What is the smart city, and why is cloud storage key?

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David Friend, a specialist in cloud storage elaborates on What is the smart city, and why is cloud storage key?

Smart cities will demand a new paradigm for storage

(The image above is of Jamesteohart / Shutterstock)

Today, analytics, artificial intelligence (AI), and machine learning (ML) have become big business. Throughout the 2020s, Harvard Business Review[1] estimates that these technologies will add $13 trillion to the global economy, impacting virtually every sector in the process.

One of the biggest drivers of the value-add provided by AI/ML will come from smart cities: cities that leverage enhancements in such technologies to deliver improved services for citizens. Smart cities promise to provide data-driven decisions for essential public services like sanitation, transportation, and communications. In this way, they can help improve the quality of life for both the general public and public sector employees, while also reducing environmental footprints and providing more efficient and more cost-effective public services.

Whether it be improved traffic flow, better waste collection practices, video surveillance, or maintenance schedules for infrastructure – the smart city represents a cleaner, safer, and more affordable future for our urban centers. But realizing these benefits will require us to redefine our approach towards networking, data storage, and the systems underpinning and connecting both. To capitalize on the smart city paradigm, we’ll need to adopt a new and dynamic approach to computing and storage.

Providing bottomless storage for the urban environment

In practice, the smart city will require the use of vast arrays of interconnected devices, whether it be sensors, networked vehicles, and machinery for service delivery. These will all generate an ever-growing quantity and variety of data that must be processed and stored, and made accessible to the rest of the smart city’s network for both ongoing tasks and city-wide analytics. While a smart city may not need access to all the relevant data at once, there’s always the possibility of historic data needing to be accessed on recall to help train and calibrate ML models or perform detailed analytics.

All of this means that a more traditional system architecture that processes data through a central enterprise data center – whether it be on-premise or cloud – can’t meet the scaling or performance requirements of the smart city.

This is because, given its geographic removal from the places where data is generated and used, a centralized store can’t be counted on to provide the rapid and reliable service that’s needed for smart city analytics or delivery. Ultimately, the smart city will demand a decentralized approach to data storage. Such a decentralized approach will enable data from devices, sensors, and applications that serve the smart city to be analyzed and processed locally before being transferred to an enterprise data center or the cloud, reducing latency and response times.

To achieve the cost-effectiveness needed when operating at the scale of data variety and volume expected of a smart city, they’ll need access to “bottomless clouds”: storage arrangements where prices per terabyte are so low that development and IT teams won’t need to worry about the costs of provisioning for smart city infrastructure. This gives teams the ability to store all the data they need without the stress of draining their budget, or having to arbitrarily reduce the data pool they’ll be able to draw from for smart city applications or analytics.

Freeing up resources for the smart city with IaaS

Infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) is based around a simple principle: users should only pay for the resources they actually use. When it comes to computing and storage resources, this is going to be essential to economically deliver on the vision of the smart city, given the ever-expanding need for provisioning while also keeping down costs within the public sector.

For the smart city in particular, IaaS offers managed, on-demand, and secure edge computing and storage services. IaaS will furnish cities with the components needed to deliver on their vision – whether it be storage, virtualization environments, or network structures. Through being able to scale up provisioning based on current demand while also removing the procurement and administrative burden of handling the actual hardware to a specialist third party, smart cities can benefit from economies of scale that have underpinned much of the cloud computing revolution over the past decade.

In fact, IaaS may be the only way to go, when it comes to ensuring that the data of the smart city is stored and delivered in a reliable way. While handling infrastructure in-house may be tempting from a security perspective, market competition between IaaS providers incentivizes better service provision from all angles, whether customer experience, reliability and redundancy, or the latest standards in security.

Delivering the smart city is a 21st century necessity

The world’s top cities are already transforming to keep up with ever-expanding populations and in turn their ever-expanding needs. Before we know it, various sectors of urban life will have to be connected through intelligent technology to optimize the use of shared resources – not because we want to, but because we need to.

