Born and raised in Hanoi, and blessed with the patience typical of an IT engineer, Le Van Thanh, field chief technology officer at Dell Vietnam, is used to the city’s bad traffic situation. However, he has recently become troubled by the serious rise in air pollution.
“I use public transport instead of private vehicles, but it takes time to wait for the bus. I spend a lot of time outside my sinuses are clogged up because of the air pollution,” Thanh said at the Building Smart Cities in the National Digital Transformation Process session at last week’s Industry 4.0 Summit.
“With smart cities or technologies, we can find out exactly when the bus will arrive, thus saving a lot of time,” he added.
Thanh pointed out the benefits of smart cities, including optimising traffic flows in real time, reducing energy consumption, using predictive policing, detecting alterations in air and water quality, automating waste management, and allowing cities to function more efficiently.
Taking Hanoi as an example, Thanh stated that the city’s air quality and traffic situation can be improved, or even comprehensively resolved, by using technologies.
“With smart models, cities can change the world with technology, from ageing, unplanned infrastructure, declining public budgets, and unprecedented urbanisation to environmental sustainability. Depending on the practical problems, each city can choose suitable technologies and models which empower citizens, placing them at the centre,” Thanh said.
Agreeing with Thanh on putting citizens at the forefront of building smart cities, Dang Vu Tuan, deputy director of Hanoi’s Department of Information and Communications said, “The ultimate target of smart cities is to provide people with the best services. By bringing together infrastructure and technologies, smart cities help to improve the quality of citizens’ lives and enhance their interactions with the urban environment. Hanoi wishes to create such a city.”
Brian Hull, country managing director of ABB Vietnam, a provider of solutions for smart cities, said, “Smart cities are places where everything becomes simple for people, for users. Users have no difficulties in understanding or using services here.” According to Hull, achieving such convenience requires a comprehensive solution of infrastructure, policies, and sources.
Built on the basic technologies of Industry 4.0, smart cities are an integration of big data, Internet of Things (IoT), AI, blockchain, synthetic biology, regenerative energy technologies, and even space technologies. That is why experts believe that smart cities require an integrated system of systems in which the basic infrastructure must be invested in by local authorities, allowing the private sector and startups to develop apps and solutions on this foundation.
“In smart cities, all sectors are linked and connected with each other. Therefore, the data must be connected and shared so that enterprises and startups can join hands with the authorities in solving problems, improving citizens’ lives, and earning money,” Thanh said.
Nguyen Thanh Phuc, director of the Department of Computerisation at the Ministry of Information and Communications (MIC) raised similar points, suggesting that localities focus on building monitoring centres. “In smart cities, thousands of cameras and IoT equipment are applied daily to collect data supporting decision makers,” said Phuc. “This is a huge volume of data and it will be unsecured if we can’t manage it well. Therefore, the larger the implementation of smart cities, the stronger the centres must be.”
Emphasising the role of e-government, MIC Deputy Minister Nguyen Thanh Hung said, “Building smart cities isn’t separate from the development of e-government, to create the most favourable conditions for citizens and businesses when communicating with authorities,” he said. “People must be provided with applications to communicate with the authorities, and all of their feedback must be answered quickly and satisfactorily.”
Future societal trends
Hung also pointed out the important role of the human element. According to Hung, a city cannot become smart without visionary leadership and qualified human resources to plan, build, manage, and operate that city.
It is forecast that within the next three decades, 70 per cent of Vietnam’s workforce will be displaced by automation. In this digital age, data, science, technology, engineering, and mathematics are going to be key capabilities and competencies. “Education and training is very important. People must be the owners, the handlers, and decision makers. They need to have skills to manage technologies,” said Denis Brunetti, president of Ericsson Vietnam, Myanmar, Cambodia, and Laos.
He also emphasised the importance of 4G and 5G networks. “With physical cities, you have increased development and it has a negative impact on the environment,” said Brunetti. “With digital cities, however, when the social economy develops, you have a positive impact on the environment so you get a triple bottom line benefit of social, economic, and environmental benefits through 4G and 5G networks.”
There are implications when it comes to the utilisation of resources, especially with increased urbanisation across Vietnam, and a lot of stress and strain on the limited resources in Hanoi.
Thanh of Dell Vietnam added that every city has its own conditions and challenges, and there is no common formula for them all.
“Therefore, each city should choose a priority which is easy to solve , so that citizens can quickly see the benefits of smart applications and will participate more effectively in future applications,” said Thanh.
Besides this, he also noted that an application can be applied to solve a small issue but its architecture must be ready for future expansion at a more complicated level.