The Future of Smart Cities – Connected, Sustainable and Resilient

Speaker: Nicola Villa, Managing Director, Global Public Sector, Internet Business Solutions Group, Cisco Systems


Nicola Villa

This is a challenge sitting between you and lunch.

Gordon asked me to start thinking with you and speaking about the city of the future, if you can show the slides. In fact, in order to start thinking about the city of the future, I would like to go back to the past. I would like to go back to 1998 when in my home town in Italy, Milan the city government started to come together with a large developer and with a bank and think about the deployment of what used to be called at the time as ‘the next generation broadband infrastructure.’ So the city said, “What if you can connect all the families and the businesses, a city of 1.5 million people, with fiber? We believe fiber is the next generation connectivity solution.” So Cisco started to participate in this conversation and a special purpose [inaudible 00:57] was created, a company called Fastweb, which today is the second largest telecom operator in the country.

Fastweb started to connect all the city with a combination of wired and wireless infrastructure and then other Cities around Europe took that as a blueprint. Amsterdam, Stockholm. In Asia, Singapore started to adopt the Fastweb consortium model and somehow we found ourselves in front of a global trend. Cities and city governments decided to co-invest with the telecom world into the broadband enablement of their constituencies. Suddenly in 1994 and 1995, the global conversation changed from saying how do we deploy networks in the city into what are we actually going to do with that? We used to have five major classes of applications and solutions and services coming up on top of broadband. Healthcare, education, safety and security, services to small and medium businesses and mobility services. Suddenly again in 1996 we started to see a new macro level class for a new big discussion coming in on top of the broadband network.

Climate change and environmental sustainability became a mainstream issue from a policy agenda and, therefore, more and more focus on intersection between broadband and environmental sustainability became the big focus there. We are speaking about a couple of programs there.

in 2009 and 2011 we started from a Cisco perspective to engage, especially in Asia into large, new cities being built in China or in Korea, and we started to think about how those elements, the application and services, the network, the urban design came together. So, we have been working from a Cisco perspective in this journey for 13 years and throughout this journey we came up with four major technology trends, we came across them.

The first trend, which is quite important, is that the broadband network, wired and wireless, has become a new critical infrastructure in our cities. From an urban planning perspective until 5 years ago, you could plan your city, your green field city or redevelopment of an existing city without thinking about the Internet and network. IT was an afterthought in many ways. Today we work with a number of leading architects and around planners who are busy coming to us and saying, “You cannot do this anymore, we have to imbed the design of the network in design of all the other elements of the build infrastructure.” Because you can rethink to the network, by the way, and the place where people live, work, play and learn. So the network is changing somehow the shape of the cities by influencing urban design.

The second element is that, not only that cities are becoming broadband enabled but every element of the build environment of the city is becoming connected. So 1 trillion devices in the next couple of years are going to be connected to the Internet. Not only computers and people but also bricks in a wall, vehicles, every piece really of the urban infrastructure. Now this phenomena is called, in the industry, the ‘Internet of Things’ phenomenon. We are, in many ways, today on the third phase of the Internet. The first phase of the Internet in the 1990’s was mainly driven by enterprise usage, e-commerce, e-supply chain, Internet were the big words at the time. Over the last 10 years, we basically witnessed the second phase of the internet, the social phase: Facebook, Twitter, all the applications and solutions which were started to be used by the people.

We are now in the third phase, which is the industrialization of the Internet, when again, every element of our build environment – JD just gave a presentation about what happens outside the cities as well – is basically becoming connected. So what does this mean? This means that the computing capability that we have in our plans, be it a computer or a [inaudible 05:00] is not enough anymore to be able to handle the huge amount of data which is produced by those elements of the build environment being connected. So Cloud suddenly is becoming the new delivery to ñ or how to scale, basically, this data into scaled intelligence. So cloud means that basically, the computing capability that you have as individuals does not rely anymore on the chip that you have on this phone but the particular capabilities it has on the network and you start using this capability as a service, as if you were using a utility, so you consume what you need. You need a local storage of your electricity – you are basically getting from the network. The same happens today for the computing side. So again the cloud is accelerating – not only the collection of the data which are produced by those IP enabled devices all over the world, but is also allowing the creation of the intelligence of all the data. We spoke a bit about this earlier on.

