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How IT experts can help your business get ready for the rise of smart cities

22.05.2021

How IT experts can help your business get ready for the rise of smart cities

In an era driven by digital transformation and smart tech advancements, change is imposing itself increasingly especially amidst the Covid-19 pandemic. With technology being the backbone of any desired change or transformation, ITWORKS ME, a leading IT Services Company in the Middle East is shedding light on the rise of smart technologies and their impact on communities and businesses. In this regard, a webinar was organized by ITWORKS Me in Cyprus on May 12, 2021, under the title “Is your Company ready for the rise of Smart cities?” The webinar hosted by ITWORKSME Technical Support Manager Victor Younes featured Dr. Vasos Vassiliou, Associate Professor at the Computer Science Department at the University of Cyprus, Team leader at SNS Smart Networked Systems, and expert in smart technologies. It is to be noted that Dr. Vasos Vassiliou is also associated with Cyens Research Center, the Research Center of Excellence on Interactive media, smart systems, and emerging technologies. 


What is a smart environment? 

 

According to Dr. Vasos, the smart environment is defined as part of the physical world that is interwoven with sensors, actuators, displays, and computational elements, embedded seamlessly in the everyday objects of our lives (down to nanoscale) and connected through a continuous network. The continuous connectivity enables smart devices to access pertinent services anywhere and anytime, self-organize, and publish complex data. The aim is to make people’s lives more comfortable by advancing an otherwise passive environment to become an active partner of its users, Dr. Vassiliou explained.

During his intervention in the Webinar, Dr. Vasos elaborated further on this definition by stating that humans accentuate this world by carrying smart devices in different formats (mobile phones, wearables, body-embedded medical devices). The smart world may also be, in part, virtual, thus allowing the cyber and the physical domains to interact. The interaction of humans with the environment leads to the need to understand how perception can be linked to appropriate actions (AI) and how a system can be linked with its users (HCI). 

Smart cities are not farfetched, once the following components are available: 

  • Network Connectivity infrastructure (5G, Wifi, LoRA)
  • IoT devices and platforms 
  • Big Data Analysis
  • Artificial Intelligence / Machine Learning
  • Security and Data Privacy  

 

What are the requirements of smart transformation? 

 

What is required to lead to this transformation is a collaboration between IT Tech companies, the city itself, public and private sectors. The population is also an integral component, stressed Dr. Vasos pointing out the exponential increase of urban population with expectations that more than 5 billion people will be living in urban cities by 2030, a fact that ought to be anticipated and addressed by businesses and governments. If businesses are aiming to target this market, they need to lean towards smart technologies and change their offerings so that they engage within these new types of urban environments, Dr. Vasos reiterated. Therefore, smart city technology can help cities operate more efficiently while improving services to citizens and businesses among many other benefits. This is not feasible without the intervention of IT businesses mainly, which are already offering interesting solutions in this field. 

ITWORKSME, a leader in the sector of managed service providers enjoys more than 20 years of experience in managing and supporting IT operations and offers many solutions including IT support, maintenance, technology consultancy, online and hosting services that can contribute in the creation of smart cities infrastructure. ITWORKSME guarantees business continuity with a support system available 365 days. 

Knowing that technology is designed to make people live better and more comfortable, businesses play a major role in this advancement, Victor Younes, ITWORKSME Technical Support Manager delved with Dr. Vasos on what a business needs to know to take advantage and benefit from smart city technologies pondering upon three major points:

1- What is creating the value in the echo system?

2- How can a smart city infrastructure influence the way a business operates?

3- Does the business itself have what it takes to integrate into a smart environment? 

 

How can smart cities create value?

 

Dr. Vasos Vassiliou revealed that the types of products generating value have also changed noting that the biggest commodity out there today is data. How we collect data and process it is very essential and requires a well-designed data analytics strategy that will give the business or the city the ability to access useful insights such as pedestrian patterns, traffic, school performance which become sources of information. 

Information within the Internet of Things creates value in a never-ending value loop consisting of 5 stages:

  • Aggregate 
  • Analyze
  • Act
  • Create 
  • Communicate 

According to Dr. Vassiliou, data consist of symbols and numbers that are given more value when they are processed and analyzed in the form of Who What Where and When? This is when data become information, he added. By collecting data, building on it, analyzing it and combining it with business intelligence, smart cities start to create value. 

For his part, ITWORKSME Technical Support Manager, Victor Younes asserted that businesses could benefit considerably from the flow of data within smart cities, especially startup businesses, while traditional ones should be more connected, have better data analysis, and faster response to keep up with the swift changes. This is where IT consultancy is surely required and a managed service provider such as ITWORKSME is of value and can offer consultancy, security, support, and maintenance to help businesses move forward and adapt to changes.


How smart cities affect communities and businesses?

 

Open data generated from governments and smart cities help businesses collect this information, analyze it and create value and applications out of it. Several business drivers in the sectors of economy, environment, security, mobility, living, and health are shifting and rearranging their operations to be embraced in smart environments, Dr. Vassiliou pointed out. 