Whether it be a question of social justice, fiscal prudence, or environmental conscience, intelligently allocating and using the resources of the city is the big question facing our urban centers in this century. But the smart city can only be delivered through a smart approach to data handling and storage. Optimizing a city’s cloud infrastructure and guaranteeing cost-effective and quality provisioning through IaaS will be essential to delivering on the promise of the smart city, and thus meet some of our time’ most pressing challenges.

David Friend is the co-founder and CEO of Wasabi Technologies, a revolutionary cloud storage company. David’s first company, ARP Instruments developed synthesizers used by Stevie Wonder, David Bowie, Led Zeppelin and even helped Steven Spielberg communicate with aliens providing that legendary five-note communication in Close Encounters of the ThirdKind. Friend founded or co-founded five other companies: Computer Pictures Corporation – an early player in computer graphics, Pilot Software – a company that pioneered multidimensional databases for crunching large amounts of customer data, Faxnet – which became the world’s largest provider of fax-to-email services, Sonexis – a VoIP conferencing company, and immediately prior to Wasabi, what is now one of the world’s leading cloud backup companies, Carbonite. David is a respected philanthropist and is on the board of Berklee College of Music, where there is a concert hall named in his honor, serves as president of the board of Boston Baroque, an orchestra and chorus that has received 7 Grammy nominations. An avid mineral and gem collector he donated Friend Gem and Mineral Hall at the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History. David graduated from Yale and attended the Princeton University Graduate School of Engineering where he was a David Sarnoff Fellow.

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Dubai, Doha and Riyadh among top 5 in MENA ranking

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In the MENA region through the years, wealth has always been absent and this for millennia especially in the Gulf area. Nowadays, images of gold buildings, fantastic motorways, and all the most expensive things in life have become commonly known and used.
In the Gulf, however, one thing comes to most people’s minds first. It is oil. Dubai, Doha and Riyadh are among the top 5 in MENA ranking would not be a surprise since this region rich with its rich oil reserves and supply of that oil is one reason and a good one for those cities in this area have earned a spot on the list of the world’s wealthiest nations.
Now turning that wealth into smart cities could be considered to be some achievement.

The above image is for illustration and is of Doha, Qatar.

Dubai, Doha and Riyadh among top 5 in MENA ranking

Rudolph Lohmeyer and Antoine Nasr

Dubai continues to lead the region in Kearney’s Global Cities report climbing four places in the global ranking, while Doha experienced the most dramatic jump globally, placing it third regionally, while Riyadh ranks fifth in Mena.

Riyadh also leads in Human Capital dimension in the GCC, highlighting its ongoing efforts in attracting international talent and large foreign-born population, according to the 11th edition of the report, which offers key insights into how Covid-19 and the resulting pandemic containment measures have impacted the level of global engagement of 156 cities around the world.

Comprising of Global Cities Index (GCI) and Global Cities Outlook (GCO), the report measures how globally engaged cities are across five dimensions: business activity, human capital, information exchange, cultural experience, and political engagement as part of the GCI. GCO, which is a forward-looking evaluation based on 13 indicators, assesses how the same cities are creating conditions for their future status as global hubs.

Global Cities Index

Dubai retains its top spot in the Index for the region, and is also ranked fourth globally in Cultural Experience, reflecting the city’s relatively early reopening to international travellers, bolstered by strict testing requirements, a rapid rollout of vaccines and Bluetooth-enabled contact tracing.

Doha saw the largest jump of any city on this year’s Global Cities Index, rising 15 places following the restoration of diplomatic relations between Qatar and its neighbouring countries, highlighting the importance of fostering regional relationships in addition to global ones.

Cairo ranked fourth in the Mena region, followed by Riyadh. Saudi Arabia’s capital city leads in Human Capital in the GCC, where its strengths in attracting international talent and large foreign-born population contribute to the strong showing. This is in line with the country’s increased emphasis on strengthening citizens’ capabilities to compete globally, in support of the realization of several strategic objectives set out in the Saudi Vision 2030.