Now the fourth trend is that the previous three elements enable the creation of lots of information and lots of collaborations among the users which are connected to the network. So in the last 60 seconds, some of the numbers here, 370,000 voice calls were made on Skype; about 100,000 Tweets happened in the last 20 seconds. So people that are using the Internet start producing content but also start co-collaborating and co-creating on ideas relating to innovation, be it a new service, a new product, a new idea coming up from the social perspective. So co-production on the network becomes a big reality.

Given those four trends, we started to think at Cisco about how do we approach the city discussions and how do we start innovating or stimulating innovation in this space? A big, I would say, inflection for us came in 2006 when we launched our first large program in the urban space called Connected Urban Development. The challenge that we got from President Clinton was to think about how Broadband connectivity could help decrease CO2 emissions in large metropolitan areas. We started to think about solving this problem as a nation and we realized this is something that Cisco could not do by itself. So we started to think about city governments with whom we could partner. And we signed a partnership with the city of Seoul in Korea, San Francisco in the United States and Amsterdam in the Netherlands. We also signed up MIT as our research partner there.

We sat down for the first time after the announcement we made at the Clinton Global Initiative in 2006 and we immediately realized how those three different parties – cities, business and NGO and Academia – were coming together and trying to innovate. We learned a lot – we spoke about some of the learning there. And then in 2008 we realized that cities, the network and climate change were not only a good corporate and social possibility from Cisco’s perspective, but we could make lots of money by developing economic solutions in this space. Our mentor in there was Thomas Freedman who came to our directors office in Cisco and said, “‘Green’ is not only good for the environment, it’s not only good for your CSR, but it’s good for your business.”

So we realized that experimenting and co-creating solutions together with the public sector and academia could drive our business of the future. We launched a large program called Smart & Connected Communities which is our slogan for the smart city space. We also extended our partnership to Metropolis – Joseph has been very instrumental in that – but also the Climate Group that was mentioned by JD before. So we started to find ourselves in a very complex environment in which you are not trying to develop the technologies in isolation but you need to basically mediate and translate in terms of language, technology and business priorities with other parties, with organizations which are very different from a Corporation like Cisco is. So, dealing with these complexities is something we learned immediately we had to work on.

A few examples of trends that we came across through those two programs that we launched. In 2006, once we launched the connected [inaudible 09:11] in San Francisco, Gary Newson came in our workshops and said, “I would like to be able to help the Citizens of San Francisco get a better experience when they step on a bus. I’m thinking about stimulating multi transportation, and honestly, when you come into San Francisco by bus, the experience is not the best. Could we use information technology to basically make people more confident that if they come on those vehicles that they get there in time and they can maybe be productive?” So we ran a couple of workshops with Muni, which is the Municipal Transport Authority there, trying to think about what would happen if you put connectivity and IT services into a bus. After two workshops, we could not figure it out. We were brainstorming; we didn’t get anywhere.

Muni basically said, “Let’s do one thing, we’ll take one bus out of our network which is costing us money. We are going to drive it on the Cisco campus and you tell us what to do.” We drove this bus on our campus and the first thing that we saw was that there was a number of antennas on this bus, different networks for different communication purposes on the same bus. We thought about converging those networks into one. We basically put together an IP converging network into those vehicles. We started to see some savings from a Government prospective [inaudible 10:25] the networks. Environmental sustainability was fine but saving money in telecomm operations on a bus became the big compelling area for investment.

The other thing that we did there – again, top down was enterprise and government work was to say what other services will be put on the bus now? So we put touch screens on this bus which was driving around San Francisco. We put a green calculator – you could calculate how many grams of CO2 you will save by not taking your car and taking the bus. We had a sort of navigation system – you could see where the bus was going and when the next connection was taking place.

We started to do some user feedback there. Now the users of application were not really interested. Very few people basically used it. We then thought about creating some service again, together with the government, say, “What services will citizens want to have?” We put this question around. We asked people to score questionnaire: ‘do you like this idea 1 to 5 – 1 is a bad idea and 5 is a better idea.’ We got lots of 1’s. We were not able to think about and to realize what really citizens want.

Now, meanwhile very interestingly a couple of online social networking groups, one is called started to look at the bus and point their finger and say, “Well that’s big government, that’s big business – we don’t like that, but what if you started to think about these other applications, these other solutions?” Suddenly, we witnessed a very different conversation between the government and the community on what services should go on the bus. So the Community and the people took the bus itself and started to innovate and this thing literally exploded in our hands. The design of the service, in this case, of what goes in the bus became decided by the citizens themselves.

