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Massive smart cities growth coming this year

Global spending on smart cities initiatives will total nearly $124-billion this year, an increase of 18.9% over 2019, according to a new forecast

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A new forecast from the International Data Corporation (IDCWorldwide Semiannual Smart Cities Spending Guide shows global spending on smart cities initiatives will total nearly $124 billion this year, an increase of 18.9% over 2019. The top 100 cities investing in smart initiatives in 2019 represented around 29% of global spending, and while growth will be sustained among the top spenders in the short term, the market is quite dispersed across midsize and small cities investing in relatively small projects.

“This new release of IDC’s Worldwide Smart Cities Spending Guide brings further expansion of our forecasts into smart ecosystems with the addition of smart ports alongside smart stadiums and campus,” said Serena Da Rold, program manager in IDC’s Customer Insights & Analysis group. “The Spending Guide also provides spending data for more than 200 cities and shows that fewer than 80 cities are investing over $100 million per year. At the same time, around 70% of the opportunity lies within cities that are spending $1 million or less per year. There is a great opportunity for providers of smart city solutions who are able to leverage the experience gained from larger projects to offer affordable smart initiatives for small and medium sized cities.”

In 2019, use cases related to resilient energy and infrastructure represented over one third of the opportunity, driven mainly by smart grids. Data-driven public safety and intelligent transportation represented around 18% and 14% of overall spending respectively.

Looking at the largest use cases, smart grids (electricity and gas combined) still attract the largest share of investments, although their relative importance will decrease over time as the market matures and other use cases become mainstream. Fixed visual surveillance, advanced public transportation, intelligent traffic management, and connected back office follow, and these five use cases together currently represent over half of the opportunity. The use cases that will see the fastest spending growth over the five-year forecast are vehicle-to-everything (V2X) connectivity, digital twin, and officer wearables.

Singapore will remain the top investor in smart cities initiatives. Tokyo will be the second largest spender in 2020, driven by investments for the Summer Olympics, followed by New York City and London. These four cities will each see smart city spending of more than $1 billion in 2020.

On a regional basis, the United States, Western Europe, and China will account for more than 70% of global smart cities spending throughout the forecast. Latin America and Japan will experience the fastest growth in smart cities spending in 2020.

“Regional and municipal governments are working hard to keep pace with technology advances and take advantage of new opportunities in the context of risk management, public expectations, and funding needs to scale initiatives,” said Ruthbea Yesner, vice president of IDC Government Insights and Smart Cities and Communities. “Many are moving to incorporate Smart City use cases into budgets, or financing efforts through more traditional means. This is helping to grow investments.”

IDC’s Worldwide Smart Cities Spending Guide quantifies the expected technology opportunity around smart cities initiatives from a regional and worldwide level. Spending data is available for nine regions with 36 distinct use cases across five strategic priorities and eight technology categories. In addition, the spending guide offers a complementary Cities dataset, providing smart city spending for 207 cities across nine regions. The spending guide is designed to provide IT vendors with insights into this rapidly growing market and how the market will develop over the five-year forecast period.

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SA’s Internet goes down again

South Africa is about to experience a small repeat of the lower speeds and loss of Internet connectivity suffered in January, thanks to a new undersea cable break, writes BRYAN TURNER

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Internet service provider Afrihost has notified customers that there are major outages across all South African Internet Service Providers (ISPs), as a result of a break in the WACS undersea cable between Portugal and England 

The cause of the cable break along the cable is unclear. it marks the second major breakage event along the West African Internet sea cables this year, and comes at the worst possible time: as South Africans grow heavily dependent on their Internet connections during the COVID-19 lockdown. 

As a result of the break, the use of international websites and services, which include VPNs (virtual private networks), may result in latency – decreased speeds and response times.  

WACS runs from Yzerfontein in the Western Cape, up the West Coast of Africa, and terminates in the United Kingdom. It makes a stop in Portugal before it reaches the UK, and the breakage is reportedly somewhere between these two countries. 

The cable is owned in portions by several companies, and the portion where the breakage has occurred belongs to Tata Communications. 

The alternate routes are:  

  • SAT3, which runs from Melkbosstrand also in the Western Cape, up the West Coast and terminates in Portugal and Spain. This cable runs nearly parallel to WACS and has less Internet capacity than WACS. 
  • ACE (Africa Coast to Europe), which also runs up the West Coast.  
  • The SEACOM cable runs from South Africa, up the East Coast of Africa, terminating in both London and Dubai.  
  • The EASSy cable also runs from South Africa, up the East Coast, terminating in Sudan, from where it connects to other cables. 

The routes most ISPs in South Africa use are WACS and SAT3, due to cost reasons. 

The impact will not be as severe as in January, though. All international traffic is being redirected via alternative cable routes. This may be a viable method for connecting users to the Internet but might not be suitable for latency-sensitive applications like International video conferencing. 

Read more about the first Internet connectivity breakage which happened on the same cable, earlier this year. 

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SA cellphones to be tracked to fight coronavirus

Several countries are tracking cellphones to understand who may have been exposed to coronavirus-infected people. South Africa is about to follow suit, writes BRYAN TURNER

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From Israel to South Korea, governments and cell networks have been implementing measures to trace the cellphones of coronavirus-infected citizens, and who they’ve been around. The mechanisms countries have used have varied.  

In Iran, citizens were encouraged to download an app that claimed to diagnose COVID-19 with a series of yes or no questions. The app also tracked real-time location with a very high level of accuracy, provided by the GPS sensor. 

In Germany, all cellphones on Deutsche Telekom are being tracked through cell tower connections, providing a much coarser location, but a less invasive method of tracking. The data is being handled by the Robert Koch Institute, the German version of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

In Taiwan, those quarantined at home are tracked via an “electronic fence”, which determines if users leave their homes.  

In South Africa, preparations have started to track cellphones based on cell tower connections. The choice of this method is understandable, as many South Africans may either feel an app is too intrusive to have installed, or may not have the data to install the app. This method also allows more cellphones, including basic feature phones, to be tracked. 

This means that users can be tracked on a fairly anonymised basis, because these locations can be accurate to about 2 square kilometers. Clearly, this method of tracking is not meant to monitor individual movements, but rather gain a sense of who’s been around which general area.  

This data could be used to find lockdown violators, if one considers that a phone connecting in Hillbrow for the first 11 days of lockdown, and then connecting in Morningside for the next 5, likely indicates a person has moved for an extended period of time. 

The distance between Hillbrow and Morningside is 17km. One would pass through several zones covered by different towers.

Communications minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams said that South African network providers have agreed to provide government with location data to help fight COVID-19. 

Details on how the data will be used, and what it will used to determine, are still unclear. 

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