What to prioritise in a smart city makeover

By ST Engineering

ST Engineering has been helping cities to transform since long before the term ‘smart city’ became a catch-all for modernising urban environments through digitalisation and technology. Chew Men Leong, President of Urban Solutions at ST Engineering, sheds light on what governments should focus on as they pursue their smart city goals.

In the city of Kaosiung, Taiwan, train stations have automated platform doors and fare collections systems. This is just one way in which traffic management solutions can make a city's transport smart and more reliable. Image: Andy/ Unsplash

What sets a smart city apart? For Chew Men Leong, it’s about the judicious application of a combination of software and hardware technologies to provide tangible benefits, enhance the quality of life for their inhabitants and ensure they remain economically competitive even during crises.

Although cities may be the most efficient way of organising societies and economies, they’re a constant work in progress, Chew says. As cities expand into metropolises, city planners need to manage resources sensibly and prudently by continually keeping an eye on traffic, sustainability and security challenges.

Connected smart mobility

Congested roads are not only a major headache for city dwellers but are also a key contributor of carbon emissions. A well-integrated, intelligent multi-modal transport network can help transport authorities maximise mass transport usage and shape mobility patterns to reduce environmental impact.

“The end goal is to have greater connectivity that allows smooth transit from point A to point B efficiently within a reasonable timeframe, comfortably and more sustainably,” Chew says.

ST Engineering’s smart metro and traffic management solutions have been deployed across Asia, Middle East to the United States. From smart metro control centres that manage and provide real-time situational awareness of entire metro lines to passenger information systems that provide real-time travel information to commuters, the company’s suite of integrated smart metro solutions optimise capacity and operational efficiency while providing reliable and safe commuter journeys.

In Kaohsiung, ST Engineering will be providing turnkey project management and smart metro solutions for the Kaohsiung MRT Red Line Extension, a key rail infrastructure project. These include communications and SCADA systems, signalling system, automatic fare collection system as well as platform screen doors.

Covering more than 500 kilometres of roadways in metropolitan Dubai, the company’s intelligent traffic management system is helping the local transport authority collect real-time traffic information and automate incident response management. The system also uses artificial intelligence to predict traffic flows up to an hour in advance and recommends intervention measures.

In the United States, ST Engineering subsidiary TransCore will be implementing New York City’s first congestion pricing system. By collecting a fee for entry into Lower Manhattan’s business district, city authorities aim to reduce gridlock and lower carbon emissions.

Efficient, digitalised utilities

Smart cities also need to manage critical resources such as energy and water efficiently. As cities grow, it is important to find ways to allow them to do so efficiently, rather than merely multiplying their sources. In turn, efficient resource management helps cities meet sustainability goals.

When it comes to street lights, that can mean implementing adaptive street lighting. Beyond replacing light bulbs with energy-efficient LEDs, street lights can be equipped with sensors that can dim them when there is less traffic in the evening, yielding energy savings of as much as 20 - 40 per cent, Chew says. These sensors can also provide information about these nodes and alert authorities when maintenance is required, ensuring that essential infrastructure has minimal downtime and continues to function “like clockwork”, he says.

ST Engineering is currently working to modernise the city of Rio de Janeiro’s public lighting infrastructure as part of the Smart Rio project. It will provide networking technology and IoT infrastructure for around 300,000 smart streetlights. The revamp is expected to reduce energy use by up to 60 per cent, lowering carbon emissions.

Smart cities can also use advanced networking technologies to connect street lighting systems and water meters with management software, data analytics and sensors to control and manage such resources more efficiently.

For cities that need a centralised platform to manage key assets and data via actionable insights for operational optimisation, ST Engineering’s Smart City Operating System has the answers. As a highly scalable integration platform that can be deployed from single buildings to entire cities, the solution enables data collection and analysis from various systems to create a single source of truth for timely, efficient and cost-effective services.

“Imagine an integrated platform that gathers data on a variety of smart city functions such as street lighting, outdoor and indoor parking, office operations and asset management. With analytics, we can determine how and when to intervene in order to make cities and buildings even more efficient and more sustainable,” he explains.

Smart security systems

Cities need to stay resilient against threats in both the physical and online realms, Chew says, and technology can deliver assurance as well as peace of mind.

Using biometric identity verification technologies, AI, automation and robotics to support contactless operations are the new norm as cities emerge from the Covid-19 pandemic. For example, biometric technology is deployed to ensure robust security at entry and exit points in airports, while creating a positive experience for air travellers and easing operational burdens on airport staff.

As airports around the world return to pre-pandemic passenger levels, it is important to focus on maximising the capacity of facilities and enhancing the health and safety of passengers, in addition to adhering to international and local regulations.

ST Engineering unveiled a biometric e-gate at this year’s Singapore Airshow that can accurately verify travellers’ identities for quick and seamless border clearance. Its simultaneous identity verification and multimodal biometric authentication features also allow group check-ins and clearance.

Another solution being trialled is the next-generation Automated Passenger In-Car Clearance System for land border crossings. Through advanced biometrics, the system enables robust and reliable identity authentication of car travellers while providing a more seamless, safer and secure immigration clearance process.

Every city is unique in its needs and circumstances, and city planners need to take these into consideration when choosing to apply technology.

“We want to listen to the customer to understand the specific situation that their city is facing, and see how that best matches the practical solutions we already have, and how to adapt some of these solutions for customised applications,” Chew says.