As the 2nd edition of the conference is finished and all the delegates, organizers and speakers arrived home and took some rest, it is a good moment to revisit some of the highlights of the two intense days of presentations and discussions.
Compared to the last year, Smart Cities Asia 2016 hosted twice more delegates and 12 additional speakers. Last year’s edition focused on 3 themes: smart mobility, smart sustainability and smart development. This year the smart sustainability theme was removed, as it became clear that it is an overarching concern for all themes, and 4 new themes were added: smart energy, smart water, smart waste, and smart citizens. In total, there were 7 keynote speeches, 2 panels and 18 breakout sessions across all themes.
Each day of Smart Cities Asia 2016 started with a series of keynotes that were chosen either to provide an important broad theoretical background (e.g. Tools to Fire Up Your Smart City Project), to showcase a specific city example (e.g. New Taipei ICT Development) or to highlight the industry perspective (e.g. Uberization Of Cities). While last year’s conference covered only 2 in-depth smart city case studies of Barcelona (Spain) and Toyota (Japan), this year it featured Kamitkatsu (Japan), Taipei (Taiwan), several city projects in the Selangor state (Malaysia), as well specific examples of energy-efficient building renovation or transit-oriented design in Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia), Putra Jaya (Malaysia), Petaling Jaya (Malaysia), Jakarta (Indonesia), Singapore and Hong Kong (China).
The first day of the conference was kicked off by the globally renowned expert Dr. Renato de Castro (Brazil), who reiterated how key recent global developments (such as massive urbanization and climate change) have put smart cities into the public discourse. He stressed the importance of the “smart” mindset that the municipalities should adopt to successfully implement smart city projects. He pointed out that smartness is inherent to the city’s DNA, and it needs to be communicated well for the municipalities to align with various stakeholders and drive projects forward. Dr. de Castro also emphasised that city councils need to act more like start-ups in order to foster innovation.
The keynote from Vladimir Bataev (Italy) from Zaz Ventures on security and privacy in smart cities took a much more pessimistic view and described the risks and vulnerabilities of the standard smart city solutions (such as smart traffic control, smart parking or smart grids), as well as the strategies to address such them while retaining the clear benefits. He emphasized that there are inherent dangers caused by massive instrumentation, interconnectedness and intelligence of smart city solutions, and they should not be treated lightly.
In the final keynote of the 1st day Akira Sakano (Japan), Chair Zero Waste Academy from Kamitkatsu explained how a city of ~2000 people became a “zero-waste” city. In Kamitkatsu approximately 77% of all solid waste gets recycled after being collected across 35+ different categories (compared to more traditional 3-5 of major cities). While an amazing breakthrough, more studies are necessary to understand how to replicate such success in larger urban environments. “Cities are essentially a combination of communities, if you can galvanise the communities and repeat the action, you can eventually scale it city wide”, said Mrs. Sakano.
The, keynote was followed by a panel discussion with Jesse Chooi, Head of IOT from MDEC, Dr. Datuk Mohd Yusoff the CEO MIGHT, Dr. Renato De Castro and Zamry the CMO for VADS Lyfe. Datuk Dr. Mohd Yusoff called for the industry to form an alliance to create a concerted effort towards creating a Smart Malaysia. Jesse shared MDEC’s initiatives in creating smart cities in Malaysia which include hackathons, building the tech ecosystem, whereas Zamry highlighted some of the projects undertaken by VADS Lyfe with Cyberjaya and Aspen in Penang.
The 2md day started with the presentation of Dr. Sumit Chowdury (India) on integration of best practices in design thinking and planning, as well as agile project management principles into development of smart city projects. Dr Sumit urged the audience to think about their smart city projects in a holistic way, stressing that smart city projects need to be viable from both a commercial and technical standpoint, and also desirable for the people within the community.
The keynote from Dr. Fahmi Ngah (Malaysia) covered the rapid progress accomplished by the state of Selangor in the past years in development of the BRT network, waste command centers, partnership with Waze and other projects. Selangor used a well-thought process of citizen engagement to determine which needs should be addressed, and developed a Smart City Blueprint, that will be presented to the public in early December 2016.
Chun Yin Lin (Taiwan) in her keynote showed the examples of projects that the city of Taipei implemented as a part of its smart city vision, such as smart citizen cards, smart traffic control and smart parking. An exceptional case of the first Asia’s 24h smart library showed how a standout project can attract immense citizen interest and generate buy-in and public support for smart city projects.
In the conclusion, Priscilla Baek, Policy Head Asia, shared how Uber affects public transportation in cities around the world, how it experiments with driverless cars and how it innovates with business models of smart city solutions. Uber remains the largest player in the taxi hailing apps, and intends to retain the lead with new delivery modes, such as pooled drives, which will increase utilization of cars and drive the price of individual trips even lower.
The keynotes were followed by the streams dedicated to each of 6 themes with breakout sessions.
Smart Energy theme stream (Day 1)
Smart energy stream combined views of an urban design consultant, an innovation consultant and a director of a center for environment, technology and development.
