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This is what makes a Smart City smart

Upgrading a city’s physical infrastructure is one way of making it smart, but it is a short fix says WAYNE HULL, MD for Accenture Digital SA, who believes a smart city needs to tap into networks like the IoT and 5G.

An increasing number of major African metros are beginning to outgrow themselves. Ageing populations, increasing urban density, resource issues and mobility constraints – these are among the primary issues faced by urban areas.

Upgrading or adding to physical infrastructure is possible, but urban adjustment is notoriously slow, and cities’ budgets are increasingly tight. To cope with the demands they’ll face tomorrow, cities need to find ways of making the most of what they’ve got today.

By optimising the flow of everything from traffic to electricity and information around a city, urban life can become far easier, with the potential for cost savings through reduced waste.

Intelligent digital-physical interfaces have the potential to enable new opportunities for resource maximisation, efficiency gains and an enhanced quality of life for end users – in this case, the citizens of major metro areas.

The challenges faced by today’s metros are multifaceted. On one hand, metros are faced with increasing demands for accountability and transparency by citizens and activist groups. On the other, cities face the task of better serving citizens against a backdrop of sub-optimal and fragmented legacy systems, siloed data stores and budgetary, resource and skills constraints.

It’s a confluence that has given rise to the ‘smart city’ concept. In a smart city, digital-physical interfaces, sensors, smart software and Internet of Things-centred technologies work together to enhance and streamline how the city runs. By tapping into and analysing multiple networks of real-time information – covering everything from traffic flow to parking and electricity usage – smart city technologies are focused on one thing: optimising available resources.

IoT, 5G and a new network paradigm

Unlike current mobile networks which employ ‘large-cell’ technology – with macro cell towers, each of which services a large area – smart city networks require an inverse type of architecture: a dense lattice of small cells (data processing devices and sensors) spread throughout the city, fitted anywhere from utility poles to buildings’ basements, and which run 5G technology.

Within 5G networks, the emphasis shifts from media consumption to mobility, and from increased bandwidth to reduced latency. Further changes come in the form of the integration of network function virtualisation (NFV) and software defined network (SDN) capabilities within the network itself, allowing for the move from always-on coverage to instant service instantiation as and when needed.

Future 5G networks will host a variety of service types. Those falling under massive machine-type communication (mMTC), for example, include applications such as telemetry, meters, public lighting systems and security devices.cleardot.gif

Further examples of mMTC solutions include the management of vehicle traffic and electrical grids, with the possibility for substantial savings through reductions in energy use, traffic congestion and fuel. Smart public lighting concepts, for example, automatically dim public lighting when no pedestrians or vehicles are near, conserving power, while still keeping a neighbourhood safe.

Still further mMTC applications include sensors designed to detect leaks in water mains, with such ultra-low power devices allowing sensors to run for many years without needing battery replacement.

A second service type, critical machine type communication, includes applications such as vehicle-to-vehicle communication, autonomous vehicles and public transport. Smart city technologies have the ability to improve public transport systems, for example, by reducing wait times, optimising utilisation and – with information from traffic flow sensors – allowing for dynamic routing. More broadly, smart cities have the potential to reduce traffic congestion overall, through smart traffic management systems.

Smart cities and the city ‘OS’

Co-innovation and co-creation are likely to play key roles in the development of smart city technologies, the combination of which can be thought of as a city operating system, or city OS. To enable the necessary changes, however, thinking must move from evolutionary – improving on services and applications enabled by current mobile networks – to revolutionary, employing new approaches directed toward new entirely new use cases.

From citizens’ perspectives, living in a smart city means the potential for anything from access to a more efficient public transport system to enhanced safety and security. For municipalities, benefits centre around improved citizen outcomes, the ability to engage in predictive maintenance, better use of data and more efficient resource use, meaning cost savings for many cash-strapped metros.

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Cisco gives pre-owned tech a Refresh

In a market of constant upgrades, Cisco Refresh aims to keep quality product away from landfills, writes BRYAN TURNER.

When one gets a new smartphone upgrade, the old device may be used as a backup or can be used by someone else. In business environments, equipment upgrades may not be conducive to keeping old equipment around, which may send older, working equipment to landfills.

This is where Cisco’s Refresh initiative comes in. At Cisco Connect in Sun City this week, Ehrika Gladden, VP and general manager of Cisco Refresh, lifted the lid on a little-known aspect of the company’s strategy. 

“Refresh is Cisco’s global pre-owned equipment business unit,” said Gladden. “It is certified to meet the quality and engineering standards of Cisco. It is licensed for software and it’s also inclusive of a services warranty.

“Our responsibility in 80 countries around the world is tied to both the recovery of assets and the ability to leverage those assets at a lower price point. This ensures our sustainability and proper usage of the Earth’s resources while providing access to small and medium businesses. The products are typically in the range of 20-40% cheaper. The products represent the entire portfolio for Cisco in some part, the majority of that product set is 2+ years in terms of generation.”

Cisco’s Circular Economy initiative ensures a sustainable loop through businesses willing to pay a premium for the latest, cutting-edge solutions, while Cisco markets older, working equipment for resale to those who don’t require the latest solutions. This ensures far less new components need to be used in a product range.

