Data as a service drives digital transformation for smart cities

If you drill down into a smart city’s infrastructure, it doesn’t take long to strike data. The infrastructure I’m talking about is one that incorporates information and communication technology (ICT) into the fabric of the city. The outcomes are various smart applications that create a better citizen experience. These applications, driven by data, improve areas such as safety, connectivity, mobility, physical infrastructure, education, healthcare, governance and sustainability of the city.

The how and why of data-driven application platforms

One successful development approach is to implement a horizontal and interoperable application platform layer that is based on an open and agile standard.

The benefits of a data-driven platform are:

1) Addressing citizen experience by delivering digital services to foster healthier living and better working environments

2) Incorporating local regulations with built-in security to protect user data

3) Delivering a continuous innovation platform that is extensible and flexible

4) Matching user demands with a responsive, agile platform

5) Developing a standardized IoT framework that ingests, analyzes and presents myriad data points

6) Focusing on value creation rather than limiting to IT operations or systems integration.

ICT woven into the fabric of a smart city

Let’s trace the data through the hierarchical layers of a smart city.

Sensor layer: The hierarchy starts at the bottom with sensors as the basis of data generation. Sensors are devices attached to physical assets that generate data about that asset. Sensors can be specific to an application like parking, lighting, weather monitoring systems, etc., or incorporate multiple applications within one sensor like video cameras do.

Communication layer: Sensors generate data that is passed through a communication layer. The communication layer can be wired and/or wireless depending upon the bandwidth of the data being transferred. In a complex environment, we notice devices with multiple types of communication protocols like NB-IoT, LoRa, CAT M1, LTE and others. The communication protocol needs to be able to multiplex various protocols to transfer data into our next layer, which is the digital platform layer.

Digital platform layer: The digital layer is agnostic of the communication protocol that aggregates data from the various sensors. The aggregated data is either analyzed on an edge server or placed in a cloud environment. Edge computing is primarily used for high data bandwidth applications such as video including analytics at the edge server. The other option, a cloud environment, can:

  • Intelligently monitor the collected data
  • Analyze the data
  • Implement automated predictive and prescriptive processes
  • Digitalize and transform the data to develop capabilities, services and business models.

The data can be further analyzed using artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) through anomaly detection and trend analysis.

Data layer: Lastly, the data layer incorporates other functions such as dashboarding, automated workflows, and connecting to third-party applications and other city departments.

Woven into this smart-city fabric is an additional element of IoT security to predict and prevent malicious activities.

Progressing to data as a service

A city’s digital transformation strategy needs to collect and analyze data from various sources to continuously improve the efficacy of its applications. As cities go about weaving their layers, they’re increasingly challenged by a lack of interoperability of the varied technologies, communication transmission protocols and architectures developed by various vendors.

To that end, many cities are eyeing a new trend toward data as a service (DaaS) with great interest. DaaS addresses the challenge of varied interconnections and approaches to smart city implementation from a collaborative multidisciplinary environment.

DaaS addresses the challenge of varied interconnections and approaches to smart city implementation from a collaborative multidisciplinary environment.

The DaaS umbrella covers digital systems, transmission, servers and management. It can help digitalize the city’s infrastructure independently from the cloud environment. And it enables AI engines to analyze data and develop decision options based  on parameters within IoT, cloud, blockchain, big data, virtualization, robotics, and combined digital and physical city infrastructures. The outcome of DaaS is to interconnect the functional parts of the city thereby increasing performance and higher abstraction services while reducing operational and maintenance costs.

Improving the citizen experience

Incorporating ICT into the city’s fabric ultimately creates a better citizen experience. The key is the interconnectedness of the various assets driving data into decision-making and assisting with app development to improve livability. By incorporating DaaS, cities can virtualize their infrastructures including systems, transmission, servers and management. DaaS enables the interoperability of this digital infrastructure.  The result is a timely, accurate and effective user experience with better return on investment — and happier citizens.

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About KJ Chugh

Head of Smart Cities


KJ Chugh is the Head of Smart Cities for Atos North America. He and his team are relentlessly focused on efforts helping clients with smart city strategies, integrating technologies to benefit users and service providers, and making cities resilient and sustainable with a high livability experience. Prior to Atos, KJ led Nokia’s Smart Cities Business Development practice. Prior to Nokia, KJ managed smart cities strategy engagements for global clients at PwC Consulting where he assisted city governments create smart city strategy and blueprints. KJ has more than 12 years in telecommunications working at AT&T, Motorola and Broadcom Semiconductors. He has an MBA from Carnegie Mellon University and master’s and bachelor’s in electrical engineering from University of Arizona.
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