When people talk about Europe's prowess with the internet of things (IoT), Russia frequently finds itself overlooked. Yet their IoT offering is significant for businesses and industries, particularly when it comes to their public sector.
Eldar Tuzmukhamedov heads up the Smart City Lab for the City of Moscow, a hub of investigation and action tasked with making Russia's capital more connected.
Next month, Tuzmukhamedov joins the continental speaker line-up at Smart to Future Cities in London to share what a successful smart city business model looks like. He gave us a preview of what Moscow has achieved, and what it hopes to achieve, in advance of the event.
Tell us more about Smart City Lab and your role there.
"When the Moscow Department of IT was created in 2011, 'smart city' was not the buzzword it is now, so when we launched our 'Information City' program, it did not get this name.
"However, the Moscow Department of IT became the center that started to work towards smart cities in four main directions: city hardware infrastructure, automation of municipal facilities, provision of digital services and citizen engagement.
"We have already deployed several large-scale systems, which significantly increased the quality of life for Moscow citizens, efficiency of decision-making and competence of management, and allowed for budget savings. Smart City Lab, created in August 2016, is intended to search for innovations and apply new disruptive technology that will make our city better.
"We are successfully employing IoT, big data, machine learning, augmented reality, virtual reality and other advanced technologies in our education, healthcare, transportation and safety projects; and Smart City Lab acts as a center that synchronizes and coordinates all technology activities and ensures synergy."
What do you think has been Moscow's biggest "smart city" success to date?
"Our biggest success is the speed and the scale of deploying technology in the city. In 2011 we implemented large-scale automation in all areas of municipal facilities. All municipal clinics and schools in Moscow are fully automated; they have electronic document flow and automated budgeting, and provide online services to the citizens.
"E-readiness of our citizens is another major success, with 98% broadband coverage, excellent 4G coverage and the city Wi-Fi system used by all citizens, from children to senior.
"Where other cities face problems with user engagement, we have great numbers due to the e-readiness of Moscow: 1.5 million use our voting app, 1 million use our city app to report problems, and half of the city regularly uses 200 electronic services, available across all channels: online, mobile apps, and via text messages and USSD [unstructured supplementary service data]."
What IoT implementations are you current overseeing in Moscow that you're most excited by?
"All of our city vehicles, including public transport and municipal vehicles, are now connected to a centralized platform that makes it possible to monitor their operation.
"All the municipal vehicles have GPS and GLONASS, speed and fuel consumption control, and soon we will have sensors installed that control the vehicle in performing their functions, like if a 'street flusher' is flushing at the moment. Public transport is also equipped with sensors, and mobile operator data is used to analyze its speed and location, and optimize routes and schedules.
"Another IoT platform of ours is the automatic metering system. Over 3,500 municipal buildings are already connected and have automated water and power consumption metering and billing, and by 2020 every household in the city will enjoy the benefits of smart metering."
What do you see as the defining characteristics of a smart city, and how does Moscow embody these characteristics?
Moscow has an impressive number of smart city projects underway.
"The strategic tasks of a smart city are actually the same as those of a city in general. One: we need to create a comfortable environment for the citizens and the businesses; two: the authorities shall be efficient, take into account citizen opinions, make data-driven decisions and act fast; three: we need to create and maintain a powerful infrastructure.
"'Smart' means that we use technology to complete these tasks, and Moscow is dealing with this just fine, as we have strong hardware infrastructure, large pools of data for decision-making and high level of citizen engagement."
Which city do you think is the "smartest" in the world? How would you like Moscow to emulate this city?
"We keep a close eye on the achievements of many smart cities, so I have to say that I cannot pick one and pronounce it the smartest. The conditions and needs of every city vary greatly; they have different climates, populations, migration levels, ecology problems, public transportation systems, etcetera.
"We also need to keep in mind that the concepts and notions used by smart city associations are not yet unified, as it is hard to bring 'smart' to a common standard. However, as I said, we are closely monitoring all the achievements, always looking for something that we can successfully use in Moscow."
What roles do you think public and private sectors should play as a smart city is developed, and who should ultimately pay for these developments?
"Smart cities must be a public-private partnership, and Moscow's experience is remarkable proof of this statement. The city shall not just spend its budget; it shall always aim to attract investment. Moscow uses investment contracts, creating and offering new models for the business.
"Our free city Wi-Fi is built on investment model: the companies spend their money on the infrastructure, and then make profit on advertisement. The same goes for the city CCTV system: the cameras are installed and maintained by mobile operators. It is a mutually beneficial cooperation, where we cut our expenses, and the business gets its profit."
— Jeremy Coward, Community Manager, IoT World News
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