Enabling Smart city services


Leading ICT vendors and their innovative partners will have a significant role in Smart City projects of the present and future

Smart City initiatives in the region have picked up significant momentum, driven by proactive government vision and strategies to enhance the life of citizens.  The large sized projects provide opportunities for ICT vendors and partners to participate and offer their value services.

While more vendors are signifying a move towards creating smart services that can fulfill some partial requirements, a select few vendors have been pioneers and have created not just a vision but a suite of solutions that answers some of the emerging opportunities.

Shadi Salama, Channel Leader – Middle East Theatre, Cisco says, “While the definition of Smart Cities has evolved over the years, the one constant is being ‘smart’ by utilizing ICT and the Internet to address urban challenges. The challenges include job creation, economic growth, environmental sustainability, and social resilience. Given these trends, understanding where we are in the evolution of the Internet is critical to future city-planning processes. At Cisco we are seeing more governments and leaders focusing on digitization for economic growth and citizen services. “

Cisco is one of these vendors who have been among the early movers with its Smart+Connected Digital Platform, a key Cisco network-ready technology which cities can use to, create innovative partnership models that can reduce outlay and risk when initiating and expanding smart city projects.

Shadi adds, “It helps to enable cross-domain, context-rich city asset management scenarios for lighting, parking, citizen engagement, safety, security, etc. It also helps inspire new revenue sources through application and device development, data analytics and modeling, and asset use optimization. What it does is delivers a set of tools and guidelines for creating a smart city framework and an effective solutions portfolio for the city’s priorities, requirements, and budget.”

According to Maan Al-Shakarchi, Head of Networking in Europe, Middle East and Africa, and Asia-Pacific, Avaya says, “Smart cities are about enabling new services to better service your population. This is about making your city safer, offering new services while enabling consumers to use to drive net new revenues or in some cases focused only on providing a better experience to visitors and tourists. If residents feel safe, get best in class services and feel their city is at the forefront of offering new services, they will be happier and they will share their feelings with others and especially on social media. Smart cities are all about delivering on that objective.  It is about providing best in class services, making governments and cities stand out from other destinations around the world.”

Avaya offers the Avaya Smart Digital World, a framework for smart solutions and has made inroads to become a strategic player in the space.

Maan elaborates, “With our Smart City platform, the goal is to provide a consistently good experience for users with a holistic approach to turnkey virtual networks and applications. At Avaya, we have the ability to deliver across various verticals. That makes this the right time for the Avaya Smart Digital World, a framework for smart solutions. It’s all based on a secure and automated foundation with the SDN Fx architecture together with the agility of our Avaya Breeze platform—a perfect environment for productive tinkering.”

He adds, “This combination gives any use-case the power to quickly and easily deliver better experiences and better outcomes for end users—for more efficient and effective patient care, for faster emergency response that saves more lives, for a more engaging and safer learning experience. Ultimately, it will provide a completely different digital experience than what consumers are getting today. Whether it’s for play, work, living, or an emergency situation, the Smart City of the future will attend to citizens’ needs while ensuring their information is secure and providing uptime that means they can use the applications regardless of what is happening around them.”

Collaboration in key projects

Public Private Partnerships (PPP) is a key aspect in enabling smart city services. Governments globally are faced with providing services to their citizens and more often are challenged with finding the appropriate resources to progress these initiatives particularly when it comes to implementing technology advancements and innovations. They are therefore seeking collaboration from the private sector.

Shadi says, “Governments are working with private companies – Public Private Partnerships (PPP) – that enable them to create a strong, sustainable and scalable infrastructure to move towards an effective and robust system. The cooperation enables the provision of services which can be delivered more efficiently and cost effectively. From a long term perspective, PPPs are actively working towards facilitating public services that can be measured, analysed and are more strategy and policy driven. It results in a marked interdependence of both sectors with valuable benefits for each of them.”

The partnerships span across the spectrum of services including, healthcare, education, transportation, etc.  A key example of an effective PPP healthcare programme in the Middle East is the Jordan Healthcare Initiative (JHI) a strategic collaboration between Cisco and the Government of Jordan to improve the efficiency of and access to quality healthcare services for the people of Jordan, particularly those living in rural and underserved areas. The initiative has already resulted in a series of projects where collaboration and communication technologies were strategically used to transform, enhance and deliver specific healthcare across the nation.

The building blocks of a smart city are based around technology infrastructure in various domains that can deliver those different services at the convenience of the citizen user.

