This post is the third in a three part series on Smart Cities. Best to start with Part I.
Two Approaches to Making Smart Cities
As with most things in life, there are a number of ways to approach smart cities. One way is to start from the ground up. A new city is born - a clean slate - to be made smart with the necessary infrastructure for its connected systems to communicate and collaborate to create an efficiently running city. A recent article in Fast Company, highlighted a number of smart cities projects that essentially started from the ground up - or, in one case, from the mud flats up. The most widely written about start-up city is Songdo. The concept was launched as a vision of the South Korean government and eventually, through the work of a real-estate developer and Cisco as the IT infrastructure provider, has become a reality - although the city is not expected to be complete until 2015. Songdo and other start-up cities have become one answer to the nagging concern about increasing urbanization.
Reconciling the rapid urbanization in China with the observation of one World Bank official that "Cities are expensive to retrofit and modify once they are built," start-up cities just might be one answer to China's urban needs.
This is actually not a tale of two specific cities but of two types of cities, or “smart cities” as the new moniker goes. It will appear in three parts.
Defining Smart Cities
“Smart” has become the adjective of choice among tech vendors to describe solutions that capture, synthesize and analyze the vast amounts of data being produced by computing and networking systems. Forrester defines Smart Computing as:
a new generation of integrated hardware, software, and network technologies that provide IT systems with real-time awareness of the real world and advanced analytics to help people make more intelligent decisions about alternatives and actions that will optimize business processes and business balance sheet results.
What does that mean in layman’s terms? Every system can be smarter if it can learn from and act on the data it produces.
A city is a “system of systems” making the potential for efficiency exponential as all of its systems interact. Therefore, a smart city is:
A city that uses technology to transform its core systems – city administration, education, healthcare, transportation, public safety, real estate, utilities and business — enabling them to capture, analyze and act on the data they produce.
As a result, a smart city’s systems can optimize the use of and return from largely finite resources. It can, in other words, “do more with less.” Using resources in this smarter way also boosts innovation, a key factor underpinning competitiveness and economic growth.
You can use Internet protocols to make phone calls inside your own network. And you don't have to pay for the minutes. But you can't do the same thing with a business partner. Instead, you have to pay a carrier like BT or AT&T to carry the phone call over the public switched telephone network (PSTN).
(PSTN is an analog network born in 1878 when Bell opened a switching office in New Haven, CT. It's done us proud, but it's time to move to a digital network.)
It's even worse for video conferencing. If you want to have a video conference internally, you can use your IP network to do it. But if you want to do a video conference with a business partner, you have to use a complex business gateway link and pay a lot of money for it.
Cisco thinks it's time to change that. We spoke with Cisco executives Tony Bates, Barry O'Sullivan, and Joe Burton about Cisco's intercompany media engine (IME), a new technology to replace PSTN with its Internet equivalent. Cisco's goals are audacious:
I spent a couple of days with HP executives this week here in Boston. As I worked there myself for 20 years (up to 2001, so I have distance as well), I’d like to comment about how their enterprise business strategy now looks. Of course, I wasn’t alone there; there were 250 of us. Those who follow my peers in Twitter may already be overloaded with multiple 140-character cuts: my impression is that the tool tends to makes them behave more like adolescent journalists than analysts. Often, they were broadcasting tweets before even noticing that a particular statement was “under NDA”. Vendors will learn to be more cautious in the future; which is not good for us analysts. Anyway, here are my highlights of the HP briefings.
HP’s Converged Infrastructure story includes the pending acquisition of 3COM
Nice to see that HP now has (servers + storage + networking) PLUS power & cooling! Now, HP has Cisco squarely within their sights with this one, dropping statements like “they’re just a $30B vendor while we spend over $50B in our supply chain”; “as soon as we can, we will replace ALL our Cisco gear with 3COM and realize 45% savings”; and “of course, all 3COM products use the same operating environment, unlike them”.
My Take: Well, Cisco started this. They are, indeed, seriously threatened. If HP apply their financial muscle and play the pricing game, Cisco’s business and margins may well suffer. Remember, networking is the highest margin area in IT infrastructure: HP is adding it, Cisco is diluting it. But, I also think that Cisco will make other game changing moves in the next months. HP strategists should not be resting on their laurels, they should be doing scenario planning - and thinking way outside the IT infrastructure box.