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The Heart of a Smart City

By Katerina Zalamova

· smart cities,data industry,big data

Cities have a central and defining role in strategic sustainable development; and therefore, they have increasingly gained a central position in operationalising and applying it. This is clearly reflected in the Sustainable Development Goals (SGDs) of the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which entails, among other things, making cities more sustainable and resilient, it's also well documented by European Commission. This is anchored in the recognition that cities as the engines of, and the hubs of innovation that drive economic development are the world’s major consumers of energy resources and significant contributors to GHG emissions. It is estimated that they consume about 67% of the global energy demand and generate up to 70% of the harmful GHG emissions. Accordingly, they represent the key generators of environmental pollutants and the main hotspots of vulnerability to climatic hazards and related upheavals, in addition to social inequality, disparity, vulnerability, and insecurity.

In view of that, they are seen as the most important arena for instigating major sustainability transitions, adding to being the key sites of economic, environmental, and social dynamism and innovation and thereby holding great potential for making significant contributions to social transformation and thus sustainable development. As such, they provide ideal testing grounds and operating environments for innovative ICT solutions pertaining to diverse urban systems and domains. In this regard, the UN’s 2030 Agenda regards ICT as a means to promote socio-economic development and protect the environment, increase resource efficiency, achieve human progress and knowledge in societies, upgrade legacy infrastructure, and retrofit industries based on sustainable design principles.

Although, ICT is called on to enable sustainability into smart cities, it is subject to high negative environmental impact related to the number of deployed sensors and the volume of generated data. One of the major costs in the Big Data Industry is related to the data storage and data treatment. The data generation volume is expected to increase from 33 zettabytes in 2018 to 175 in 2025.

City Data Platform

ICT is what converts a city into a smart one. ICT is an abbreviation about every technology related to information and communication such as hardware, software, sensors, telecommunication devices and antenas, smart devices (mobiles, smart watches, drones, autonomous vehicles), etc.

This universe of technologies enable the digital transformation of our society and bring us to the connected reality in which we live today.

The ICT have been developed in silos by their application purpose. Thus it appears challenging to have a mix of this technologies under a different user case than their specific application. Resolving this challenge is one of the key points for a successful implementation of a digital transformation strategy.

Another challenge to a successful digitisation process is the main result of it: the generated data. As we said above, the ICT enable a constant exponential growth of the generated data today.

Then, to resolve these two challenges, a specific software design has been developed, called Enterprise Integration Platform. Today, there are many companies providing this solution which at a city level is known as a City Data Platform.

The heart of a smart city is its City Data Platform.

The City Data Platform implements a specific data model for the city about its data flows between its layers and different dimensions. It connects devices, people, businesses and public administration services and entities in one unique structure which operates as one system.

Well designed City Data Platform empowers the city to expand its physical dimension in to the virtual one multiplying the opportunities for its stakeholders.

If there is no a City Data Platform but there are smart infrastructures, they stay alone and can't bring their true value to the citizens. Moreover, a duplication of sensors and generated data occur. The invisible side of this result is their demand for electricity and refrigeration of the hardware systems which support the digital services provided by these infrastructures. Then, naturally smart cities grow further from sustainability and increase the threat to the global warming.

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Sustainable City Platform

Thanks to the last technological advancements and the research on distributed networks, the issues related to data storage on a city level can be resolved. At CREA IDEA LAB, we are promoting Sustainable City Platform based on VPLedger technology. It enables self-autonomous regulation between parties: citizen-to-citizen, business-to-business, business-to-public administration, citizen-to-public administration, between public administration entities. Furthermore, it facilitates the minimisation of data storage by converting the traditional data warehouse to Distributed Digital Ledger. Then, the data is stored at the user device/node and it is not replicated at the city platform. We estimate a reduction of the demand for data storage to reach 1% of the one of traditional city platform.

To understand the real environmental impact of our Sustainable City Platform, let's imagine a city which want to attract a visitor's flow of 1% of the global population today. Let's also imagine that these visitors will stay just a day in the city. It is also know that with the present state-of-art of the technology, the users of digital services produce 1,7 MB of data every second by user. Then, let's imagine that our city wants to adopt a unique city app based on a City Data Platform and to enable its citizens and visitors with digital public services from administration services to e-shopping and e-entertainment.

Then, we can estimate that just the visitors of our city will generate 11,5 exa-bytes of data in a day which will rise an electricity consumption demand of 0,7GWh. If we implement our Sustainable City Platform in our imaginary city, it can facilitate an environmental positive impact of 4,1 million tonnes of CO2 eq.

Then, our city can really establish itself to be on the road to become a sustainable city with systems and processes which will fight against global warming.

In our example, we are not accounting for the data generated by the residents, the businesses and the sensors in the city. This energy efficiency impact is additionally improved by savings in space which will be needed in case of a traditional digital platform. Also, there is an important reduction in costs of maintenance, technical intervention and downtimes. Lastly, CREA IDEA LAB designs provides a high level of cybersecurity and traceability rooted in the use of the DLT and optimized design of the Content Management System where content is created and consumed locally.

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Sustainable City Platform based on VPLedger technology by CREA IDEA LAB.

But More Than Environmental Impact

We have shown above the huge environmental impact which can be achieved with the optimization of the data management when data storage is kept under control. Additional, positive environmental impact is generated through a unified governance model which integrated the technologies in the city through shared ownership which minimizes the sensor multiplication and increases the reuse of the physical elements.

This unified governance model is key to create and provide an important social impact by empowering the users to exchange and build personal economic value on their data. This will bridge from one side the digital gap, and from another, it will leverage the economic conditions between social classes.

Lastly, Sustainable City Platform is a smart cities infrastructure which enables a smooth integration between the physical and virtual space of a city. Thanks to the opening of the virtual space of the city, it can facilitate a virtual residence experience for people abroad of the city geographical area. This opens an opportunities for creation of a better employment through virtual economy entrepreneurship targeting the young generations. Consequently, it improves the wellbeing of the citizens and virtual employees. In the first instance, the city will have less traffic from people living abroad and coming everyday to work. In the second instance, there is the possibility of choosing to live in rural areas a lead a more nature focused lifestyle.

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