Planned com­mu­ni­ties are smart cities of fu­ture

The Star Early Edition - - BUSINESS NEWS - Jac­ques du Toit is the chief ex­ec­u­tive of Vox, the end-to-end in­te­grated ICT and in­fras­truc­ture provider and telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions com­pany. Jac­ques du Toit

ANUM­BER of planned com­mu­ni­ties be­ing built with con­nec­tiv­ity at their core – and not Jo­han­nes­burg and Cape Town – are lead­ing the lo­cal race to­ward be­ing truly in­te­grated smart cities that are us­ing tech­nol­ogy to en­hance liv­abil­ity, work­a­bil­ity and sus­tain­abil­ity.

Cities around the world are in­creas­ingly turn­ing to ICT to solve chal­lenges aris­ing from rapid ur­ban­i­sa­tion, in­ad­e­quate in­fras­truc­ture and res­i­dent’s de­mands for en­hanced liv­abil­ity, work­a­bil­ity and sus­tain­abil­ity. Smart cities col­lect data about them­selves through a va­ri­ety of means, com­mu­ni­cate that data us­ing wired or wire­less con­nec­tiv­ity, and then an­a­lyse the data to un­der­stand what is hap­pen­ing, and pre­dict what is likely to hap­pen in fu­ture.

While the smart city con­cept is gain­ing mo­men­tum in South Africa, lo­cal cities are still a long way off when com­pared to their coun­ter­parts in the US, Europe or – closer to home – with Dubai.

Legacy

A ma­jor chal­lenge deals with is­sue of legacy. It is why we do not be­lieve that the first smart city in South Africa will be Jo­han­nes­burg or Cape Town. These ma­jor ur­ban ar­eas have been built over a pe­riod of time us­ing closed sys­tems that aren’t de­signed to con­nect or com­mu­ni­cate with each other.

Smart city ini­tia­tives of­ten fail, be­cause of this siloed ap­proach to city man­age­ment, but over­haul­ing these sys­tems re­quires sub­stan­tial in­vest­ment. As such, turn­ing these ex­ist­ing ur­ban en­vi­ron­ments into smart cities takes time and up­grades need to be im­ple­mented in a stag­gered and eco­nom­i­cally sus­tain­able man­ner.

Part­ner­ships are the key to con­nec­tiv­ity.

How­ever, this does not mean that there are not any smart cities in South Africa: smart city en­vi­ron­ments are be­ing driven by de­vel­op­ers who are en­ter­ing into strate­gic part­ner­ships with ICT providers to de­liver broad­band in­ter­net ac­cess to planned mixed-use com­mu­ni­ties and large-scale shop­ping cen­tres around the coun­try.

Plan­ning is crit­i­cal and Vox has been work­ing with mul­ti­ple top level de­vel­op­ers in the coun­try to en­sure new de­vel­op­ments are built with con­nec­tiv­ity in mind from the very start. With­out an abun­dance of data, and the abil­ity to man­age that data, a smart city or even a smart home can­not func­tion.

Through these part­ner­ships, Vox has de­vel­oped an en­gage­ment model specif­i­cally geared to­wards the prop­erty devel­op­ment mar­ket in both the res­i­den­tial and re­tail space.

We have a se­lec­tion of ag­ile and tactical mod­els which can be cus­tomised and tai­lored to the cus­tomer’s spe­cific needs along with ded­i­cated re­sources that are staffed to meet the prop­erty de­vel­oper’s re­quire­ments.

Our for­mula is unique and we in­vite prop­erty devel­op­ment com­pa­nies to talk to us so that we can un­der­stand cus­tomer needs and align our­selves with meet­ing their busi­ness ob­jec­tives. De­vel­op­ers have also re­alised that pro­vid­ing open-ac­cess high speed con­nec­tiv­ity helps dif­fer­en­ti­ate their prop­er­ties in a com­pet­i­tive land­scape and lay the ground­work for the cre­ation of smart com­mu­ni­ties.

Cost-ef­fec­tive

Economies of scale at such de­vel­op­ments also mean it is far more cost-ef­fec­tive for con­nected homes to be of­fered off-plan. Some planned com­mu­ni­ties are even of­fer­ing con­nec­tiv­ity as a “fourth util­ity” – in ad­di­tion to elec­tric­ity, wa­ter and gas – with the costs be­ing added to the home owner’s es­tate bill. In sum­mary, the key thing here is for com­pa­nies to be in­te­grated and form struc­tured part­ner­ships with aligned strate­gies with the de­vel­oper in the rel­e­vant precinct from the get go.

With a 100Mbps broad­band link and WiFi con­nec­tiv­ity from day one, each home in one of these planned com­mu­ni­ties has the po­ten­tial to be a smart home, with built-in se­cu­rity and en­ter­tain­ment be­ing just the start.

This is then ex­tended on to the broader com­mu­nity – tech­nol­ogy can be used by au­thor­i­ties to bet­ter man­age the use of street lights, the col­lec­tion of waste, and to cut down on wa­ter wastage, while res­i­dents can find park­ing more eas­ily.

We be­lieve this is the true start of smart city devel­op­ment in South Africa.

By part­ner­ing with the right ICT provider, these planned com­mu­ni­ties can use tech­nol­ogy to tackle chal­lenges such as safety and se­cu­rity, en­ergy wastage, and traf­fic con­ges­tion more holis­ti­cally, and pro­vide new value-added ser­vices for res­i­dents such as smart health­care.

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