Everyone’s using the term “sustainability.” And, I’ll admit I’m a little jaded. But, given that it’s around to stay for a while, let’s take a look at the term. What are the primary objectives of “sustainability” initiatives? Are they “green” – with an eye toward protecting the environment by reducing the effects of climate change? Are they economic – cost cutting, increasing efficiency? “Sustain” seems static, maintain the current state. But some are thinking about “sustainability” as a means of generating growth. A few weeks ago, I started an interesting discussion about “operational sustainability” with Rich Lechner, IBM Vice President for Energy and Environment. (I say started because it actually continued this week, and will likely continue further.)
“Sustain to grow” may seem like an oxymoron, but it’s not. First let’s think about efficiency. What does it mean to be more efficient? Efficiency to me is the goal to “do more with less” – improving the ratio of output to input. So you cut and improve productivity ratios that way. But what if you’ve cut as much as you can, and you still want to do more, to improve those ratios? How can you grow within the limits of the resources you have? Sustain resources, increase productivity or capacity – in whatever terms or measures of capacity you use. This translates into the objective behind “operational sustainability.” How do you improve operations or processes in order to improve outcomes, within the limits of available resources?
Last year, Internet inventor Tim Berners-Lee called for access to raw data as the next step in the evolution of the Internet. Apparently Transport For London (TFL, UK) was listening and has recently opened its doors to the commercial use of large amounts of primary data sets and live feeds. The data newly available includes: tube and train traffic data, feeds from live traffic cameras, Oyster card top-up locations, pier and station locations, cycle hire locations, and riverboat timetables. Following this up, TFL has announced plans to release further information on bus stops, routes, timetables and schedules. Access to this data represents an opportunity for developers to create travel applications based on real-time information. In one such example a web-based mash-up plots the approximate position of every single underground train. While interesting to Londoners who may be able to navigate their morning commute a little better (there's still no escaping the inevitable squeeze on the Central Line), this is a compelling move by TFL to allow access to the same data it uses to power its own information boards. As we see it, such access:
While I started my previous blog post with the observation that KACST was not a “city,” Caroline Spicer, Strategy and Market Development Leader for IBM Global Business Services, made the point later in the day that there is not “a city” but many models of cities depending on future vision. There are a couple of points to draw out here. There is not one model of a smart city. Cities can focus on particular initiatives based on their leaders’ (and their constituents’) priorities and vision for the future of the city. As Caroline pointed out these might be:
The well-planned city – focused on urban design and development
The healthy and safe city – focused on health
The sustainable eco-city – focused on the environment
The city of innovation – focused on science and technology, the knowledge base
The city of commerce – focused on trade and retail
The cultural or convention hub – focused on tourism
Here I sit finally getting a chance to reflect on my 30 hours in Saudi Arabia. Yes, just a little more than one day. But one day was enough to change any preconception that I might have had, and spark my interest to learn more. My “day” started with the VIP treatment through passport control – which I must say was much appreciated. The airport in Riyadh is certainly not Dubai International – far from it. But if there were any disappointment at the inauspicious first impression, it stopped there. Although to set the stage, I was invited to Saudi Arabia by IBM to participate in an analyst event showcasing “Smarter Cities” initiatives in the Kingdom. So admittedly, I was only presented the “smart” side of Riyadh. I am eager to see more.
Last December I wrote about Building B2B Technology Markets, looking at how to penetrate a market with almost none of the traditional characteristics of a mature technology market? As technology vendors increasingly look to emerging markets as a significant opportunity and source of growth, this question becomes more pressing. The report explored some of the elements of Cisco’s Country Transformation initiatives in order to identify steps in the process of building market infrastructure:
For example, the report looked at partnering with governments to encourage market-friendly policies and investment in the necessary technology infrastructure to support market development and overall economic growth. And, from a sales perspective, trade associations provided an alternative channel to reach small and medium businesses in markets where distributors and resellers weren't available.
But, another element critical to successful market development is the ecosystem of partners developing solutions specific to the particular market, or even just contributing local innovation for new approaches to broader global issues. Building B2B Technology Markets discussed finding local organizations to act as partners in the market, and even investing in educational initiatives, but missed the next step of how to help create these new local ecosystem partners.
The word for “crisis” in Chinese apparently comes from two roots meaning “risk” and “opportunity” – there is both a downside, and the potential for an upside. That’s how César Alierta, Telefónica Chairman and CEO, began the opening keynote of their 2010 Leadership Conference in Miami (where I spent several days last week). For Telefónica, that definition has played out with the global economic crisis. While results in Spain have been their downside, Latin America has been the opportunity. Telefónica has a presence in 15 countries in Latin America (and 42 countries worldwide), with offerings in mobile and fixed telephony and in IT services. Not all offerings are available in all markets but in many countries Telefónica has leveraged a strong position in one offering to expand into the others becoming the first integrated operator in the region.
According to José Maria Pallete, CEO of Telefónica Latinoamérica, Latin America represents 65-70% of their total customer base, 40% of revenues and about 40% of the operating income. In the enterprise space (as opposed to consumer services), 37% of Telefónica revenue comes from Latin America. That corporate segment (including public sector) marked double digit growth in Latin America in 2009, with its biggest markets in Brazil and Mexico.
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 the second in a three part series on Smart Cities. Best to start with Part I.
Urbanization in China Sets the Stage by Defining the Need
According to the World Bank, China's urban population was 191 million in 1980. By 2007, it was 594 million, excluding migrants. About half of China's population now lives in cities, and that trend looks likely to continue particularly as the government relaxes restrictions on internal movement institutionalized in the strict hukou system of residential registration.
And, bigger cities face bigger challenges to meet the needs of their burgeoning populations:
Infrastructure and jobs. Between now and 2025, it's likely that another 200 to 250 million people will migrate to China's cities, adding to an existing mobile or migrant population of about 155 million. Providing infrastructure - housing, roads, hospitals etc. - and jobs for this anticipated inflow of people poses major challenges. With new changes to the hukou system, this migration into cities could be even greater.
Energy. Urban residents use 3.6 times as much energy as rural residents; suggesting that energy use is far from its peak. In China, energy intensity (consumption of energy per unit of GDP) is 7 times that of Japan and 3.5 times that of the United States, and over 70% of electricity use is coal-produced.
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.
On Friday March 5th, the National People’s Congress (NPC) – China’s equivalent of Congress or Parliament – held the opening meeting of its annual full session.At a high level, the agenda of the session will focus on succession planning for government and Communist Party leaders, the stimulus exit strategy and economic initiatives for the coming year.In this, there is much to interest tech vendors.
In one of the opening speeches, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao presented his work report which summarized some major economic indicators for 2009 and provided a broad outline for the 2010 plans. Technology appeared center stage throughout much of the speech, and the word "innovation” was peppered throughout.