Overall, 21 cities in the Mena region rose six or more positions in the GCI ranking compared to last year. Istanbul climbed seven spots, with the city’s efforts to become a global travel hub proving their worth. Addis Ababa moved up eight places, propelled by Ethiopia’s development investments that have supported rapid economic growth.

Global Cities Outlook

In terms of outlook, Abu Dhabi ranks fourth globally, a testament to the city’s continued focus on providing accessible, high-quality healthcare and a commitment to reducing its environmental impact, which is core to the personal well-being dimension. Dubai and Abu Dhabi co-lead in the outlook for infrastructure, an illustration of the UAE’s commitment to a future of sustainable and resilient economic growth.

Antoine Nasr, Partner, Government Practice Leader, Kearney Middle East, said: “In Mena, GCC economies, particularly the UAE and Saudi Arabia, are poised to lead regional recovery supported by accelerated efforts of their governments across the five main dimensions of the report. What’s also noteworthy is Doha has recorded the biggest gain globally for any city, a result of the compounded benefits of their strengthened economy and the newly restored regional ties. This reflects the importance of a balance between self-sufficiency and global connectivity.”

Five strategic imperatives for city leaders

The report highlights five strategic imperatives for city leaders along with a range of ways in which cities around the world can address the challenges they share:

•    Win in the competition for global talent: with human capital as the driving force behind economic activity, cities that adapt to the new priorities of prospective residents, with a renewed emphasis on urban livability and economic opportunity, will be those that emerge on top
•    Embrace the rapidly growing digital economy: while it threatens to contribute to an emptying of cities and relocation of business headquarters, cities that harness the benefits of the global digital economy to drive differentiated competitive advantage will accelerate economic growth
•    Ensure economic resilience by balancing global and local resources: with the fragility of the global trade system exposed during the early months of the pandemic, cities that recalibrate and balance relationships at global, regional, and local levels will be most resilient to future disruptions
•    Adapt in the face of climate change: as climate change accelerates, and in the absence of unified global leadership on the topic, cities must lead the way in driving toward sustainability around the world
•    Invest in individual and community well-being: in recovering from the collective scars of the pandemic, cities that focus their investments on advancing the well-being of their populations will be those that create an environment in which innovation can thrive

“Though they were initially hit hardest by Covid-19, our 2021 report shows that the leading global cities have once again proven their resilience and adaptive capacity. Their broad diversity of strengths positioned them for a quicker rebound that, with leadership focus and clarity of direction, can transition into leadership of a long-term, global recovery,” concluded Rudolph Lohmeyer, Partner, National Transformations Institute, Kearney Middle East.

– TradeArabia News Service

“New Normal” brings Digital Transformation in the Built Environment

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Construction Week of September 8, 2021, shows us how the “new normal” brings digital transformation in the built environment in an article by Mina Vucic. It is no more than a step however small but lucrative and most importantly in the right direction. Here is how it is.

How the “new normal” brings digital transformation in the built environmentan article

Asite speaks on changing the ways in which cities operate by “using technology to enhance collaboration through data sharing”.

Middle East cities have been leading the way in smart city development, acting as pioneers in implementing innovative, sustainable, and integrated solutions to become greener, more efficient, and better places to live. 

Disruption and innovation have changed the way specialists think and operate across sectors, particularly in the past year as the COVID-19 pandemic has pushed most industries out of their comfort zone and into digitally-enabled environments.

Nathan Doughty, CEO of Asite Solutions, commented on the topic at the BIM Middle East 2021 Conference & Expo, held on 6 and 7 September at the Crowne Plaza Dubai hotel.

Doughty said that in order to effectively drive the digital transformation of cities, the industry should focus on enhancing the precision of structural data.

He added: “The number one method we should be prioritising in order to achieve our goals at corporate, governmental, and global levels is using technology to enhance collaboration through data sharing.”

