We're delighted to bring you insightful blogs written by some of our speakers.


By Phil Beecher, President, Wi-SUN Alliance

Open standards and interoperability are the key to Smart City growth

Smart City applications may still be in their infancy but the Internet of Things (IoT) is a true game changer in terms of the opportunity it presents to unlock operational efficiency and improve quality of life. There is still some way to go before we see widespread adoption of Smart City technology but it’s gathering pace and spearheading the charge are cities including Chicago, Copenhagen and Paris.

Recent research undertaken by the Wi-SUN Alliance to find out what the main challenges are for IT leaders in organisations in smart city and other IoT development sectors in the UK, US, Denmark and Sweden revealed that IoT implementation is happening further and faster than perhaps many would imagine: over half (51%) of those investing have already fully implemented an IoT strategy.

For a city to remain competitive in today’s global marketplace essential citizen services must be reliable, timely and efficient. Consequently, choosing the right communication network technology is a foundational step towards enabling a range of Industrial IoT and Smart City solutions

IoT networks, just like the internet, should be built on a set of standard protocols and structured to provide the flexibility to support this growing range of applications, as well as provide highly resilient connectivity. They must also be fault tolerant while providing the capacity to deal with very large numbers of devices.

Our own independent research also verified this with over half (52 per cent) saying that standardisation is what they’re looking for when evaluating these technologies. Other key criteria included network topology (58%) and communication performance (53%).

It’s heartening to see respondents so advanced in their planning and understanding of networks — with most (53%) favouring a combination of star- and mesh-based networks. 

Mesh-based architecture such as Wi-SUN have been designed with flexibility and adaptability in mind and to maintain highly reliable connectivity even in the most challenging environments. With star based networks, a physical obstruction can cause localised loss of coverage to part of the network that will prevent these systems from operating.

Within a mesh network, any device can connect seamlessly with its peers and can create multiple redundant connection paths across the network. Thus, mesh networks become more reliable and resilient as they grow. If there happens to be a temporary outage, e.g. through power failure, the mesh will automatically re-route network traffic through an alternate connection path. Similarly, if the landscape changes, then the mesh will adapt to ensure continuous connectivity.

A mesh architecture provides greater resilience and flexibility than a star-based technology making it a far better choice for Smart City networks.

The use of open standards is also important in IoT networks as it negates the need to be locked into one vendor and provides yet another advantage for Smart City applications. Solutions built on open standards, supported by a certification program for interoperability, provide the network operator with a choice of vendors, competitive pricing and the confidence of a continuity of supply.

In order to support multi-service networks, it makes sense for a local authority or municipality to use the same communications infrastructure for a wide variety of applications, such as street lighting, traffic management and smart parking, as well as applications as yet unknown.  A single communications infrastructure not only avoids the replication of network equipment but enables new and smart functionality where different applications can interact and share data.

IoT will soon be transforming towns and cities near you with the aim of enhancing the lives of both consumers and organisations alike. There are many unknowns but one thing is certain: those cities which implement their IoT initiatives on an ecosystem using open standards are far more likely to succeed and grow than those who don’t.

www.wi-sun.org

Come and see Phil Beecher at Smart Cities 2018 on the 1st February. Phil will be joining the morning panel session and will be chairing the Infrastructure Session in the afternoon.

 


By Brian Bishop CEO, Data Performance Consultancy Ltd

SOCIAL VALUE, PROCUREMENT AND A SMART CITY VISION

“Smart cities are cities that utilise the Internet and Digital Technology to enhance the quality of life, performance of services and reduce costs by optimizing energy consumption. The focus is on creating a framework with good connectivity and access to real time information for setting up an efficient management system that establishes a relationship between citizens, service providers and administrators. It ensures that citizens actively engage in improving the overall productivity and sustainability of services by equipping cities with basic infrastructure” (Aakash, 2017). Smart Cities market is projected to grow from $386.55 billion in 2014 to $1,386.56 billion in 2020, at a CAGR of 20.48 per cent over the forecast period (Aakash, 2017).

In Summary:

  • The application of a wide range of electronic and digital technologies to communities and cities.
     