The second idea was – JD spoke about this – Urban EcoMap. The idea that again [inaudible 12:22] as of moving the citizen’s collective intelligence into collective action. So you can say, what if I start showing my citizens the carbon emissions by neighborhood in San Francisco and then in Amsterdam and I had them understand that if they take one action – a tangible action – there is an impact and I can measure this impact on a dashboard that I am going to give to them. Again, we created an infrastructure. JD was basically the chief architect in this and we suddenly again saw a number of people in the local Community starting to create application, services and content – which were going on the EcoMap – even created [inaudible 12:56] EcoMaps. By the way, in some cases, better than ours. So again, the community started thinking about engaging from an idea coming from the government and creating their own solution which could and could not be the government model. But again, both are innovation.

Now all these came together in a very crystallized and excellent way in a city in Korea called Busan. Busan is the second largest city in Korea. They had deployed a big broadband network. I would say a next generation one: Wi-Fi, 3G and fiber conversed. They looked at what was happening in San Francisco and Amsterdam and said what if you start outsourcing the production of those applications to our local, small and medium businesses? So they deployed together with Korea Telecom, with EMC2, with Cisco – what I call a digital sandbox as we spoke about before – network infrastructure with a converged set of data centers. They put open data on top of these data centers and then they asked the companies in a local new media cluster to play with the data and to create Applications the same as [inaudible 14:00]. They created application context, and suddenly a number of apps in the green growth area, in the sustainability area were created by the local community and were becoming quite successful.

From all these experiences in the last year, we started to think, on the Cisco side, what is our role? Are we going to be able to innovate in the creation of applications? Do we only do the planning? We are somewhere in the middle. We are developing in cities like Songdo which is a new development in the city of Incheon in Korea. The idea was service delivery platform. So we are looking at a combination between broadband, data center and software service models to collect the data which is coming from the different networks, open and private data to help the data flow in an efficient way throughout the city and to basically put the data out for the local communities to create the applications and services by themselves. The communities are better equipped to design what they want to use than this coming from a large corporation or from the local government.

We are basically planning in many ways the innovation, enabling it. As opposite to creating a virtual integrating model with Cisco – runs the applications, runs the middleware and deploy the infrastructure. So, we are enablers of innovation, and not really the drivers because most of the innovation comes from the citizens themselves.

So back into the question of what does the future look like? I am going back into the past. I live like [inaudible 15:30] in a city like Amsterdam and the word that I keep thinking about when I walk around the streets is ‘resilience’. The city of the future is a City which is built in a resilient way, is a city that uses networks, canals and on the side of the canals uses fiber ñ so fiber has been deployed on those streets. These are the ideas of resiliency from a technology and social economic perspective allows, for example, when you are walking – to see all the warehouses where coffee used to be traded, are now used for [inaudible 16:03] as I mentioned before.

As more and more businesses start taking advantage of this infrastructure which is 400 years old to innovate ñ in leading that perspective – and to create new solutions. So resilience is the first element to me of what the city of the future should look like.

The second one is a participative city. The classic example you have probably all seen is of Seoul in Korea where an highway in the middle of the city was torn down and they, basically, redeployed the old river which was sitting there and the moment they opened this park in the middle of the city, the citizens took ownership of the park itself and they started to use the urban furniture in a way which was not thought about by the Government. Not only were they using the urban furniture, but now in Seoul the citizens started to use the open data that the government’s putting out for creating the applications. So a resilient and participatory city is, in my opinion, what we can expect from the future.

To conclude this, I would like to, as I mentioned before, go back to the past and I am going back to 1956 where a gentleman called Paul Baron, at Rand Corporation was provided with a challenge by the U.S. Federal Government. The challenge that Paul got was to design a telecommunication infrastructure at a National level that would withstand a nuclear attack from the then Soviet Union. So Baron’s team worked for a couple of years on a number of architectural choices.

The standard of the time was a centralized command and control telecommunication infrastructure. They looked into a second scenario which was a hub spoke network. And they thought about a third one – a very innovative architecture for the time, which was a completely distributed network. Based on the principal that information would be able to flow freely from point A to point B, without having to rely on the existence and on the presence of a single node. Now in many ways, the decision that they took, going for the third infrastructure, the distributed network gave the birth to the Internet as we know it today.

So my belief is that the way the city of the future is going to work is very similar to the way the Internet works. The belief is that in the future the flow of people, vehicle, goods, data and especially ideas will be as efficient as the flow of digital packages over the Internet. Thank you.

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