Some of the examples Doughty shared in the real world include COVID-19 track and trace systems, satellite-based navigation, social media in smart cities, artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, and most importantly off-site construction and BIM.

Placing his focus on the modern construction methods Doughty emphasised: “In order to retrofit and repurpose the assets we must focus on creating energy-efficient buildings, decarbonise the built environment, and improve digital infrastructure’s operational efficiency.”

According to Asite’s CEO, one of the key methods to achieve those goals is to drive the circular economy, designing out pollution, keeping materials in use, and regenerating natural systems.

Doughty added: “We must emphasise the use of digital technologies on smart buildings, embedding sensors, gathering data, and analysing the information received to make informed decisions.”

Although the pandemic has challenged the traditional methods of construction, many organisations are now adopting BIM in the industry, providing a platform of know-how that can be built on for future technologies and more sustainable cities.

AI used to examine construction following earthquakes

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SmartCitiesWorld News team informs that AI is used to examine construction following earthquakes in its vital assessment concerning quality, safety and potential risks in its future usage.

The picture above is about how an App helps engineers identify structural issues. Photo courtesy: Build Change

AI used to examine construction following earthquakes

An open-source project hosted by the Linux Foundation with support from IBM and Call for Code will use machine learning to help inform quality assurance for construction in emerging nations.

A new open source machine learning tool has been developed to help inform quality assurance for construction in emerging nations.

Build Change, with support from IBM as part of the Call for Code initiative, created the Intelligent Supervision Assistant for Construction (ISAC-SIMO) tool to feedback on specific construction elements such as masonry walls and reinforced concrete columns.

Structural issues

The aim is to help engineers identify structural issues in masonry walls or concrete columns, especially in areas affected by disasters.

Users can choose a building element check and upload a photo from the site to receive a quick assessment.

“ISAC-SIMO has amazing potential to radically improve construction quality and ensure that homes are built or strengthened to a resilient standard, especially in areas affected by earthquakes, windstorms, and climate change,” said Dr Elizabeth Hausler, founder and CEO of Build Change.

“We’ve created a foundation from which the open source community can develop and contribute different models to enable this tool to reach its full potential. The Linux Foundation, building on the support of IBM over these past three years, will help us build this community.”

The ISAC-SIMO project, hosted by the Linux Foundation, was imagined as a solution to help bridge gaps in technical knowledge that were apparent in the field. It packages important construction quality assurance checks into a mobile app.

“ISAC-SIMO has amazing potential to radically improve construction quality and ensure that homes are built or strengthened to a resilient standard, especially in areas affected by earthquakes, windstorms, and climate change”

The app ensures that workmanship issues can be more easily identified by anyone with a phone, instead of solely relying on technical staff. It does this by comparing user-uploaded images against trained models to assess whether the work done is broadly acceptable (go) or not (no go) along with a specific score.

Workmanship issues can be identified by anyone with a phone. Photo courtesy: Build Change

“Due to the pandemic, the project deliverables and target audience have evolved. Rather than sharing information and workflows between separate users within the app, the app has pivoted to provide tools for each user to perform their own checks based on their role and location,” added Daniel Krook, IBM chief technology officer for the Call for Code initiative.

“This has led to a general framework that is well-suited for plugging in models from the open source community, beyond Build Change’s original use case.”

Construction elements

According to Build Change, the project encourages new users to contribute and to deploy the software in new environments around the world. Priorities for short term updates include improvements in user interface, contributions to the image dataset for different construction elements, and support to automatically detect if the perspective of an image is flawed.

Build Change seeks to help save lives in earthquakes and windstorms. Its mission is to prevent housing loss caused by disasters by transforming the systems that regulate, finance, build, and improve houses around the world.

What are the Major Challenges that Smart Cities face?

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Press Release in answer to the question such as ‘What are the Major Challenges that Smart Cities face?’ elaborated on by TechJuice gives us a good idea of what to expect in the future of all urban settlements throughout the world.