“We are leveraging the model of remanufacturing, refurbishing, recycling, and reusing,” said Gladden. “Depending on the product set, there is a certain set of product yield that we expect. They vary from product to product, but we do have a percentage that doesn’t make it through.

“Those are always reused, meaning we will look at those products and decide to use them completely differently, leveraging the components, remanufacturing back into the overall build process. If that can’t be done, we will go into a recycle process where we melt those products down to reuse them.”

Repairing and refurbishing older products isn’t just that. Cisco is creating repair centres that are owned by third-parties to uplift local ownership.

“The repair centres, as a global manufacturer, is Cisco’s entree into local ownership,” said Gladden. “I want to be precise about what I mean by local ownership. It’s critical for us to have a localised presence, but doing that through ownership. When you look at inclusive economies, those that are participative, to be sustainable – not in the product set, but generationally.

“The ability as a global manufacturer through a local ownership model  isto create a repair centre where a product can be returned, screened, tested, and repaired, leveraging the talent that the Networking Academy is creating.”

Cisco is working closely with local governments to understand where it operates and how to leverage the skills in the market.

Gladden said: “We are also super excited about the National Development Plan and African Union statements which with we align: eradication of poverty, job creation, ownership, healthcare, education, it all fits in the model. So we were very excited to have the opportunity to come to Africa first to announce this. Over the next twelve months, we want to establish our first repair centres, and in the next 3 to 5 years, build that vision into a reality.”

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Why Data Privacy has become a Pipe Dream

If you’re active on WhatsApp, Facebook or any other social platform, you’re not as safe as you thought, writes
AARON THORNTON, MD of Dial a Nerd

As you begin to read this, let’s perform a quick experiment! How many active conversations are you engaged in – right now – on WhatsApp? When was the last time you shared a picture or video on Instagram? Is Facebook currently open and active on one of your devices? And how many internet- connected devices are you using at this moment? Chances are, you have multiple devices running multiple applications most of the time. So what’s the problem, you ask? Since when did checking in with a high school buddy in Australia via Facebook become a dangerous act?  

In reply, we say, read on if you can stomach it!  

Nation-State Hacking & You  

It might seem like a laughably long shot to say that you are a key player in the increasingly sinister and sophisticated world of nation-state hacking. Well, you are. Given that individuals, businesses and governments are now constantly connected, round the clock, consumers and businesses have become fair game in cyber espionage. And as we create and share more and more data, both the value and accessibility of that data increases. According to a report by McAfee, IP theft now accounts for more than 25% of the estimated $600 billion cost of cybercrime to the world economy.    

With data having become the ‘new gold’, nation states are naturally pouring investment and key resources into building advanced cyber warfare tools. Indeed, entire divisions of armed forces as well as the upper echelons of corporate leadership are devising ways to harness data to gain economic, political and social power. At the highest level, tools and platforms are being developed with the specific aim of perpetrating cyber espionage and data theft. No surprise then, that the consumer and business environments are rife with increasingly advanced malware, ransomware and many other malicious hacking tools and methods.  

Still not convinced? Yes, we can smell the scepticism from here! So let’s take a moment to see how this has already played out, beneath our noses.  

Remember the Facebook–Cambridge Analytica data scandal of early 2018? For many, this was a watershed moment in the emerging war for consumer data – and the ensuing tensions between privacy, power and profit. Need a refresh? Well, in 2018, Facebook exposed data on up to 87 million Facebook users to a researcher who worked at Cambridge Analytica, which worked for the Trump campaign. In essence, the data was harvested without user consent and used for political purposes.  

Another chilling but less direct example can be found in Russia’s meddling in the 2016 U.S. elections. According to Politico, Russia launched a massive social media campaign to ‘sow discord’ leading up to the elections. The website reported that as early as 2014, an infamous Russian “troll farm” known as the Internet Research Agency – a company linked to Russian president Putin – developed a strategy using fraudulent bank accounts and other fake identity documents to “spread distrust towards the candidates and the political system in general.” 

When referring to the Russian hacks and their impact on election results, one U.S. Representative sagely noted: “They didn’t just steal data; they weaponized it.” 

Ignorance is not bliss 

Okay, so data is being ‘weaponized’, and ordinary people and businesses are being caught in the crosshairs of cyber warfare. A little bit frightening, but the good news is that savvy individuals like you can take steps to protect personal data and actively combat the creeping influence of juggernauts such as Facebook and Google.  

To begin with, awareness is key. As you engage with various platforms and applications at work and at home, take time to understand how your data is being used and what the terms of use are. Is your data being accessed and sold to advertisers? Have you consented to this? In addition to scrutinizing your consent, also pay close attention to how much data you share online – and the nature of the details you are divulging. Always keep in mind that hackers are employing smart social engineering tactics and using the details of your private life (birthdays, holidays, pet’s names, etc) to trick you into opening infected emails and clicking on malware. Whenever you are online, you are a target – and vigilance at all times is critical. Beyond that, it goes without saying that you must commit to following basic security protocols with your devices. So always keep software up to date and keep your data backed up so that you can reboot or wipe a device if needed.   

Now that we’ve left you sufficiently spooked, you can get back to those demanding WhatsApp/Facebook/Instagram notifications (same company, by the way)…albeit, we hope, with a slightly altered [cyber] worldview!  

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