Without smart transport networks, smart cities’ potential will not be realised

24 July 2020 - Cities need to implement intelligent road management solutions in order to support citizens and businesses, writes Huawei’s Hong-Eng Koh.

24 July 2020 - Technology may continue to transform our lives but the humble road will remain the veins of our cities. Roads have fuelled human ingenuity for centuries and are as critical today as they were hundreds of years ago. No matter how smart a city may be, all aspects of it will grind to a halt with an inefficient road network. Residents can lose several days of productivity each year thanks to congestion– whether in fast-growing cities in Asia such as Jakarta or Bangkok, Latin America such as Bogota or Rio de Janeiro, or European cities ill-suited to cars like Paris or Rome.

Solving these issues is not simple, even with the advent of smart city technology. Collecting data from a digital road traffic network is difficult. The sheer volume of (literally) moving parts produces huge amounts of data, straining both software and hardware. And there is a variety of issues to solve, from directing the flow efficiently through a city and reducing the number of crashes to clamping down on traffic violations.

At Huawei, a three-pronged approach to traffic management ensures the smoother running of a city; Sharp Eyes detecting issues, a Powerful Brain analysing data, and Simplified Operations and Management ensuring the smooth running of a road network. Our Intelligent Management Solution unifies these and is being successfully deployed in many cities globally, including Yanbu, Lahore and Cote D’Ivoire.

Pinpointing traffic violations

Our Sharp Eyes system can turn every junction into a checkpoint monitoring traffic movement and violation. Software-defined cameras supporting more than 20 algorithms pick up traffic violations from occupying emergency lanes to running red lights.

Its recognition accuracy rates are more than 95 per cent, accident detection in eight seconds, and can monitor up to 200 metres in all-weather and low and bright light conditions. Twenty TOPS computing power optimises image quality where necessary.

Even as a standalone system, Sharp Eyes can help a city enforce traffic law by monitoring and reviewing potential violations and processing penalties where necessary.

Intelligent analysis delivering vehicle check and control

Our Powerful Brain functionality uses big data analytics to find vehicles of interest, querying up to hundreds of millions of data records to find the necessary information within seconds. Users can access more than 100 algorithms through the service’s Multi-Algorithm Warehouse, opening the door to ever more sophisticated solutions.

It can serve as a safety net for the police, by offering secondary image analysis to provide back-end monitoring of violations. This means police can monitor more kinds of crime, make combating and preventing vehicle-related crime more efficient.

Its functionality also extends into traffic management, with the software able to sense traffic in all locations at any time. The sophistication and minimal latencies of the solution means cities can be swiftly made aware of potential congestion and control traffic lights to smooth bottlenecks of vehicles.

Managing traffic through simplified operations

The data collecting and processing features sit within an integrated design allowing flexible deployment. It runs on Huawei’s own PowerCube 500 technology, which requires no on-site cabling.

Huawei’s eSight operations and management technology allows cities to manage more than 200,000 devices while an intelligent site planning tool helps to improve deployment efficiency by 30 per cent.

Smoother running cities mean smarter cities

Lahore has been the most widespread deployment of Huawei’s Intelligent Management Solution to date and the technology has swiftly had an impact on the Pakistani city’s road network. The city’s transport network has been under strain thanks to mass migration in the wake of booming economic growth. Roads were a chaotic mix of cars, motorcycles, buses, and carriages.

More than 800 onboard cameras, 130 portable tripod-mounted cameras, 80 automatic number plate recognition sites, 270 license plate recognition cameras, 110 e-police sites, 900 e-police cameras, 130 traffic light sites, and 300 traffic flow sensors were rolled out across the city.

Huawei’s system quickly got to grips with the city’s traffic problems, recording more than 60 million violations since deployment in 2017. In the first two months, more than 130,000 electronic tickets were issued to offending road users. The infrastructure also helped reduce red light violations by two thirds and traffic accidents by 83 per cent, with a corresponding relaxation of congestion across the city.