Smart cities are mushrooming across the globe. Countries are making use of technology, the defining factor of smart cities –  to make gains in sectors of health, education, mobility, energy use and urban governance. While it is heralded as a game-changer by various stakeholders primarily due to its revolutionary working mechanisms, it has also received its fair share of criticism. Researchers claim that unequal access to technology coupled with unequal opportunities will create disparities, leading to social stratification. Nonetheless, the digitalisation of societies remains an undisputed truth. Yet, in order to reap the full benefits of technology and the subsequent adoption of smart cities, their challenges need to be discussed. 

The challenges faced by smart cities are manifold, and their problems are multidimensional.  Graana.com identifies the difficulties faced and provides an analysis of its barriers. 

  • Assimilation of Knowledge 

The main ingredient of smart cities is the use of technology. The assimilation of this knowledge for citizens will be a prominent challenge faced in the new dynamics of a smart city. The greatest threat to the citizens is the question of privacy and the quality of life where data related to the households and private information is concerned. 

The introduction of technology in everyday life can be bliss as well as a curse. There is a chance that technological advancements will replace the work done by human resources causing unemployment and fragmentation of the social fabric. Moreover, it can further contribute to poverty and inequality. There are also chances that it will cause social stratification where people in urban and rural areas will be affected and marginalized differently. This will further contribute to inequality. In addition, the introduction of technology will severely impact the ageing population that is not receptive to new advancements. Their training will be time-consuming and cumbersome.

  • Provision of Services 

The method of services provided will be a new area of concern. The employment of technological modifications is largely left to two channels: top-down or bottom-up. The top-down approach suggests that the implementation of sustainable mechanisms in smart cities are left to the large companies that have the resources and the technical know-how to successfully implement the assessments. The downside of this approach is that these top-down giants amass the power to act as monopolies which ultimately acts as a deterrent to creativity. 

The bottom-up approach is the other viable solution. The approach suggests that the government makes use of small-scale technological hubs and other grassroots initiatives. The rationale behind this approach is that the grassroots have immense potential that can be untapped to enhance creativity and free-thinking. This will allow for creative solutions on multiple fronts. However, the weakness of this line of action is that the fragmented initiatives will be difficult to monitor and a cohesive action plan will be demanding to achieve. This will compel the government to take the center stage and resolve issues, if and when they arise. 

  • Infrastructure Development 

The development of infrastructure is the backbone of the economy in today’s society. Developed infrastructure automatically translates into the wellbeing of its citizens. For the development of smart cities, it is imperative to develop the requisite infrastructure to sustain the developmental projects. However, most developed cities are already ensnared in challenges related to population growth and old infrastructure. The condition in some cities is abysmal. There is an absence of proper sewage systems, inadequate housing facilities and an underdeveloped road network. 

With a move towards making cities more efficient and ‘smart’, there will be a need to develop the already underdeveloped infrastructure. The resources available to do that are already scarce, and the bureaucratic protocols to get approval are tedious. If approved, new technological devices are not welcomed by the people with open arms. It takes time for people to get accustomed to changes. 

  • Strategic Assessment

Since the concept of smart cities is a relatively new one, it is incumbent to conduct a strategic assessment of the steps undertaken to make cities more technologically advanced. For this purpose, assistance will be required to identify the problems faced and then develop and implement the best practices and methods to address the issues. It helps analyse the mistakes taken in the past and provide an opportunity to rectify them for the future. Moreover, it will aid in the assessment of the proposed solutions in order to check their viability. 

It should be borne in mind that while developing the indicators for the usage during these strategic assessments, special attention should be paid to the indicators that will measure their effectiveness. It will ultimately give shape or define the characteristics or key features of a smart city. Furthermore, attention should be given to differing interests and ways should be formed to mitigate conflicts. For example, these conflicts may arise between sustainability factors such as the conflict between food production and biofuel or within sustainability factors such as a conflict between biodiversity and biofuel production.