The city of Dubai is about to get a lot smarter this year with the rollout of IoT-based services, such as live traffic updates, energy conservation and parking that will be key components of a smart city project.
The Smart City Project
of the Dubai government, which was announced two years ago, was launched in November of 2016 and its services will go live in 2017. The Smart City Project builds on the considerable digitization of government services in Dubai by integrating them with the Internet of Things (IoT). The project provides an opportunity to marry live data from the IoT with repositories of archival data of the city to generate a whole new category of services.
Carlos Domingo, chief of new business innovation at du, spoke to Telco Transformation about the Smart Dubai Project with Telco Transformation. Domingo is playing a leadership role in services innovation as part of the project.
Domingo has a long history of innovation in the telecom industry, including working as the director of product development and innovation at Telefónica Digital as well as holding the position of CEO of Telefónica R&D.
Telco Transformation: Could you please explain the key strategic aspects of the Smart Dubai project?
Carlos Domingo: At the time the Dubai Government set up a smart city office, it realized that many government services had already been digitized. The citizens had access to discrete applications such as paying electricity bills online. To advance the state-of-art, Dubai’s government decided to change course and build applications on top of a platform that would be able to aggregate inter-related data, such a traffic volumes and corresponding accident rates, that would help to draw insights to improve the quality of governance besides providing another crop of services to citizens.
Secondly, the platform would provide applications developers with the infrastructure and an environment for generating services end-to-end rather than be fragmented by several different operating systems.
Finally, the platform is meant to take advantage of the vast volumes of data generated by the Internet of Things and a host of other smart devices. The platform comes with a data log that catalogs each series of data and defines the rights to access it by third parties. The project then sought a system integrator capable of providing end-to-end execution capabilities and du, in partnership with Hewlett Packard Enterprise , was selected.
TT: You have taken a risky decision to adopt advanced technologies that are still unproven such as blockchain, 5G, and narrowband IoT (NB-IoT). What is the advantage of making this leap instead of a more incremental approach?
CD: We wanted to avoid early obsolescence and chose technologies that would last for five to six years. Second, we wanted a platform that is flexible. Third, we want to use open source software -- OpenStack, Hadoop, etc., to be vendor-agnostic and keep costs under control.
TT: What is the status of implementation of the project and where is headed in the near-term future?
CD: The first instance of the platform has been completed since the end of November, 2016. We are in the process of creating a data storehouse with over 400 sources of data, which we list and open for developers to access from a data portal and to use for applications development or make them accessible to citizens. We expect that this will start to be released to the public by the middle of 2017 with the first set of data sources available. One of the first projects to be tendered for implementation in the platform will be electronic health records.
Securing the platform has been the most important priority for us to evince confidence from suppliers of data. We are reaching out to individual government agencies to find the sources of data we want to use and categorize them to make them accessible. Each of these agencies will enter into a contract that spells out the security, the rights and conditions for usage of data.
TT: You are planning to collect live data from the IoT. How will this mesh with the more static data from government agencies and how do you plan to use it?
CD: One example of live data is traffic information, which will include fluctuation in volumes, clusters of vehicle movements, and crossings at intersections. The government agencies provide the historical data on the trend in accidents, the cause of the accident and their time and location. When correlated with the live traffic data, it will be possible to predict accidents and preempt them by taking appropriate action in anticipation.
Another focus is energy conservation -- Dubai Electricity plans to reduce energy consumption by 30%. IoT data will help in managing smart lighting. Based on data of usage levels and corresponding human activity, lights will be alight only when needed instead of keeping them on for a fixed number of hours.
TT: How do the citizens of Dubai access smart city services? There was a plan to create personal dashboards for this purpose. Is that still part of the plan?
CD: Smart city services will be available to ordinary citizens of Dubai from an application called "Dubai Now," which aggregates all such services. Currently, many digitized services of the government are available as standalone apps -- there is an app for each of them. For instance, there is an app where you can pay speeding tickets, complete with a picture of the license plate of the car, that are displayed on a smartphone screen with the option to pay the fine online. In the future, after integration of data sources is completed, all related government services will be available from a single menu option.
TT: How will the integration of data from the IoT help an average person in Dubai?
CD: To take an example, residents of Dubai can pay parking fees online. When data from the IoT is included, they will be able to locate the closest spot for parking in real-time and pay the charge when they park.
TT: Blockchain is playing a significant role in the design of the Smart Dubai platform. How does it help in expanding the range of smart city services?
CD: Blockchain is helpful when security is an overriding concern in government services. For example, a great deal of verification happens when a person enters Dubai from another country ranging from visa verification to checking on eligibility for utility services or the means to pay rent. The involvement of multiple government agencies leads to an arduous process to complete the paperwork. Blockchain’s ledger of transactions will help simplify the process with its automatic security checks and distributed ledger that allows for easy inter agency document exchange.
TT: The value of smart cities applications will depend a great deal on how extensive the IoT network is. Could you brief us on how you plan to invest in IoT networks?
CD: We are investing in the NB-IoT network for the future. In the past, we invested in LoRA, which was then available before the NB-IoT standard was ready. The NB-IoT network is built on top of our existing network but uses a different spectrum so it will help to carry more traffic and support more use cases.
— Kishore Jethanandani, Contributing Writer, Telco Transformation