Category Archives: Smart Technologies

Breaking Out of the Silo

There has been talk of changing the way we live in order to benefit both the planet and each other for many years. Countless schemes have been created to reduce carbon emissions, increase solar energy, encourage the use of public transportation, increase child safety and boost quality of life for all. But these schemes have all been run independent of each other, the so-called silo structure. However, it’s fast becoming clear that this method simply does not work. The Smart Cities venture combines all of these aspects, with the overall aim of using technology to improve life. However, ICT analyst Ovum suggests that the move to smarter, ICT literate cities is slower than we would have hoped.

“While most of us live in cities, moves to integrate the technologies that link us all, to create a better standard of living, are being stymied by a lack of resources and poor planning.”

While suppliers have been able to develop technology to aid with almost any aspect of life, from crime to traffic, the implementation stage may be what causes the most difficulty. While the physical aspect of putting into place the hardware, such as sensors, that is needed may be a time consuming process, it is the changing of people’s minds and behavior patterns that is set to cause the most difficulty.

The Smart City initiative needs to find a way to foster collective action to improve social interactions. This is just one of the topics to be discussed during the Smart Cities Europe conference due to be hosted early this week.

Birmingham gets EU funds for ultra-fast broadband network

Birmingham is setting up an ultra-fast broadband network. This project is part of the government’s ‘super-connected cities’ competition. The aim of this competition is to construct high speed networks in ten UK cities and using the £100 million in funding that is available.

The project is also receiving a £4.8 million grant state aid from the European Commission since they found that the project is in line with EU state aid rules and it will be genuinely open to all operators and therefore promote competition.

The EU has Broadband Guidelines, and one of the reasons they granted this state aid to Birmingham is because their project is in some aspects exceeding the minimum requirements of these EU guidelines. The EU minimum to grant open access to alternative operators is only seven years, but Birmingham will be granting this open access for at least 25 years.

Joaquin Almunia, Vice President of the European Commission and Commisioner responsible for competition,  said that it’s important to promote growth in line with EU’s Digital Agenda, and investments in ultra-fast broadband networks contribute to this. So another reason why Birmingham is getting the state aid is because their network was designed in a competitive manner.

The network will be available on a wholesale basis, which ensures more competition at retail level. Most of the time, these networks are built with the help of taxpayers’ money, so it is important that there is a thriving competition on the subsidized networks. Local businesses and citizens should be able to benefit from continuously improving broadband services at competitive prices.

There are two districts in Birmingham where private operators have no or limited investments plans in the next few years. This means that consumers would only be able to use basic broadband services or expensive leased line business services. Because of this, Birmingham will target theses areas with their new network. It will also offer some significant enhanced technological characteristics when you compare the network to other existing networks. These technologies are expected to meet demands from SME’s, especially those in the creative industries.

In addition to the £100 million that Birmingham wants to invest in this super-fast broadband network, they have announced plans to invest the same amount of money in a public Wi-Fi network in the city which would make use of infrastructures in the city like tower blocks or lampposts.

Northeast Group report – smart grids in the Middle East and North African region

Smart grid regulatory frameworks are still in the early stages of development, however, progress is being made and governments are beginning to invest in the technologies necessary to make their grids smarter. This is because they realise that they must incentivise energy conservation. Smart grid technologies will be a feature of infrastructure investments over the next decades in the Gulf, led by Saudi Arabia and the UAE, states a report by Northeast Group.

Northeast Group has projected that the Middle East and North African region could save between $300 million and $1 billion per year if they start using smart grids in an efficient way. Smart grids grant the region the opportunity to incorporate renewable energy sources, cope with the rising demand and reduce energy losses on the network.

The MENA countries are already investing in renewable energy sources. A perfect example is Saudi Arabia’s recent announcement that they are willing to spend $109 billion to develop 41 GW of solar capacity over the next 20 years. Smart grids can help these countries to connect the renewable energy sources more easily to the grid.

The report by Northeast Group also predicts the smart metering market to rise to 16.1 million units by 2022. The Gulf will see the majority of near-term activity, with 86% of homes having smart meters by 2022. Currently, the UAE leads the smart meter market in the MENA region with Abu Dhabi already undertaking smart grid strategies and Masdar city being praised as a ‘pioneer’ for smart and other environmentally sustainable technologies.