  • The use of ICT to transform life and working environments within the region.
     
  • The embedding of such ICTs in government systems.
     
  • The territorialisation of practices that brings ICTs and people together, to enhance the innovation and knowledge that they offer (Aakash, 2017).

The smart city model can focus on a variety of areas: public transport, green spaces, waste collection and social sustainability. London is driving smart innovation in areas such as public transport through working with start-up companies like CityMapper (CityMapper, 2017). Bristol created the Smart Energy City Collaboration to capture, analyse and act on smart energy data for the benefit of people and businesses across the city (Cse, 2017). Manchester has established a “smart quarter” (Triangulum) to pursue the objective of becoming one of the largest knowledge driven low carbon districts in Europe (Triangulum, 2017).

It is important to realise the relevance of the community and therefore not isolate or create “silos of data” as has been the practices over decades of government services. The word “Interoperability” must now be the focus of delivery and this should run through to all services across a region. Through the introduction of a Smart City infrastructure the ability to strategically manage city wide services becomes more sustainable, “Information is a source of learning. But unless it is organized, processed, and available to the right people in a format for decision making, it is a burden, not a benefit.” (Pollard)

By facilitating this you could then deliver any future potential devolution plans. This will also allow for continual improvement strategies and build the world's first true Smart City and the benchmark for all cities to follow. Procurement needs to be the central pillar that you build this around.

ONS (2016) report the public sector spends approximately £268 billion per year, equivalent to 14 per cent of GDP. Taking a strategic approach to government procurement presents the opportunity to support investment in innovation and skills, strengthen UK supply chains, and increase competition – by creating more opportunities for SMEs. This means creating the right conditions to put UK supply chains in the strongest possible position to compete for contracts based on best value for the taxpayer. The public sector can use its demand – particularly when its needs are novel or complex – to drive innovation from industry, stimulating and accelerating the development of new and transformational products and services. The government has committed to raise SMEs’ share of central procurement to one-third and to ensure all major government suppliers sign up to the prompt payment code, promising to pay suppliers, including small businesses, promptly and fairly (Fallon, 2013).

It is DPC’s considered opinion that a smart procurement strategy provides the spine to the whole smart city agenda.

This links all the verticals of service delivery and facilitates the ability to build systems that can provide Commissioners real time analysis of data that can have an impact on the design specification of procurement specifications. It also provides an opportunity to develop a Smart Market Place for a region, which again allows for the development of extensive economic growth on a regional level. If you also add in the opportunity to integrate more social value into those decision’s, your city can deliver the technology needs for a city whilst also creating efficiencies and economic benefit to the region.

Data Performance Consultancy’s vision for a Smart City is not to just look at technology as a solution, there has to be embedded social value components delivered, we believe that these can be delivered using existing resources and through the use of Social impact Investment or Bonds to drive infrastructure requirements and deliver efficiencies that repay the investment and hence the tax payers see improvement whilst not having to see increased rates.

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By Les Pyle, Chief Executive,
Institute for Collaborative Relationships

Collaboration & Risk

The growing importance of Collaborative Working as business discipline is recognised by the publication by ISO Geneva of the International standard for Collaborative Business Relationships in March 2017. The standard, known as ISO 44001 addresses the life cycle for a collaborative approach in an eight step model within the ISO management systems high level structure. The standard is a framework of good practice principles identifying the many issues that need to be considered to establish an effective, sustainable, and mutually beneficial business relationship.

Throughout the standard risk is highlighted at every stage as a "red thread" to guide the process to focus on the unique risk implications that arise when two or more organisations commit to work together for a particular business purpose. The standard sets out what needs to be considered at each stage for those involved in building the business relationship to address each of the issues with appropriate rigour recognising that collaborative working is not an easy option, like so many things in life the outcome is proportionate to the input.

The "Red Thread"

Having established that risk threads its way throughout the ISO 44001 standard it is appropriate to identify how risk is addressed in each of the eight stages of the collaborative life cycle. 

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Stage 1 – Awareness

The initial risk assessment needs to recognise that collaborative approaches introduce alternative ways of working which require alternative approaches to managing risk. Most importantly a joint approach to risk with the partner(s) will be required.

