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Why do smart cities deploy ‘unsustainable’ infrastructures?

Businesses and councils are not sharing data or smart developments, warns Huawei

Too many smart cities deploy their own unique infrastructure that cannot share data and developments with one another, according to Huawei.

Urban areas using the Internet of Things (IoT) to change their environments must create open architectures that can talk to each other, added John Frieslaar, managing principal consultant of business and network consulting at Huawei, speaking at a Smart Cities in the UK event in London this month.

Dubbing the current state of smart city development a "bubble phase," Frieslaar pointed to ongoing experimentation from city councils, saying they have been unable to drive down costs.

"Today, we're seeing a lot of smart cities deploying their own infrastructure that is not sustainable," Frieslaar said at the event. "What we think will happen over time is, similar to when you had markets like BT opened up to deregulation and hundreds of different telcos opening up, you're going to get convergence of this industry.

"You can't have every single council and every single business running its own smart development you've got to find some sort of convergence between them, and some way of sharing that data."

Earlier this month, research from YouGov and Arquiva revealed that 96 per cent of the UK population are actually unaware of their local council's smart cities plans.

Volker Buscher, director of engineering and design firm Arup, said at the London briefing: "[The IoT] will define the outcomes citizens and businesses are actually expecting from a digital economy, and it will define the role the city actually plays in ensuring that these are captured, and then promote the success of the city internationally to draw in both inward investment and export opportunities around the digital economy.

"At that point, cities will change from a project-led, or technology-led, approach, to a policy-led framework that will address multiple key areas of interest for citizens, where technology can make a change."

Speaking to IT Pro in June, Digital Catapult's collaborative R&D director Maurizio Pilu highlighted the importance of gaining the trust of customers in regards to IoT and smart cities, with a particular need to allay data privacy fears.

Chris Francis, director of government relations at SAP, added at the July event: "We are changing the way we think and do, [the] systems and processes that are in our cities - we can now build in the data collection that drives this with the digitisation of services. 

"The data collection isn't why we did it, we did the digitisation to improve self-service, to improve process transparency, to get mobile access, faster, more reactive responses, better reporting, easier compliance and easier management, but out of all that drops a huge amount of data."

Two-thirds of organisations use Big Data analytics as a way to gain a competitive edge over their rivals, it was revealed in a global report from Capgemini, with 53 per cent saying they expect more from start-up companies utilising big data.

"Taking the next step and then analysing that data, most importantly in a fast timescale, in a timely fashion, allows feedback on those processes that created it, improves the process. That means treating the data as an asset, [and] it is something that helps you improve your productivity," Dr Francis added.

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