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How to make cities smart – and sustainable

When building sustainable cities, it is vital to first understand the difference between a smart city and a sustainable city, says MARK WALKER, associate vice-president of IDC sub-Saharan Africa, Middle East and Turkey.

According to Mark Walker, associate vice-president of IDC sub-Saharan Africa, Middle East and Turkey, a smart city can be defined as a city that is completely connected and where that connectivity is used to enhance communication, security, the movement and monitoring of people and interdepartmental communications to name a few. “It’s basically the Internet of Things as applied to a city,” he says. A sustainable city, on the other hand, implies that these elements are in place, that it continues and is not a once-off project.

 “The problem with the consequent smart city is that it requires many systems to be working together and often what happens is that ‘smart parts’ are implemented as point-in-time projects and they’re not sustainable,” says Walker. “A sustainable smart city is where the parts are ‘smart’, integrated and they continue working.”

He cites Nairobi as an example, where there is a smart city concept specifically around traffic management, but because it is not integrated with other parts of the city, it is not as effective as it could be, making the sustainability of the system questionable.

An integrated approach is crucial

For better understanding, Walker provides the example of the electricity billing process. “Similarly, when a city provides electricity to citizens, there are multiple players involved in the transaction. It is the electricity supplier, the consumer and the municipality involved. In a smart city, all the billing is connected and the consumption patterns are understood. So, if a person misses a payment, for instance, but their supply has been constant over time, the city can see that question why they haven’t paid and relate that back to consumption,” Walker says. He adds that active metering services would allow municipalities to be a lot more precise in terms of provisioning and managing electricity, enabling them to also detect fraud. “If people are compromising their meter to get free electricity, the city can detect major discrepancies in consumption. That’s an example of a smart city solution, but if there isn’t integration between the billing department at the municipality and the supplier, it can’t happen.”

Walker believes that while there is some level of awareness and understanding of the value of a smart city, poor execution and implementation is standing in the way of it becoming a reality, with the two biggest pitfalls being budget and political will. He says that Gauteng came close with the 2010 Soccer World Cup, but only on the aspect of security. “That was an example, to a degree, of how a smart city can work. There was an understanding of the ticket sales, where the people would be moving from time to time, which enabled the synchronisation of traffic flow and availability of services. This was as a result of coordination between government and the citizen and also with enterprise and making that work together. So, there’s an understanding of smart cities, but it is also limited. People get the picture and they like the picture, but the execution and the implementation are still a long way off.”

It’s a full-time responsibility

While both public and private sector have a role to play, solid planning is crucial to successful smart city implementation. “Ideally, it would be government-led or city-led, but that should be a specific responsibility and not a sub responsibility. It’s not a case of it just being a sub-set of the CIO or the City Manager’s responsibilities. There has to be a person with serious decision-making power to drive the project and this person has to be able to work across various functions within the city to ensure all the elements are brought together from ICT to logistics, from process to people. A smart city is a much broader discussion than just technology.”

With South Africa already facing service delivery protests on a regular basis, smart cities could alleviate many of the challenges and improve citizen satisfaction. “Government service delivery will immediately be improved, without a doubt,” says Walker. “The problem is that there is a massive degree of transparency that comes with a smart city and government departments or municipalities might not necessarily be ready for that level of transparency.”

Moving beyond just the conversation

From a technology vendor perspective, the conversation around smart cities has started, but it is still at the very first stages of promotion, advertising what it is and defining smart cities. We are still at the start of the education phase. “We haven’t even moved into the prioritisation and execution phases yet. There is also the risk that smart cities can become like cloud and big data, just another ICT hype cycle.”

Walker believes that the country is now at a point where it must define what smart cities are, what benefits they can bring to both local government and citizens and how to then prioritise and implement the right solutions to derive the most benefit from the investment. “The final step is then to determine how you coordinate all the priorities to ensure you deliver a smart city, that you can afford, implement and sustain,” he says.

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Veeam passes $1bn, prepares for cloud’s ‘Act II’

Leader in cloud-data management reveals how it will harness the next growth phase of the data revolution, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK

Veeam Software, the quiet leader in backup solutions for cloud data management,has announced that it has passed $1-billion in revenues, and is preparing for the next phase of sustained growth in the sector.

Now, it is unveiling what it calls Act II, following five years of rapid growth through modernisation of the data centre. At the VeeamON 2019conferencein Miami this week, company co-founder Ratmir Timashev declared that the opportunities in this new era, focused on managing data for the hybrid cloud, would drive the next phase of growth.

