Did you know that 66% of the world’s population will be living in urban areas by the year 2050? Given this statistic, the current scenario of cities is not sustainable for a population that large. As a result, various countries have taken part in the ‘Smart City Movement’ – the emerging trend of creating cities that offer improved living conditions to its citizens.
By leveraging the power of Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, Telematics, and Big Data, smart cities hope to create a world that is not only more advanced and forward but also safe and sustainable.
What is so ‘smart’ about a smart city?
- Connected objects (Internet of Things): What are the most likely sights you can come across while strolling through any regular city? Cars, trees, residences, streets, lampposts, waste bins, etc. Well, a smart city will not have any unusual objects but you definitely want to take a second look as there will be more than what meets the eye. Take the example of a lamppost – A smart lamppost will have sensors installed that will monitor street traffic to determine whether or not to dim the lighting, surrounding air quality, and even parking spots.
- Efficient transportation: Remember those moments of painful anticipation waiting for your bus to arrive at the bus station? The management is shooting in the dark regarding the expected arrival times while the ambiguity has got you totally flustered? Well, that’s not the case with smart city dwellers! Availability of real-time data makes it possible for people to have accurate information regarding a bus’ expected arrival time either via a smartphone app or the bus station itself displays the latest updates. Moreover, even bots are employed to guide people around the transportation system.
- Increased citizen security: Smart cities ensure the safety of their citizens using Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) cameras. Now, the concept of CCTV cameras is not relatively new but the use of Facial Recognition Technology that identifies suspicious and potentially dangerous individuals is. Using this technology, not only can criminals be quickly identified but criminal acts can even be prevented from taking place. Some CCTV cameras even come with features such as smoke and fire alarm capabilities, automatic door lock facilities, etc.
- Greater access to services: A smart city translates to greater accessibility to services, especially government services as most of them will be made available online and will provide increased accountability and transparency. People can easily voice their opinions or give feedback by forming E-groups.
- Environmental-friendly: Smart cities are undeniably also sustainable ones. By the collection and analysis of real-time data, more energy-efficient policies can be developed and energy-efficient solutions can be recommended. For example – sensors installed in lampposts can measure air quality and this data can be used to come up with effective solutions. In fact, the city of Barcelona was indeed able to reduce energy consumption by a whopping 30% and save $37 million annually by using smart lampposts.
How Malaysia plans to ace this race?
As reported by Forbes, Malaysia bagged place among the leading smart city peers owing to its “thriving business ecosystem, urban planning successes, quality of internet, and its efforts towards clean energy.” The country is rapidly making progress towards becoming one of the very first fully developed smart cities of the future.
Malaysia city brain initiative : At the announcement of Malaysia’s City Brain initiative, President of Alibaba Cloud and Senior Vice-President of Alibaba Group, Simon Hu made a remarkable and promising statement, “If Rome brought the world the sewage system, London introduced the subway system, New York contributed to the world the power system, we hope this time, Hangzhou and Kuala Lumpur will provide future generations with the ‘city brain’.” The Malaysian City Brain Initiative was birthed when The Malaysian Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Grab, South-east Asia’s leading cab ride company having the region’s largest transportation network.
Under this new partnership, Grab’s real-time traffic data including traffic speeds and time taken to travel to top Kuala Lumpur routes will be clubbed with other traffic resources procured from 500 CCTV cameras and 300 traffic lights, social media, as well as information from local offices and Government sources; to have a complete idea of the road conditions. This data will then be analyzed using cloud computing and Artificial Intelligence (AI) to determine traffic challenges and to come up with efficient management solutions.
The city brain will even identify the quickest route for ambulances and other emergency vehicles by optimizing traffic flow using real-time data. No more do emergency vehicles need to rely on their sirens and human compassion for making it on time.
Well, the greatest wave of excitement rushed over the world with QUALCOMM’s Snapdragon 855. The next big leap for technology was introduced – the leap of 5G speed. The demands of a smart city – downloading of files within seconds, driverless (fully autonomous cars) of the future, drones, even creation of smart, energy-efficient homes, etc. – significantly revolve around 5G and its speed since 4G has failed to deliver the needful. A world and city-operated via Internet of Things (IoT) can only come into existence by leveraging the power of 5G and beyond.
So, is Malaysia ready for 5G? Is there any work going on in this department? If yes, then what exactly? Well, Malaysia is indeed keen on adopting and implementing the technology of 5G. Back in 2017, NEC Corporation of Malaysia Sdn Bhd and Netcracker Technology had announced their partnership with Big Players such as Red Hat, Juniper Networks, and Dell EMC to deliver an end-to-end 5G platform for Malaysian enterprises and service providers. In the year 2017, a technology trial for 5G was conducted by Celcom Axiata Berhad in collaboration with communication technologies provider, Ericsson.
And the 5G adoption is not limited to companies. Earlier in 2018, the Malaysian city, Cyberjaya was declared to be the first city in Malaysia to have the Blue Ocean Smart Cities developed, the first to have the 5G rollout and other smart city infrastructures developed.
And, finally, in the September of this year, Chairman of MCMC, Al-Ishsal Ishak was found announcing that eight companies are planning to roll out 55 5G use cases across 32 sites in a total of six Malaysian states for a period of six months (October 1st 2019 to 31st March 2020). The companies are making a combined investment of RM116 million for the project. 
On a final note, the country’s intense attention to smart city concepts and rapid development of smart city initiatives is sure to live up to the declaration made by the Housing and Local Government Minister, Zuraida Kamaruddin at the 2019 Smart Cities Asia Conference and Exhibition held in Kuala Lumpur, “It will be another five years before most of the country is ready for the smart city concept.”