Stage 2 – Knowledge

The success of any venture depends on the business strategy which requires an in-depth risk evaluation to precede action. Development of the business strategy must involve a risk management strategy to identify a profile of the levels of acceptable risk and how to address them.

Stage 3 - Internal Assessment

A collaborative relationship is not just about processes, procedures, systems and contracts but requires internal leadership skills and a collaborative capability. The inherent risks in weak leadership and a lack of collaborative skills need to be recognised and addressed in a Relationship Management Plan.

Stage 4 - Partner Selection

Selecting a business partner goes beyond product, service and contract. It is necessary to establish a clear understanding with potential partners of joint objectives and whatever risks are identified in the relationship. How this process evolves will determine the degree of integration, a major influence on the approach to risk management. Once the partner has been selected the principles agreed should be incorporated into the enhanced Relationship Management Plan.

Stage 5 - Working Together

The most important stage in the development of any business relationship is where the agreement comes together in actual operational execution. This will test all aspects of the joint governance approach through measurement, review and early issue resolution. This is when the outline of an exit strategy is formed. Fundamental to effective delivery is the joint risk management process to build a sustainable / flexible operation where the partners support each others risk.

Stage 6 - Value Creation

The Holy Grail for collaborative working is co-creation - gaining greater value from the relationship than that which brought them together. This frequently arises by a collaborative relationship stimulating innovation. As innovative initiatives come into focus the same rigorous approach to analysing the joint risk involved should be undertaken and reflected in the Relationship Management Plan.

Stage 7 - Staying Together

As business relationships evolve operational performance should build trust where any change will require on-going management to maintain focus to avoid complacency setting in. A potential risk to any long term relationship is a change of key stakeholders where working to the Relationship Management Plan should ensure the process is de-personalised and remains objective.

Stage 8 - Exit Strategy

The life span of any business relationship will vary according to numerous factors and market influences. The exit strategy should enable both parties to disengage effectively and provide continuity whilst the relationship ends. Both parties need to openly address an orderly exit facing up to whatever short term risks are involved. Ideally both parties will retain their integrity over this period which could offer the possibility to consider future joint opportunities.

Summary

Understanding, evaluating and the joint management of risk is fundamental to the success of any collaborative business relationship. 


By George Johnston, Founder, Nitrous

Keeping London Smart

Bristol has become the UK’s leading smart city in the UK, pushing London off the top spot – but it’s not bad news for the capital.

It’s still recognised as a leader in the smart city movement and, with significant investment made into its digital commitments this year, it’s evident that London is not going down without a fight.

This year alone, the Mayor’s Office has set out some bold ambitions, supported by action and investment including:

  • Creating a London Office of Technology and Innovation and a Chief Digital Officer role
     
  • Launching a City DataStore
     
  • Investing in research, activities and partnerships, such as a venture with the Alan Turing Institute to help measure air quality in London
     
  • Completing a Transport for London innovation programme with six early-stage startups
     

All too often, smart cities conjure visions of a world in which everything is digitised. And, by extension, a world where a significant amount of investment is required into infrastructure to allow this – through setting up data collection points in the form of sensors, recording devices and even manual data capture portals.

The mistake lies in thinking that new data is needed when, in fact, there are already huge volumes of data available for exploration. This is why open data projects are often a central tenet of smart city initiatives and are an area that I’m particularly passionate about.

The UK Smart Cities Index shows that competition is heating up in the smart city space nationwide. This is only a good thing.

Collectively, these efforts will help to improve the quality of life for UK citizens and position the country as a global leader. And with more ideas being implemented across the country, the opportunity to share learnings and amplify the best initiatives means that everyone wins.

The Smart Cities UK conference, taking place on 1 February in London, looks to provide a forum for just this. I’ll be speaking there about the power of big data with relation to the advancement of positive social and economic outcomes – and also learning more about what’s happening in data, citizen engagement, infrastructure and more.

With the end of the year in sight, and predictions being made for next year, I firmly believe that 2018 will be a big year for the UK’s smart cities and data. Watch this space.