“Veeam created the VMware backup market and has dominated it as the leader for the last decade,” said Timashev, who is also executive vice president for sales and marketing at the organisation. “This was Veeam’s Act I and I am delighted that we have surpassed the $1 billion mark; in 2013 I predicted we’d achieve this in less than six years. 

“However, the market is now changing. Backup is still critical, but customers are now building hybrid clouds with AWS, Azure, IBM and Google, and they need more than just backup. To succeed in this changing environment, Veeam has had to adapt. Veeam, with its 60,000-plus channel and service provider partners and the broadest ecosystem of technology partners, including Cisco, HPE, NetApp, Nutanix and Pure Storage, is best positioned to dominate the new cloud data management in our Act II.”

In South Africa, Veeam expects similar growth. Speaking at the Cisco Connect conference in Sun City this week, country manager Kate Mollett told Gadget’s BRYAN TURNER that the company was doing exceptionally well in this market.

“In financial year 2018, we saw double-digit growth, which was really very encouraging if you consider the state of the economy, and not so much customer sentiment, but customers have been more cautious with how they spend their money. We’ve seen a fluctuation in the currency, so we see customers pausing with big decisions and hoping for a recovery in the Rand-Dollar. But despite all of the negatives, we have double digit growth which is really good. We continue to grow our team and hire.

“From a Veeam perspective, last year we were responsible for Veeam Africa South, which consisted of South Africa, SADC countries, and the Indian Ocean Islands. We’ve now been given the responsibility for the whole of Africa. This is really fantastic because we are now able to drive a single strategy for Africa from South Africa.”

Veeam has been the leading provider of backup, recovery and replication solutions for more than a decade, and is growing rapidly at a time when other players in the backup market are struggling to innovate on demand.

“Backup is not sexy and they made a pretty successful company out of something that others seem to be screwing up,” said Roy Illsley, Distinguished Analyst at Ovum, speaking in Miami after the VeeamOn conference. “Others have not invested much in new products and they don’t solve key challenges that most organisations want solved. Theyre resting on their laurels and are stuck in the physical world of backup instead of embracing the cloud.”

Illsley readily buys into the Veeam tagline. “It just works”. 

“They are very good at marketing but are also a good engineering comany that does produce the goods. Their big strength, that it just works, is a reliable feature they have built into their product portfolio.”

Veeam said in statement from the event that, while it had initially focused on server virtualisation for VMware environments, in recent years it had expanded this core offering. It was now delivering integration with multiple hypervisors, physical servers and endpoints, along with public and software-as-a-service workloads, while partnering with leading cloud, storage, server, hyperconverged (HCI) and application vendors.

This week, it  announced a new “with Veeam”program, which brings in enterprise storage and hyperconverged (HCI) vendors to provide customers with comprehensive secondary storage solutions that combine Veeam software with industry-leading infrastructure systems. Companies like ExaGrid and Nutanix have already announced partnerships.

Timashev said: “From day one, we have focused on partnerships to deliver customer value. Working with our storage and cloud partners, we are delivering choice, flexibility and value to customers of all sizes.”

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‘Energy scavenging’ funded

As the drive towards a 5G future gathers momentum, the University of Surrey’s research into technology that could power countless internet enabled devices – including those needed for autonomous cars – has won over £1M from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and industry partners.

Surrey’s Advanced Technology Institute (ATI) has been working on triboelectric nanogenerators (TENG), an energy harvesting technology capable of ‘scavenging’ energy from movements such as human motion, machine vibration, wind and vehicle movements to power small electronic components. 

TENG energy harvesting is based on a combination of electrostatic charging and electrostatic induction, providing high output, peak efficiency and low-cost solutions for small scale electronic devices. It’s thought such devices will be vital for the smart sensors needed to enable driverless cars to work safely, wearable electronics, health sensors in ‘smart hospitals’ and robotics in ‘smart factories.’ 

The ATI will be partnered on this development project with the Georgia Institute of Technology, QinetiQ, MAS Holdings, National Physical Laboratory, Soochow University and Jaguar Land Rover. 

Professor Ravi Silva, Director of the ATI and the principal investigator of the TENG project, said: “TENG technology is ideal to power the next generation of electronic devices due to its small footprint and capacity to integrate into systems we use every day. Here at the ATI, we are constantly looking to develop such advanced technologies leading towards our quest to realise worldwide “free energy”.

“TENGs are an ideal candidate to power the autonomous electronic systems for Internet of Things applications and wearable electronic devices. We believe this research grant will allow us to further the design of optimized energy harvesters.”

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