Another successful deployment was in Cote d’Ivoire, where Huawei worked with partners to deploy a traffic management network across the city of Abidjan. This comprised more than 10 traffic guidance screens, six e-Police cameras, over 20 licence plate recognition cameras and more than 10 automatic number plate recognition systems. This network gives a flexible and comprehensive picture of traffic movements across the city and has had a demonstrable effect on reducing violations and improving efficiency.

Meanwhile in the Saudi city of Yanbu, traffic violations fell by 60 per cent after more than 250 high definition cameras were installed alongside e-Police facilities at 16 major junctions.

Living smart, moving smart

Roads have underpinned trade, investment and our societies for centuries and have been robust enough to bear the effects of innovation in how we travel. Population growth and the lure of cities have meant road networks are ever more vital to a healthy society.

However, this requires flexible, secure and intelligent infrastructure to ensure the safe and efficient flow of people and vehicles. It also needs to be robust enough to absorb any unexpected change. Covid-19 has demonstrated how travel networks need to be able to adapt sharply to any event.

Huawei’s Intelligent Traffic Management solution makes it easier for cities to manage their roads. This means cities will have the freedom and resources to devote to other tasks and fuel further innovation. An intelligent road network is critical for an intelligent city that is home to a healthy and productive population. What was true centuries ago is true today.

About the author:

Hong-Eng Koh has 30 years of government operations and ICT knowledge and experience, including the years with the Singapore Police and subsequently driving the Singapore national e-Government program. Before joining Huawei to lead the Global Government Industry Expert Office, he spent 16 years in Oracle holding various government business lead roles, including the global lead for public safety.

A globally recognized industry expert, he was voted by the US based Security.World as the world’s top 12 market influencers in security. He was a visiting researcher at the China Public Security University, and currently serving on the expert panel of the Geneva-based Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime.

Over the years, he developed various government digital transformation concepts and architectures, such as collaborative e-Government in the age of the sharing economy, Social-Enabled Policing, and Collaborative Public Safety. In 2018, he created the 7A framework in identifying use cases for AI adoption to accelerate government digital transformation.


Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay 

London mayor progresses plans to create more green spaces

24 July 2020 - Two new woodlands will be created in London’s Green Belt, the majority of which is not public open space despite making up 22 percent of the capital’s land area. 

24 July 2020 - The mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, wants to create more green space in London and has confirmed his plans to create two new woodlands as part of his work to protect and improve the Green Belt.

In a separate announcement, Khan has also launched an online cycling course to give people more confidence to start cycling. It supports the Streetspace for London programme which is rapidly rolling out more space for people to walk and cycle.

New woodlands

Two new woodlands spanning over 84 hectares will be created in Havering and Enfield with close to 140,000 trees planted in the newly acquired areas, which were previously inaccessible to the public.

The woodlands will be located in London’s Green Belt, the majority of which is not public open space despite making up 22 per cent of the capital’s land area. 

London became the world’s first National Park City a year ago but despite an extensive network of parks and open spaces, some communities don’t have access to a garden or a public green space close to their home.

Black and minority ethnic Londoners, for example, are four times less likely to have access to an outdoor space in general. To address some of these inequalities, the mayor has funded 270 community green space projects, planting more than 280,000 trees in the capital.

Enfield Council will receive a grant of £748,000 to restore the formerly wooded Enfield Chase area to create 60 hectares of new publicly accessible woodland. The project will also fund improvements to 3km of walking and cycling routes to improve access for local communities through the newly created woodland.  

The Woodland Trust has also been awarded £493,082 to secure land and extend Hainault Forest in Havering with new tree planting, which will create a new wildlife corridor between the forest and Hainault Country Park. The project will enable year-round public access to a previously private area of green space in an area currently lacking public open space. 

Tree-planting will start in November 2020 and will play a vital role in enhancing London’s green belt. New woodland will help address the climate and ecological emergencies through storing carbon, reducing flood risk and enhancing biodiversity.

More than 600 local volunteers are expected to plant trees at the sites on special community planting days, encouraging a connection and sense of ownership from the beginning. The projects will also create new jobs and opportunities in woodland management.  

“More than ever, London’s green spaces are not only vital to people’s mental and physical wellbeing, but also to reducing inequality across the city,” said Khan.

