10 ways to make Dubai a Smart(er) City

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There was a lot of excitement  in Dubai at GITEX last week after His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum outlined his plans to make Dubai a SmartCity.  The Dubai ruler, Vice President and Prime minister of UAE has started a project that aims at improving citizen’s quality of life, develop the economy, but also aims at putting Dubai on the global map when it comes to innovation and technology leadership.

Although no details  about the scope of the project are known, it is clear that it is an attempt to bring together both public institutions as well as private sector companies in order to speed-up the move of Dubai and the UAE into the digital world. The higher committee that has been formed to run this initiative includes both public and private sector officials, with telecom operators Etisalat and du represented among others. It is not clear how much money will be poured into this initiative, but looking at the stakeholders involved we are talking serious business .  There are today three main themes defined under the umbrella project: Smart Life, Smart Economy and Smart tourism.

  • Smart Life focuses on education, health, transport, telecommunication and public utilities….
  • Smart Economy concerns the development of technology companies and jobs as well as port, airport and other business services.
  • Smart Tourism aims to offer visitors efficient visa, aviation, hotels, restaurants and other services.

For this initiative to succeed though it is important  to learn from what is being done elsewhere in the world but also consider learnings from projects like Masdar in Abu Dhabi. The green city project had to revise many of its initial high ambitions, to become the first carbon neutral city, mainly due to cost of implementation. Still I believe it is the right time and the right place to start such an ambitious project.  Having lived in UAE for 6 years now I start getting my own ideas on how such a project could shape up and wanted to share some humble ideas around the main themes.

Smart Life

  1. I believe that traffic management is still one of the areas that has most potential for development. There are so many traffic jams, accidents and frustration spent on the roads that this could be a quick win for the city. Being it support applications to find parking spaces, information about location of infrastructure, real-time traffic information. I think this is one of the smart services citizen would really like to see.  Many cities around the world have started to even open this data to the public in order to stimulate innovation, I really hope Dubai and UAE can do thee same. Less accidents, Less CO2 emissions and less stress on the road are main benefits.  Check my previous article on opendata to read more about this topic.
  2. In order to improve quality of life, I think another important investment area should be around sustainability and greener lifestyle. Here also I am a proponent of environment opendata to stimulate innovation. Dubai and UAE would certainly benefit from measuring and exposing data like air quality, pollution levels as well as water and energy consumption.  Air Conditioning systems are in bad shape in many places here and lack of monitoring some of these environmental parameters could lead to chronic diseases.  To develop a Smart life means being more respectful about the environment, but to create awareness and change behaviors you need more visibility first.
  3. Healthcare is another area for investment. Now, while the quality of doctors here can be high, the administrative part is a nightmare, paperwork left and right, queueing here and there.  Now, this is probably not a quick win, but the move the electronic medical records is probably a big step to take as well as an introduction of remote patient monitoring solutions to deal with chronic diseases.
  4. Education is a tricky area, but I believe SmartCities will be cities capable of harnessing the right mix of local education programs combined with specialized Remote teaching capabilities from world class universities.  With technology the world becomes a smaller place, and that means that we can get access to educational resources that were out of reach before.  Video-conferencing, collaborative means that you can have very similar interactions with the teachers as when you are in the classroom. Another aspect of this development is that education could become a lot cheaper than it is today and hence become more affordable.

Smart Economy

  1. The smart economy is certainly about securing the infrastructure is continuously built-out to facilitate communications, logistics and production. Here I think tele-presence solutions provide an opportunity to facilitate Business-to-Business , Business-to-Government and Government-to-Citizen interactions. Less time spend on the road, waiting or idling will have a positive impact on productivity.
  2. Another aspect of the smart economy it is also about creating leaner administration and moving more jobs to the private sector. More jobs in private sector means also improving support systems for startups.  As I wrote in one of my previous articles cost of living and infrastructure is still to high to want to start a technology business here in UAE.  Maybe government needs to revise visa policies, provide housing support and finance startups to attract technology entrepreneurs.

Smart Tourism

  1. Digital signage could be further developed to promote events and provide tourist information services in strategic places.
  2. Voucher systems like the Dubai Entertainer or other coupon systems, need to be revamped so that you can get coupons in digital format. Just take the example of tourist visiting Dubai, likelyhood of him/her buying the entertainer at 100USD if he stays a few days is very low. Going digital gives you more flexbility in the offering.
  3. Automatic translation services could be used to provide relevant information to tourists.
  4. Now while many search engines are available to check flight availability, it is much more difficult to know restaurant availability. I would really love an application that can search for available restaurants that serve certain types of food.  Again if this type of data is made open and maybe brokered through the operator the applications will be developed.

Do you like some of these ideas? What are you thoughts and what would you like to see?

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M2M & BigData giving life to the Connected Society – Part 1(5) – Healthcare

This post is part of a series of 5 posts that I intend to write on how M2M and Bigdata are made for each other. I will start with covering the benefits in HealthCare industry and then address Automotive, Utilities and Retail. In the final post I will go through some of technology requirements needed to properly address these opportunities.

Exponential growth in device generated data

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This is the start. Connected devices are becoming ubiquitous to out daily lives, whether it is consumer devices like smartphones or smart TV’s, everything else is becoming smart as well, and everything is somehow connected to the global cloud. This applies also to most enterprise equipment.  From smart meters, to smart cars, ehealth devices, everything that benefits from a connection is today getting one.