On the level of security and safety, for instance, license plate recognition, gunshot detection, body cameras, or street cameras, are elements that can create an environment where people feel safer. Many cities are investing in mobility and public transportations and looking for many solutions to interconnect traditional transportation into smart technologies. In big cities, public and private sectors are successfully collaborating. However, smaller cities are facing challenges in scaling up new implementations and making them visible and useful for the public, Dr. Vasos explained.

 

In partnership with Nicosia Municipality, Cyens Research Center has the city component in its DNA, Dr. Vasos asserted. The Center is very much involved in the smart city project that Nicosia is deploying right now and is expected to see the light in a year and a half. The city will be equipped with a smart city platform connecting most of the vertical solutions (such as lighting, sound, transportation, parking, security, environment, etc,..) We expect the smart city infrastructure to be connected to other smart infrastructures that we created such as smart homes, smart hospitals or hospices, smart manufacturing, smart offices, smart classrooms… An environment that shall serve as a testing ground for businesses to test compatibility and design before deployment, he confirmed. 

In this context, Victor Younes stressed the importance of communication, collaboration, and data government acquisition. A business needs to have the proper infrastructure to support the changes and keep up with the challenges, which showcases the necessity of having an expert reliable IT consultant to ensure your business is more competitive, secure, and advanced. 


Is your company ready for the rise of smart cities? 

 

According to Dr. Vasos Vassiliou, the key to smart city interaction is to start thinking outside of the traditional market and focus on how your business, your product, or your service can interact with a city. A diversified network of expertise is needed at this stage. Cyens Research Center has already covered different backgrounds including traditional computer science, electrical engineering, computer engineering, architecture, and game designers dedicated to working on the computer and human interaction, and brainstorm useful and interesting solutions. Alliances between businesses and academics, governments and citizens are highly recommended in order to create value and success. 

During the webinar, Dr. Vasos shared major practical examples on how smart technologies and implementations can be of great benefit to the city businesses, facilities, and citizens: 

  • Improved traffic management yields improved delivery times for logistics firms and online retailers. 
  • Smart lighting may improve footfall in certain areas, boosting sales in local shops and restaurants.
  • Sound modeling may help construction companies recognize if they violate noise regulations.
  • Improved connectivity will be a boost for almost all businesses and their staff, increasing overall efficiency. 
  • Potential to make data collected by smart cities openly available to businesses.

With the variety of existing solutions in the market, businesses need to be consciously aware of how to benefit from smart technologies and opt for the technology that suits their model, ITWORKSME Technical Support Manager Victor Younes noted during the webinar. IT consultancy provided by ITWORKSME allows business owners to take care of their business while we take care of the technology. Businesses' connectivity and continuity are of high importance. ITWORKSME a leading IT service provider in the region can calculate the cost of high liability solutions while keeping the business running, Younes added.

 

Smart cities as enablers of technology advancement

 

Cities such as London, Barcelona, and Amsterdam became spearheads of development with the deployment of smart technologies. Nicosia in Cyprus has a smart city strategy that is creating economic value to the city and its citizens by connecting with businesses and moving to smart technologies. Pafos is another Cypriot city that announced interesting projects for smart parking. The Ministry of Research and Innovation, in its turn, is trying to consolidate all the efforts deployed by various municipalities in order to put in place a unified smart city strategy in Cyprus and install compatible platforms that would have data available for everyone, Dr. Vasos Vassiliou shared during the Webinar.  

In response to an attendee question about how smart cities can build and maintain a costly infrastructure, Dr. Vasos confirms that smart city infrastructure is way less expensive than actual road building or public works. Nowadays, technology is so advanced that businesses can reach efficient solutions with low cost matching the types of return that a city may expect. There can also be additional revenue streams coming from the implementation of smart technology solutions like monitoring parking spaces, reducing lighting energy consumption, decreasing transportation fuel cost, and making sure the environment is cleaner. Governments or local governing authorities usually undertake such type of investment, not private enterprises since it is a public interest investment. 

Answering another attendee question related to accessing governmental data and hinders law may lay in this regard, Dr. Vasos confirmed that laws in the US and EU regulate data sharing under several newly issued and implemented regulations such as GDPR. However, access to several sets of data is even possible under such laws, in exception to security-related information such as video footage of locations or license plate recognition for example.

 

In the last part of the webinar, Dr. Vassiliou highlighted the concept of “Creative Destruction” where he explained that cities do evolve and many structures are destroyed for the sake of improvement as their value becomes obsolete. However, destruction only makes sense when return is made in terms of greater value, a better quality of life, and a safer environment. 

 

Victor Younes from ITWORKSME wrapped up the last axis of the webinar addressing adaptability as a necessity for populations, businesses, and cities in general since changes are inevitable. In the same line of focus, he offered a free audit consultancy to the attendees of the webinar provided by ITWORKSME team leading to a set of actions that businesses would be advised to implement to take full advantage of smart technologies.  

 

In conclusion, to keep up with the fast smart evolution, many interesting applications are created every day and new companies are trying to utilize previously unavailable data so that they can change their offerings, create new solutions and gain an advantage in the smart transformation race. To achieve such transition on larger scales companies and cities need solid IT infrastructure and IT collaborates.