How to build a smart city – who starts the conversation?
Cisco’s Global Service Providers leader and CTO in MEA, Paolo Campoli said, “The success of a smart city deployment depends on the solidity of the ecosystem, be it driven by the service provider with an outsourced system integrator (SI) or an SI with both capabilities.”
But who starts the conversation about building a smart city? He opined, ”Who starts the conversation is the one with the most vested interest to create social inclusion, savings and better quality of life.
In part this also means the most successful smart city deployments are the ones that are ‘sponsored’ by the mayor of the city, or an authority that sits above all the city departments- police, water, waste management.
“It has to be that kind of sponsorship otherwise you end up being ‘smart systems’ rather than ‘smart cities,” said Campoli.
Next steps, needed skills
But once the ball starts rolling, upon whom the onus fall upon to bring all the moving parts together, and ensure everything is aligned and moving forward?
“Who drives the overall project? It really depends. There are the classical consulting houses like Accenture, IBM, large system integrator (SI) companies. There are situations where we are asked as technology vendors to drive at least the smart city infrastructure build out with Ericsson, 3M and the technology consortiums.”
But Campoli also shared there are situations where a prime contractor is assigned by the key investor. “Many smart cities deployments attract external investors and they nominate who is driving integration.”
These could be any one from engineering firms, to service providers to even systems integrator and more.
A service provider perspective
During Cisco’s IoT World Forum in Dubai, telco network vendor Ericsson shared that service providers are in the strongest position to drive deployments because they are often the big trusted company. The Ericsson rep said,”Also, they have high quality network performance which they can guarantee.”
A British Telecom (BT) VP shared their experience with Milton-Keynes, which is often dubbed the fastest growing city in the UK. “
“More than 15 years ago, UK had the ambition to grow the city with least impact on resources at large. So, being the incumbent, BT was brought in to do state-of-the-art connectivity and fibre-to-the-home.”
He also said that it was a revolutionary model of connectivity at that time, but slowly and surely a lot of utilities companies and service providers in the city, came up with smart apps. “BT just availed the infrastructure to them.”
These days, more is expected of them. They are seen to have real opportunity deliver successful smart city implementations with a managed WiFi network, not to mention, a layer to ensure everything is secured, managed with data that can be extracted and analysed.
There is already wide acceptance that sensors, the data it collects and the analytics performed on it, are foundational to roll out of a smart city and its apps.
Another service provider, Ooredoo of Qatar are making things happen with an ecosystem. The rep said, “We do everything with a partner. The smart city vision won’t be realised with only a service provider. Ooredoo builds an ecosystem, because we believe only through an ecosystem will a smart city be realised. And that ecosystem is government, education, as well as private entities that are vendors and system integrators for actual fulfilment.”
The service provider is finding itself needing to also move up the value stack, not content with being just a dumb pipe for others to value add upon.
The Ooredoo general manager for its IT division had said,“It has to do with how you define your role. If you want to move up the value stack, then you have a decision to make – build your own SI capability in-house or go an select an ecosystem of services SI to work with.”
Ooredo had opted to take on more SI capabilities themselves, via acquiring program management knowledge.
Critical requirements and moving up the value stack
Campoli identified the critical capabilities that whoever drives smart city deployments, needs to have.
“There has to be ability to create and drive an alignment of technology players (in the ecosystem), that is crucial to make sure things are implemented in a consistent way across the different vendors.”
For example, for Expo 2015 in Milan which he described as a smart city within a city, the first challenge had been to create a single working steering group which consisted of themselves, Samsung, Telekom Italia and all the different key stakeholders.
There is also a need to go horizontally, in terms of unifying all the data from different verticals on a middleware layer. “We contribute a lot of knowledge so when you create a smart city, the focus is on safety, health, transportation, point-of-sales… you need to have that vertical knowledge of all the different realities in a city.”
Probably most important of all, is ability bring all the above together. “So, you need these and also solid, solid, solid project management,” Campoli emphasised in conclusion.