What it takes to realise smart cities

Orange Business Services' Dr Helmut Reisinger shares with us the requirements and challenges of smart cities.

By Nurdianah Md Nur
Aug. 2, 2016


Orange Business Services Dr Helmut
Dr Helmut Reisinger, Executive Vice President International at Orange Business Services

Leveraging the rise of the Internet of Things (IoT), many Asian cities are looking to become smart cities such as Smart Nation in Singapore, Digital China, Digital India, Jakarta Smart city. But do the governments and organisations in those cities have the expertise of building and running such smart cities? We spoke to Dr Helmut Reisinger, Executive Vice President International at Orange Business Services, to find out the requirements and challenges of smart cities.  

CIO Asia: There are many definitions of smart cities so in your opinion, what does it mean to be a smart city? 
Dr Reisinger: Cities are becoming ever more complex. Burgeoning urban populations put increasing pressures on essential infrastructure and services, from fresh water supply to sewage, from street lighting to transport, from healthcare to education. On top of all that, cities need to take into consideration environmental factors such as climate change and supporting open spaces in densely built areas.

The concept of a 'smart city' may be difficult to define, but the goal of all smart cities is to create an urban environment that raises the quality of life for residents and by using technology to improve the efficiency of public services to meet their needs. The United Nations projects that 66 percent of the world's population will be living in urban areas in 2050, with Asia and Africa accounting for close to 90 percent of that growth. Faced with such daunting prospects, city officials - especially those in Asia - need to turn to sustainable urban management and technologies to rise up to the challenge of keeping their cities running. In the end, the smarter a city, the more it will attract long-term investments and people.

As every industry is working towards becoming 'smarter'- such as smart manufacturing and smart retail - especially with the rise of Internet of Things, what challenges do you foresee arising from this? 
As with the adoption of any nascent technology, 'smart' technology is bound to face varying adoption rates across different industries. Some industries take to IoT like fish to water, while others struggle with general mistrust of increased connectivity, security issues, or simply inertia to change.

The Asia Pacific region is embarking on rapid digitalisation. According to a recent Gartner report, global enterprise software spending is on pace to total $321 billion, a 4.2 percent increase from 2015. Orange Business Services has observed strong, double-digit growth in demand for cloud and IoT technology in the region. This shows that businesses recognise the impact of digital transformation on the way their organisations are run, and subsequently their profitability.

Another major hurdle to IoT adoption is the issue of interoperability. Without standardised data formats and semantics, open application programming interfaces (APIs) or big data analytics, the vision behind IoT cannot be fully realised. IoT providers and developers need to pull together and move towards a common platform in order to create a seamless network of connected devices that will truly embody 'smart' technology.

One other key issue with IoT adoption is that of cyberdefense  and privacy. IoT is not only about connecting objects but also about the usage of data generated by these objects. This raises the crucial questions of ownership, access and transparency. Allowing companies to work collaboratively and cross pollinate each other around data is essential if we want to ignite new business ideas.

In the case of IoT it is not a question of whether to adopt it, but how rapidly industries can embrace it. With such a pervasive and adaptable technology, no organisation can afford to overlook IoT. The faster industries can find workarounds to their IoT challenges, the sooner they will be able to reap its benefits.

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