“The Government this week announced concerning changes to the planning system, showing little regard for the environment. I want today’s announcements to show how we can lead the way kickstarting a green recovery in London, continuing to prioritise the new green spaces that will help deliver huge social and environmental benefits that Londoners deserve.” 

Cycling course

The mayor and Transport for London (TfL) are committed to a green, sustainable recovery from coronavirus, and putting in place measures that will reduce the risk of a damaging car-based recovery.

The Cycle Skills course, which is available on the TfL website, covers everything from getting bikes set up for a first ride to tips for cycling safety with children in one place,and is tailored to cycling in London.

Everyone who completes the four training modules will be sent a free Santander Cycles 24-hour access code, enabling them to start putting the skills they’ve learnt into practice.

TfL has also secured £2m from the Department for Transport for cycle training in London, which will be delivered via the London boroughs. Each borough will be allocated £60,000 to deliver socially distanced Bikeability and Cycle Skills training from August onwards.

The mayor announced the City Hall investment during a visit to Pimlico to try out the upgraded newly segregated cycle route between Chelsea Bridge and Lambeth Bridge. Streetspace funding has enabled pole cones to be added along the 2.4km route to protect people cycling from other traffic.

This upgraded route will play a vital role in allowing thousands more journeys to be made by bike. It is a key corridor for people cycling into central London and TfL modelling shows it has one of the highest potential demand for cycling of any road in the capital. During lockdown, a section of it was the third most popular UK route logged on Strava, with almost 50,000 journeys logged along Milbank Embankment.

In addition, 17km of new cycle lanes have been created through the Streetspace for London programme so far, with a further 20km under construction. Segregated cycle lanes trebled in the first four years of Sadiq’s mayoralty from 53km to 162km. More than 15,000m2 of extra pavement space has been delivered through the Streetspace programme so far to enable social distancing and encourage people to make journeys on foot.

“Walking and cycling will be absolutely central to London’s recovery from coronavirus and our Streetspace programme is making sure everybody who wants to cycle can do so easily and safely,” said Sophie Edmondson, principal sponsor for cycling at TfL.

She continued: “Our newly upgraded cycle route between Chelsea Bridge and Vauxhall Bridge will make thousands of journeys to and from central London safer and our new online Cycle Skills course will help people to cycle with confidence. We’ll continue to work closely with London’s boroughs to ensure everybody can benefit from extra space and improved infrastructure.”


Image by ZDRAVKO BATALIC from Pixabay 

Can US cities preserve some of their pandemic environmental gains?

14 June 2020 - Even if US cities could maintain a 10 per cent drop in traffic volumes in the recovery phase, they could significantly improve their climate impact standing, according to a new study by StreetLight Data.

14 June 2020 - Even if US cities could maintain a 10 per cent drop in traffic volumes in the recovery phase, they could significantly improve their climate impact standing, according to a new study by StreetLight Data.

The mobility metrics company said driving in most metro areas fell by more than half after 1 March as Covid-19 lockdowns began to be introduced.

While it acknowledges that the drop is not sustainable in the post-pandemic recovery period the company has released a new special report, Post-Covid Climate Impact, that reveals the environmental benefits of a more achievable 10 per cent drop in vehicle miles travelled (VMT).

Informing policies and projects

Martin Morzynski, vice president of marketing at StreetLight Data, told SmartCitiesWorld that he hopes cities use the data to inform policies and projects that preserve recent reductions in VMT while “enhancing mobility in an equitable way”.

He continued: “Anecdotally, people around the entire country seem to have enjoyed the benefits associated with lower traffic levels over the past few months and less noise, cleaner air, safer streets for non-motorised users.

“Many cities reclaimed streets for other purposes like walking, biking, even outdoor restaurant seating, and some places have indicated plans to make those changes permanent. For some government agencies, vehicle miles travelled directly relates to funding, so there will need to be a balance.”

In January of this year, StreetLight Data unveiled the first annual 2020 US Transportation Climate Impact Index, which ranked the 100 most populous metro areas based on several carbon-related transportation factors.

