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October 2018, Las Vegas

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Moscow shows the world how to do smart city

As cities rush to embrace smart technology globally, it seems that there could be ‘platform’ lessons from Russia

For the thousands of football fans travelling across Russia for the World Cup, smart technology was unlikely to be on their ‘check it out’ lists. Yet, the digitally savvy could have saved themselves local hassle on transport at least - Moscow is one of the world leaders in Smart City development and another 18 cities are taking part in a national smart technology project.

Developing countries are in the lead when it comes to building Smart Cities, according to a report just out from international consultants McKinsey. Apart from Moscow, cities topping the McKinsey list include Dubai, Hong Kong, Sao Paulo, Seoul and Shanghai. Transport solutions are the most often accessed, according to the report, with over 60% of the population using them.

As McKinsey says, “….. in places where there is no ‘traditional’ solution, user-friendly ‘smart’ solutions offer the potential for explosive growth (for example, the usage of smart-parking applications in traffic-jammed Dubai). Another potential explanation is that customers in those markets are more willing to try something new.”

Cities are rushing to embrace smart technology globally for much the same reasons - by 2025, the world’s top 600 cities are expected to account for 60% of global GDP. “Rapid urbanisation puts tremendous pressure on population centres, and presents a challenge for cities to provide environmental sustainability and ensure the physical security and safety of residents. Smart city technology represents part of the solution,” say international consultants Deloitte in its latest report: Forces of Change – Smart Cities

As the football fans can attest, developing countries like Russia tend to have chaotic cities. “For a rapidly growing metropolis like Moscow, the concept of a Smart City is becoming a necessity. Considering their incredibly complicated infrastructure, managing giants like these with traditional approaches is extremely difficult, if not altogether impossible,” Dmitry Shepelyavy at Russian IoT group SAP told a press conference.  

For the World Cup, SAP developed a Smart Stadium app. “This new digital system, which controls the entire infrastructure of a facility in real time, has already been implemented at the Allianz Arena in Munich and has a significant effect that makes the lives of football fans easier. Anybody who downloads the app can get a ton of helpful information: monitor parking availability, congestion at entrances and exits, match schedules, food court locations, and souvenir shops.”

For a rapidly growing metropolis like Moscow, the concept of a Smart City is becoming a necessity

Most fans seem to have discovered that Airbnb is as popular with Russian flat-owners as elsewhere. Looking further they would have found that there was free WiFi just about everywhere and charge points in many of the Metros and at smart bus stops. They could have downloaded The Fan Transport Guide - in Russian, English, French, Spanish and German – on to their mobiles to help them get around. Paying with a smartphone is often possible.

In Moscow’s airport they could have used the app Aeroexpress app (available in English) to check train schedules and buy tickets. Links to Metro transfer points, bus schedules, weather forecasts, and currency exchanges could have been downloaded with the Yandex app (Russia’s main search engine). Or to get a taxi Gett Taxi (works in Russian, English, and Hebrew), Yandex Taxi (many languages) and City Mobil (available in English).

Beginning to feel like a local they could have rented a public bike by downloading the Velobike app. All the information about the Russian capital’s tourist attractions is on the Moscow Pass app

Only when it comes to eating out, according to website Russia Beyond, does the supply of foreign language solutions run dry. However, those knowing Russia could have downloaded Afisha app, which many Russians use it to read reviews, see ratings, book tables, and buy cinema tickets.

Moving on

Technology, however, is moving on, as Deloitte points out, and some cities have embarked on “the next generation of urban evolution—Smart City 2.0—moving beyond mere infrastructure, tapping the wisdom of their residents and visitors. Ultimately, the smart cities of tomorrow will involve not just government, but citizens, visitors, and business in an intelligent, connected ecosystem built on a sensor-based physical infrastructure.”

Ultimately, the smart cities of tomorrow will involve not just government, but citizens, visitors, and business…

In the Spanish city of Santander, in addition to the 20,000 sensors the city has installed, locals and visitors can turn their smartphones into sensors by downloading the ‘Pulse of the City’ (PoC) app. Becoming, in essence, mobile intelligent sensors for the city, citizens play the role of “prosumers” in the SmartSantander project. For example, SmartSantanderRA, an augmented reality mobile application, includes information on more than 2,700 beaches, parks, and other city sites.

This new information-sharing partnership between the city, residents, and business and visitors can, suggests Deloitte, be thought of as the ‘city-as-a-platform’. It adds: “With the growing ubiquity of wearable and connected devices, citizens can co-create data itself. For instance, the FixCascais app in Cascais, Portugal, allows citizens to photograph and report incidents and problems to municipal services.”

During this year’s Venice Carnival, the city experimented with smart technology, including laser sensors, to keep tabs on the huge numbers who descended on the city. Not that it would have bothered the football fans, but visitors as well as residents don’t like over-tourism.

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