4 Key success factors to build sustainable smartcities

smartcityLiving in an increasingly connected world means also to compete more and more in a global economy. This is true for countries, but also for cities, especially when more and more of the global population is moving into mega-cities.

In the cities of the future efficient usage of resources and competitiveness will be essential for continued growth and possibly even for survival.

The smart city concept is essentially about efficiency of a city. Efficiency based on the intelligent management and integrated ICTs, and active citizen participation. According to the wikipedia definition: “A city can be defined as ‘smart’ when investments in human and social capital and traditional (transport) and modern (ICT) communication infrastructure fuel sustainable economic development and a high quality of life, with a wise management of natural resources, through participatory action and engagement”. The broadness of this definition means though that there can be many different interpretations of when a city starts to become smart. It also means it is difficult to compare cities amongst each other as priorities will differ. The current socio-economic context of city will certainly impact these priorities. The commonality between smart cities is that ICT is used to improve the city’s capabilities to innovate and solve efficiency or capacity related problems.

Direction, Commitment and Alignment

Smart cities are about efficiency but also about increasing the quality of life of its citizens. It is hence essential that local governments define a clear vision on what are the objectives and priorities for the smart city development. For me this is a pre-requisite to start working on a smart city agenda and is a first level of maturity that is needed from the local government and authorities. If I take Dubai as an example this first level of maturity is fulfilled, through the vision that His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum exposed at Gitex last. Focus on Smart Life, Smart Economy and Smart economy are clear indications of where the city wants to head in the next years.  This vision provides though limited value it is not transformed in a public-private sector agenda. Corporates and enterprises need to see profitable business in participating in smart city initiatives. This provides a second level of maturity. Here also I see that Dubai has reached that level of commitment, especially when looking at the objectives of the ministries and authorities in charge of transportation and energy. The third level of maturity will come once the various authorities start to break industry specific silos, and leverage on ICT to improve efficiencies among industries. I believe this third level of maturity is where the highest efficiency benefits can be reached, but this is also the hardest objective to define.

Clear metrics, a strong governance and an open agenda

Vision and objectives is one thing, but investment will only be made if the returns can be clearly measured. And this is where it becomes difficult. There are number of indexes that try to benchmark city performance and improvements but the difficulty lies in finding indicators that provide robust and reliable data. Since data collection is not of the same quality in each industry or country, the result of this type of exercise is not always of academic quality. If seen a least three different index recently measuring the efficiency of  smart city. Ericsson has produced a smart city index which positions smart cities on two axes: one measures the ICT maturity and affordability and another ones measures the impact of this ICT on a triple bottom line which looks at  environmental, social and economical impact. In the Ericsson index more than 80 difference indicators are analyzed and compared. GSMA has a similar index, and also INSEAD regularly publishes an index which looks more at the intellectual output. In any case each city might want to tune the indicators that are relevant to its priorities will competing in the global economy. One of the critics I could have to these indexes is that there are crunching offline data made by academics or consultants, but is not really visible or understandable to citizens in clear and understandable fashion. Since government will often invest tax payer money into this projects, I believe it is crucial also to provide an open agenda to share the progress made and measure indicators that are relevant to the citizens. The proper collection, management and exposure of the relevant city metrics shows and increased maturity in the city’s governance. A great example of such openness and transparency is the London City Dashboard, which shows regular updates on indicators that matter to its citizens. These are indicators like unemployment rates, crime levels or traffic accident levels. This opendata agenda also secures that there is a feedback loop between citizens and authorities

Continued investment in people and ICT infrastructure

In a smart city, it is kind of obvious that the right investments need to be made in ICT. Whether it is for connectivity, communication or cloud, ICT will support continued digitalization of services and development of knowledge economy. Similar the cities need to develop the right skills and attract the right skills to fill any competence gaps the city might have to be able to execute on its plans. This means a strong investment in education, but also adequate immigration policies and simplified processes to start a business.

New infrastructures to enable community involvement

For me the third success factor to create a sustainable smartcity is to create an environment that fosters innovation and is able to channel innovations from the crowds. In a digital economy innovation can come from everywhere and smart cities need to put the right structures in place to capture promising ideas in early stages and allow these to bloom. More and more cities realize the importance in setting up incubators and accelerators to capture these innovations, but we see also new type of creativity place like FabLabs gaining. This is certainly couple to a renaissance in hardware development and prototyping that has been triggered by innovations like the Raspberry PI, Arduino or 3D printing. Smart cities must provide environments to experiment, for people to rally around common causes and develop the next generation of innovations.

What’s your view?

I believe that continuously working on these four dimensions will help to develop sustainable smart cities. My view is certainly a bit simplistic and I acknowledge that but I hear to little about community involvement when reading about smart cities and this is why I wanted to write this short article and get some community feedback. What do you think is needed to build a smart city?

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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.

eHealth

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.