smart city concept cannot be set in stone. On the contrary, cities have to be agile and adaptive to turn into sustainable more livable habitats in the coming years. Having said that, it remains of vital importance to implement strategies consequently and coherently. Being agile does not mean to skip strategies whenever a problem requires adjustments.

Nikolaus Summer

Senior Expert of Smart City Agency (Vienna)

The Department of Information Technologies of Moscow conducts a monitoring of international smart practices on a regular basis. According to the latest report, more than 40 practices out of 192 reviewed projects are somehow related to COVID-19:

  • In Seoul, the authorities have launched a website for citizens to check in during the COVID-19 pandemic. All residents of Seoul, when visiting public places, must check in and show a QR code at the entrance or make an entry in the guest book.
  • New York released a platform for teenagers that provides essential educational and entertainment content during the COVID-19 pandemic. The solution provides access to dozens of free activities: tests and training materials, videos for sports training at home, gaming competitions, etc.
  • Amsterdam has presented an online map to assess the social distancing of citizens. The map shows sidewalks, pedestrian areas and public transport and other places in Amsterdam, and the colors indicate areas where keeping social distance is difficult.
  • An online city tax payment application has been used in Tokyo to reduce the number of visitors and maintain tax collection during the coronavirus pandemic. To pay, a resident needs to scan the barcode on the tax bill.

Request a copy of the monitoring →

Moscow was not included in this monitoring, because the analysts who conducted the study work at the Moscow IT department and that could distort the results. But the most notable Russian cases of using technology to combat the COVID-19 pandemic were shown on the COVID-Tech map (the neologism COVID-Tech is similar to the terms for the other areas of technology development: FinTech, PropTech, EdTech, HR-Tech, etc.). Since April, “Social Monitoring” application has been used to control the spread of coronavirus. In May the world’s largest database of CT scans of lungs of patients with COVID-19 was formed, and later the dataset was opened for third-party developers training. Since October, Moscow, after studying the concept jointly with representatives of industries, has introduced QR codes for visiting nightclubs and cafes.

Most IT companies of the world are also actively adapting and developing the solutions for the treatment of COVID-19 and containing the pandemic. The White&Case report says the coronavirus pandemic, like the epidemics of the past, is creating new intersections between the public and private sectors. And StartupBlink research company has created an interactive “Map of coronavirus innovations” and a ranking of countries and cities - leaders in the field of COVID-Tech.

Thus, we can assume that the COVID-19 pandemic will significantly change many areas of life, but it will be possible to assess the scale of these changes only after the coronavirus is defeated - most likely, not earlier than 2021.

* * *

Experts agree that there is no single definition of a “smart city”. Nevertheless, despite the lack of a common understanding of Smart City in the world, the study of city strategies and practices shows that the concept is actively being developed. Technology continues to play the key role in it, but more attention is given to applying technologies to real-world urban challenges. Thus, a smart city is a city that understands how to implement modern technologies in practice, and is already doing it.

A notable example is AI, to which a lot of attention is paid both in urban regulation and real practice. So, the trend towards the emergence of AI City as a logical development of the Smart City concept in the future is likely to become even more significant.

The significance and relevance of the development of smart cities has also been demonstrated by the COVID-19 pandemic, which the cities have to cope with using technology (AI, Big Data, 5G, Cloud technologies, etc.) and various digital services. Thus, even taking into account the lack of standardized approaches and definitions, Smart City is not an abstract concept, but a part of modern reality, which affects both the development of cities and the quality of life of the citizens.

You can share your opinion and discuss the Smart City topic with Moscow experts by writing to hello@ict.moscow

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