It identified metros with the most and least environmentally-friendly transportation. New York, San Francisco and Madison were identified as leading the way in “lower-Impact” transportation. The bottom-ranked metro overall was Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington with Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale and Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land placed 99th and 98th respectively.

StreetLight Data explained that since VMT is the most heavily weighted factor on its list of criterion, updating that value makes a major difference in how the metro areas rank.

Examples include: Los Angeles originally ranked at number 34 but would move up to 17th position with a 10 per cent drop in VMT; Denver was originally ranked 59th but would move up to 35th; Seattle was ranked number 63 but would move up to 33rd; and Atlanta was placed 91st and would move to 76th position.

StreetLight has also unveiled an online widget that will enable city planners, transportation experts, local, state and federal government officials (as well as consumers) to model slider-enabled changes in VMT, to visualise the potential effects on 100 major metros around the country.

Morzynski said StreetLight Data is already working with cities across the US and Canada to help them better understand where people switched from driving to walking or biking.

He added: “We absolutely plan to continue working with cities and other agencies to design a safer, better transportation system for these (and all) modes.

“StreetLight’s goal has always been, and will continue to be, to support data-driven transportation decisions that lead to better outcomes for all people and the environment.”


Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay 

Moscow implements crowdsourced ideas to improve communal living

10 Dec 2019 - The E-Home crowdsourcing project is a communication service provided to residents of apartment buildings in the Russian capital and seeks to enable them to better participate in the management of the property they live in.

10 Dec 2019 - Moscow has announced it intends to implement 342 ideas received from its citizens through a crowdsourcing initiative.

The E-Home crowdsourcing project is a communication service provided to residents of apartment buildings in the Russian capital and seeks to enable them to better participate in the management of the property they live in.

The platform aims to bring together property managers, residents, and the city and can be used to: conduct surveys; facilitate communication between tenants and property management; deliver information about homes and communities through apps, e-mail or text messages; share and receive critical updates; and organise residential meetings.

More than 11,000 people took part in the project with some 2,000 suggestions received across several categories, including app and site functionality; and residents’ directory which comprises “apartment living”, “the home” and “the yard”.

The projects chosen to be implemented are those which received the most support from participants.

“Shared public and residential spaces have a significant impact on the quality of life. It is important that citizens experience comfort in their homes, that communal lights function properly, that courtyards and gardens be kept clean and tidy,” said Eduard Lysenko, a minister in Moscow’s government and head of the city’s Department of Information Technologies (DIT).

“As such, it is essential that residents are able to communicate directly with those charged with the management of their homes. Due to the number of people involved, however, this is no easy task.”


Image: SmartCitiesWorld

Digital humanism: Quality of life, environment and connected services at the centre of future cities

10 Dec 2019 - Cristiano Radaelli of Planet Smart City looks at the role of sustainable, tech-enabled housing in future cities.

10 Dec 2019 - Centuries ago, the birth and development of municipalities created conditions for the development of humanism and of the Renaissance. Now, in the era of AI, the creation of sustainable housing solutions, made by placing human beings at their centre, is fundamental to managing the social impact of the changes we are experiencing and which will take even more profound forms in the coming years.

This means harnessing the power of technology to enrich and simplify the lives of the tens of millions of people who over the coming years will need homes in countries of high population growth. In future cities, digital infrastructure is the enabler, providing new services to support the creation and activation of community life, bringing greater inclusivity and social wellbeing, enabling the sharing of spaces and resources, and providing a green and sustainable environment. People today, regardless of their home country and socioeconomic status, are looking not only for spaces in which to live but increasingly for places where key services will be available.

Digital apps and services can also be used to help and encourage residents to reduce their environmental impact. For example, on an apartment- or house-level, we can implement digital tools that enhance residents’ awareness of their energy consumption. This is the first step to sustainable living and reducing consumption. If a resident sees how much money they spend per day, they are likely to reduce it as much as they can by switching off appliances where possible – particularly if they are provided with mobile technology to remotely manage their usage.

Also, at district-level, through the use of AI and big data, we can better manage energy usage across a wide number of houses, which can then be used to negotiate better contracts for residents, saving them money on their day-to-day living. This technology also supports, for example, the design of electrical grids according to the real requirements of residents.


