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ICTC 2019 Q A How Do We Build Smarter Cities

Kuala Lumpur: A panel discussion on ‘Building Smarter Cities’ gave an insight on what the future will look like with Industrial Revolution 4.0 and the Internet of Things (IoT) playing a bigger role, among others.


The panel was moderated by Ar. Saifuddin Ahmad, Director of SNO Architects Sdn. Bhd., Malaysia, with speakers Ng Pek Har, Dr Muhammad Imran Sarwar, and Ir Dr. Julian Lee.


Below is the Q&A from that session:


Q: Smart homes or cities work so much with gadgets like iPads or tablets for IoT. However, there is constant interruption from updates in those gadgets. How do we solve this annoying problem?



Dr Sarwar: This is a relevant question. There are soft and hard updates. The former happens as and when needed and would not interrupt with the functions of the solutions in the gadgets. Hard updates happen about every two months. The good solutions such as those from Honeywell and Amazon do not offer much updates as those solutions initially have to go through a robust quality assurance and tests that include beta and soft versions tested for bugs prior to release. Good and reputable solutions should not inflict users with problems that interrupt its very use and function.

Ir Dr Lee: Open market in this area is important so users will not be limited in the selection of good and  reliable apps, and users can switch apps when necessary in order to get the best service suitable for their needs



Q: Does smart city concept take into consideration possible cyber-attacks and data protection?



Dr Sarwar: Yes. A famous case is the attack on a power grid station that was supplying power to the entire city and the hackers downed the power to the hospitals that were performing critical surgeries. It is super important to ensure that the necessary security measures and algorithms are put in place. To demonstrate this point, we hacked into the users of Starbucks patrons who accessed the café’s free WIFI and within minutes had access to information of 10-15 patrons. So for smart cities, it is the responsibility of software developers to ensure that the software vulnerabilities are constantly managed and worked on. Blockchain can be part of such a solution as it is tamper-proof and decentralised thus far.



Q: It is interesting that Japan has not ranked in the top 15 smart cities considering their reputation and expertise in this area. Is smart city not for all?



Ir Dr Lee: It is not because they are not participating in smart cities, but it could be the definition and measurement used for smart cities may have rendered Japanese smart cities to not occupy the top 10 spots.



Dr Sarwar: In surveys such as those from Accenture, Tokyo was one of the top smart cities right up to 2013 before it dropped from that spot. The race for better smart cities has become stiffer and focuses also on the evolution of technology that is happening far too rapidly, so much so that the technology of today will become obsolete tomorrow. Other cities are simply implementing and progressing faster than Japan, leaving the country behind in the race. However, Japan has long ago implemented its  policies on smart cities, and is currently ranked at the 17th spot. They are still very much a role model worth emulating. Countries such as Singapore that is aggressively implementing its smart city activities could do so faster simply because of the size of the country. That is why, it is the only country that has achieved the smart city, smart country accolade.



Ng: Japan may not hold the top spot in the ranking, however it is a champion in this area simply because Japan incorporates sustainable lifestyle and living in all aspect of the country ─ focusing on its people, culture, tradition, etc. And this is an admirable endeavour. Therefore, the meaning of sustability should extend beyond gadgets and technology.



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[March 20, 2019)


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