“The city of the future is a Smart City, emboldened by technology that folds in government, industry, and consumers. For this to happen, it needs a strong foundation—an infrastructure that can withstand heavy traffic, particularly during times of crisis. Our building blocks for the Smart City are similar: we want to pull together public safety, smart healthcare, smart education, smart retail, and smart banking and make it accessible to citizens. The key to our partnership is that we are so closely aligned to build this next-generation infrastructure foundation to evolve and deliver best-in-class services,” says Mann.

Mann adds that the success of such large scale projects will hinge on greater collaboration between different solution providers as end to end delivery from a single vendor would be certainly impossible.

He says, “Not one vendor can do this on its own which re-enforces the need for an open architecture away from proprietary schemes. The good news is that there are solutions out there; the bad news is that if private and public enterprises  are looking at the same vendors that built their networks 20 years ago proclaiming they can do it all, this approach will fail. My recommendation is for them to open their minds to an open architecture, and yet controlled with accountability from specific technology experts, which will provide pieces to the puzzle; this is clearly very complex and challenging.”

Impact of emerging technologies

As Smart Cities are being fueled by the Internet of Things (IoT), where technology enables governments to help lower costs, improve productivity, increase revenue, and improve citizen benefits for the public and private sector through initiatives such as smart buildings, smart gas and water monitoring, smart parking, and smart waste management.  Today, and in the future, Smart Cities will provide Wi-Fi and fiber optic networks that will fuel millions of sensors embedded in virtually everything. Open architecture apps and technology solutions such as mobility, security, cloud computing, virtualization, collaboration, and video transform interaction with the urban landscape will become mainstream and everyday phenomena. Smart Cities are leading the IoT revolution, enabling governments to help lower costs, improve productivity, increase revenue, and improve citizen experiences through urban services such as smart parking, energy, traffic and waste management.

“Cisco is currently involved in over 90 Smart+Connected City (S+CC) projects worldwide, all of which feature an open-architecture platform that enables Cisco, our partners and customers to create and deploy new smart services and applications. “

Building smart city infrastructure that is ready to scale up with need needs to include IoT solutions. Avaya claims that it introduced SDN Fx to scale, enhance security, deliver best-in-class reliability and provide the best foundation to Smart Cities and IOT/IOE.

Maan says, “Using this technology, we’ve demonstrated nearly 15,000 cameras running over a single converged infrastructure with one protocol, experiencing 500ms or better recovery times. This is the kind of infrastructure shift Smart Cities require to save lives, enhance resident experience, and enable new services the community will benefit from.”

In addition, based on its Fabric technology, Avaya now offers the ability to automate the provisioning, make it very easy for customers to deploy access points, thousands of them across a network. Avaya is also making huge investments in mobile solutions to support its engagement services – be it conferencing solutions, video conferencing solutions, or the two running simultaneously in the same client; and the investment in secure mobile solutions or secure BYOD.

Partner engagement and reskilling

Cisco is helping channel partners take advantage of the growing Smart Cities market by enabling them with new skills through sales and technical training, where partners are able to develop a better understanding of Smart Cities solutions and gain expertise needed to deploy the best IT installations for customers.

Shadi says, “Cisco channel partners most ready to build IoT practices are already building practices around big data and analytics, which are driving business outcomes. We believe that for the Channel to succeed in the business around IoT, it is important that partners and their solutions get more visibility. This can be achieved by enabling to develop a vast array of market leading solutions spanning hardware, software and services, vendors can enable their solution partners to get access to channels where the solutions can be integrated and taken to market to enable differentiation.”

Avaya has a strong channel focus in the region and continues to invest in its partners as part of their go to market strategies.

Maan says, “Our channel is populated with the best-of-breed innovative partners in the region, and we ensure that our global knowledge is combined with their regional expertise when it comes to project delivery. Whether it is with our Government or private sector clients, our partners are very much a part of our solution, and will remain so.”

He elaborates on the opportunity that the SI channel has in terms of working alongside the vendor on such projects.

“The clear opportunity is for innovators. The market is in a situation wherein there is a lot of theories and concepts being spoken about, but there is very little implementation. We have been able to deliver on some key projects that would fall under the Smart Cities umbrella, with system integrators and partners who have been able to upskill and position themselves as partners of choice for the Smart Cities evolution.”

In summary, as more smart city projects get unveiled in the region, innovative solutions that enhance quality of life will be called for and the opportunity will lie with vendors and partners who wrest it. Overall, collaboration more than competition will be the rules of the game when it comes to delivery.