Image: SmartCitiesWorld

Airbnb to launch helpline for city officials

10 Dec 2019 - Airbnb wants to deepen trust with cities and guests following controversy and ahead of a planned IPO next year. It has announced that it will launch a dedicated hotline for mayors and city officials in 2020.

10 Dec 2019 - Home rental platform Airbnb has announced that it will launch a dedicated hotline for mayors and city officials in 2020. The company has also set new rules for guests covering noise, visitors, parking, smoking and cleanliness, and unauthorised parties.

Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky announced that the policy updates were coming last month after five people were killed in a Halloween shooting at a California home rented through the company.

Ahead of its planned initial public offering (IPO) next year, Airbnb is keen to highlight its credentials, calling the new policies a “trust innovation update”.

A statement from Airbnb said: “As part of our ongoing commitment to work with cities around the world, we’re launching a dedicated line where mayors and city officials can connect with appropriate Airbnb representatives about our new policies. Details on this new feature will be rolled out in 2020.”

It added: “Airbnb has worked to collaborate with cities around the world and with our host and guest communities to ensure we are creating a framework that allows millions of people to trust one another.

“Trust is the real driver that has allowed Airbnb to scale in more than seven million listings and more than half a billion guest arrivals in 191 countries, and we want to deepen that trust by making sure that city officials have a dedicated way to communicate with Airbnb in the rare event that hosts’ or guests’ conduct are not meeting by our standards.”


Image: SmartCitiesWorld

30 cities say their greenhouse gas emissions have peaked

9 Oct 2019 - Scientists have calculated that global greenhouse gas emissions must peak by 2020 in order to limit global temperature rise to 1.5°C, in line with the Paris Agreement. New analysis finds that 30 of the world’s largest cities, representing more than 58 million citizens, have now reached this milestone.

9 Oct 2019 - Scientists have calculated that global greenhouse gas emissions must peak by 2020 in order to limit global temperature rise to 1.5°C, in line with the Paris Agreement.

New analysis, published ahead of the C40 World Mayors Summit this week, finds that 30 of the world’s largest cities, representing more than 58 million citizens, have now reached this milestone.

The 30 cities are: Athens, Austin, Barcelona, Berlin, Boston, Chicago, Copenhagen, Heidelberg, Lisbon, London, Los Angeles, Madrid, Melbourne, Milan, Montréal, New Orleans, New York City, Oslo, Paris, Philadelphia, Portland, Rome, San Francisco, Stockholm, Sydney, Toronto, Vancouver, Venice, Warsaw and Washington, D.C.

Michael Doust, Programme Director, Measurement and Planning at C40, explained more about the methodology for calculating and tracking peak greenhouse gas emissions: "We [C40] do this calculation on behalf of C40 cities. Our definition of peaking is that a city must have reduced [its] greenhouse gas emissions over a five-year period or longer and achieved at least a 10 per cent reduction compared to its peak emissions.


Smart city ranking focuses on citizens’ perceptions

9 Oct 2019 - A new ranking focuses on how citizens perceive the priorities and effectiveness of smart city initiatives. 

9 Oct 2019 - A new ranking from the Institute for Management Development (IMD) and Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD) focuses on how citizens perceive the scope and impact of efforts to make their cities ‘smart’.

The first edition of the Smart City Index 2019, created by the IMD World Competitiveness Center’s Smart City Observatory, in partnership with SUTD, ranks 102 cities worldwide.

The top 10 cities in the IMD Smart City Index 2019 are Singapore, Zurich, Oslo, Geneva, Copenhagen, Auckland, Taipei Citiy, Helsinki, Bilbao and Dusseldorf.

The researchers surveyed 120 residents, chosen at random, in each city. Each survey has 40 questions, mainly focused on infrastructure and technology and relating to health and safety, mobility, activities, opportunities for work and education, and governance.

Citizens were also asked about their attitudes to the use of personal data, facial recognition and overall trust in local authorities. A final question asked them to summarise the perceived priority areas out of 15 possible options.