The data generated by these connected devices is skyrocketing. In its report “The Digital Universe in 2020, IDC, a market analysis firm, predicts the amount of data produced by connected devices will grow to 40,000 exabytes by 2020. M2M is the biggest source of the data that will be generated in the coming years.

Much of the data produced by connected devices will be unstructured and gaining insights from this data will need a different approach than what we get from conventional databases and traditional analytics tools.

Gain insights and act on them or somebody else will…

Gaining actionable insights from the huge amount of data will be a key success factor for any company. With the right insights it will be easier to create value to a specific value chain. And with the right insights at the right point in time, service providers can get closer to their customers, companies can reduce cost, improve efficiency, deliver upon the needs and expectations of their customers. In the long-run better insights means improved competitiveness.

Digitalization has already lead to disruption in current value chains as we have for instance seen it with the music industry. Similarly bigdata will have a huge impact on current value chains. Companies embracing big data opportunities will gain a competitive advantage in the value creation game and will also use that to enter brand new markets. So let’s start to have a look at what these opportunities are and why bigdata is key.

Medical Data from improving healthcare quality to quantified self

Healthcare is probably one of the most interesting areas both due to the amount of data generated as well as the opportunities it creates. From reducing healthcare costs to improving life quality the opportunities are real.

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It is estimated that by 2015 the average hospital will generate about 665TB of data. 80% of this information will be unstructured data in the form of videos, images and emails. The amount of data is huge and untapped.

To put things in perspective a single CT scan represents about 1GB of data, while an X-ray takes about 30MB. Doctors around the world would benefit from instantly accessing patients records, comparing it with other patients.

Soon the analytical tools to mine this data will be there. The opportunities are in predictive medicine and preemptive measures. Predictive medicine will allow earlier and better treatment. Comparing data which is normally contained in different silos, will allow doctors and hospitals to infer new insights and improve the decision process. For instance, people genetically predisposed to certain diseases will get faster diagnosis and more accurate treatment. It will be possible to better asses the risk profile of patients and hence better understand the optimal time to release a patient from the hospital.  According to a Mc Kinsey report up to $70 billion could be saved by otpimizing discharging timings in hospitals. Monitoring different patient behaviors could also help doctors to recommend pre-emptive actions to avoid future illness or complications.

Telco’s are moving into healthcare value

Now with all this data neevideo_264_c_1307533420_rsf_orangeded to better process patient treatments and the increasing connectivity requirements between patients, doctors and hospitals, their is an opportunity for telco’s to play a major role in healthcare.

Orange is probably one of the best examples of how an operator has successfully managed to take a major role in healthcare. They are today providing data centers to doctors and hospitals to instantly share patient records including all imagery, they are working with hospitals to improve efficiency by improving supply management and are optimizing flow of patients by automatically delivering orders to staff and supporting vehicles. Orange is also providing telehealth solutions to improve the interaction and communication with patients.  The next level of value creation for telco’s will be the ability to create additional value through analytics as a service.

Healthcare going over the top…

Now beside the genetic predisposition to certain diseases, the lifestyle and activity a person performs has also a lot to do with how that person’s health develops. So how much information can we actually capture about these habits and behaviors that could really affect our health, and how much of this are we actually sharing with our physician?

Health-Score-OverviewSport brands and Fitness companies are probably among the first that recognized this. From Nike fuelband to fitbit, which boht started measuring fitness activity, there is now a whole range of companies that have gone beyond and have the ambition to become every consumer’s health and fitness partner (see for instance health score application from dacadoo.com on the left).  Sensors, self-testing devices are becoming reasonably priced and people start investing in their own health through technology rather than relying only on the existing healthcare system.

I wouldn’t be surprised if in a few years from now a big part of the healthcare industry goes over the top. As an individual I might be investing in a number of monitoring devices, that will give me real insights on my health and might even give me more accurate diagnosis than my local physician, since I cannot lie to a device.  When connecting all of this information to the cloud, by identifying patterns and similarities between different users, a lot of insight can be collected and recommendations can be given, maybe even for free. If I am a device vendor/sensor vendor, I might just do this to boost sales of devices. This is similar to the approach apple has taken with its ipod and itunes and has that way disrupted much of the music industry.

One example of how such approaches could replace some of today’s approaches is food allergies. Proper allergy tests are still damn expensive but by recording for instance what i eat, how I feel, and comparing that with other patients records and foods databases, I am pretty sure you could infer mild form of allergies and treat them in time and with better quality.

This philosophy or starting to measure everything about yourself and sharing it in exchange of advice is pretty much at the heart of the quantified self movement. Quantified self is an interesting trend since it means that individuals are investing time and money to monitor themselves with the ultimate goal to improve their quality of life.

Finally, medical records, tests made, genetic profile could also be overlaid with earlier mentioned lifestyle related insights: combined with fitness levels, food consumptions, spleeping patterns or even mood or feelings could provide even more insights if analyzed and mined properly.

So in ten years from now who will be your first choice for healthcare?

My best bet is that it will be whoever gives me the best insights on what my health is, gives truly personalized advice and treatments, and interacts with me in a way that conveys both trust and empathy.

With global connectivity and emerging cloud services, this provider does not necessarily need to be local. Global connectivity and cloud means that the cost of providing diagnosis will fall and that might lead to traditional boundaries for healthcare slowly falling.  National and regional Healthcare providers will have to step up to the challenge and probably join forces with Telco’s to stay competitive.  If they don’t then movements like Quantified Self will sooner or later create the “Skype” or “Whatsapp” of the healthcare industry.