Alissa Raj (Malaysia), Senior Consultant from IEN Consultants presented three cases of successful holistic energy refurbishments of buildings to reduce energy consumption and CO2 emissions in Kuala Lumpur, Putra Jaya and Jakarta. Carefully selected case studies quantified how a much larger impact that can be reached when the energy retrofit experts are brought in during design and planning stages, and not when the building is already constructed.
Vladimir Bataev (Italy) summarized the policy outlook and Secure, Clean and Efficient work programme of the European Commission on energy innovation in the area smart grids, storage and energy system integration. He explained in which projects Malaysian organizations can collaborate with EU partners and get funded. Finally, he showcased a potpourri of recent smaller-scale energy innovations, such as harvesting of vibrations or kinetic movement of human bodies to power IoT equipment.
Anthony Tan (Malaysia), the Executive Director for CETDEM, provided a historical overview of various environmental policies and acts that were implemented in Malaysia over the past years, and analyzed their pros and cons. He presented the work on Feed-in-Tariffs that Malaysian Sustainable Energy Development Authority (SEDA) has done recently, and discussed issues with supply/demand management systems roll-out in Malaysia. Finally, he presented a successful case on household energy management in Petaling Jaya (Malaysia).
Smart Waste Stream theme (Day 1)
The smart waste management stream was hosted by 3 waste management professional looking at the full spectrum of effective waste management within the urban environment
Akira Sakano (Japan), Chair Zero Waste Academy, joined for the stream session for an intimate discussion on how city leaders can adopt their own Zero Waste programme. She zoomed into some of the more practical aspects on how to execute programme.
Khalid Bahsoon, CEO Cenviro Group (Malaysia), shared his experience on Waste to Energy Plants and explored in-depth their practicality and pros and cons within the Malaysian urban context. While in the ideal world cities will adopt a comprehensive circular economy where waste is minimal, the reality is that municipalities still need to treat and manage existing waste. Khalid’s presentation provided a very timely exploration of WTE plants as many of the Malaysian municipalities are currently evaluating their feasibility.
The sessions were then concluded by Tuan Haji Radhi Cheah, who to provided a comprehensive overview of the entire waste management lifecycle encompassing some of the points that was touched by Akira and Khalid in the earlier part of the stream.
Smart Water Stream theme (Day 1)
The water stream included talks of 2 Malaysia experts and 1 expert from Australia, with several national strategic issues discussed.
Dr Salmah, the Chairperson of the Water Committee in the Academy Science Malaysia presented the proposed National IWRM plan. She also voiced arguments in favour of the reforms needed in the sector for the future water delivery security.
Professor Tony Wong, the CEO of the Cooperative Research Centre for Water Sensitive Cities in Australia, presented an interesting shift of thinking: how to integrate social and physical sciences to bring water sensitivity to urban design. He defined that a water sensitive city should express the following key characteristics: sustainability, resilience, regeneration, restoration and liveability.
Hairi Basri, the Honorary Secretary General of the Malaysia Water Association spoke about the pertinent water issue in Malaysia: non-revenue water. His presentation shed light on strategies that can be used in Malaysia to tackle it’s 36.6% of non-revenue water.
Smart Development theme stream (Day 2)
In the smart development stream three speakers (two urban planners and one sustainability expert) provided mutually complementing perspectives on which projects should be executed in smart cities.
Eli Raphael Convitz, Director South East Asia (Hong Kong), explained how the current thinking about smart cities naturally builds up and extends on past models of urban development (including the ones proposed by Le Corbusier, Howard Ebenezer and even Drs. Snow and Sarphati). He also presented the Future-proofing Cities framework, developed by Atkins, that can be used to assess and improve currently running smart city projects.
Renard Siew from Group Sustainability of Sime Darby(Malaysia) focused attention on the ageing population globally and in Malaysia, and its needs, that should be catered for by the smart cities. He presented a series of successful projects implemented globally to ensure that the senior citizens remain independent and autonomous for as long as possible, and that their specific health issues are addressed in the best way.
Rahul Mittal, the Director of Master Planning for LR Consulting (Singapore) spoke about transit-oriented development, especially in dense settlements like Singapore and Hong Kong, whereby multimodal transit hubs are integrated with residential housing into a single complex. Such approach has a strong potential to allow more affordable housing for citizens, and remove the dependence on cars for mobility. Moreover, such approach shows how smart city solutions can be integrated into a larger scale, more traditional property development projects.
Smart Mobility Theme Stream (Day 2)
The Smart Mobility Stream was centred around the question of how urban centres can be transformed to be more efficient in moving its citizens, with presentations from experts from Korea, Malaysia and Singapore.
Dr. Sung (Korea), the Chief Director of Comprehensive Transport from the Korean Transport Institute, a heavyweight in the industry, shared his experience in managing of dozens of projects in Korea, a country particularly famous for high quality of its planned public transportation systems. He shared the details of the recent Owl Bus project, which runs from 12AM to 5AM, filling the void in round-the-clock public transportation.
Dr Thomas Tang (Malaysia), the Managing Director for Kuala Lumpur Centre for Sustainable Innovation focused his presentation on walkability. In a very practical session he analysed in detail the walkability of streets in Malaysia. He stressed that research has shown that cities with plenty of walkable spaces exhibit a higher GDP per capita. He shared that for the city to be walkable it has to be safe, useful, comfortable and interesting.
Dr. Justin Dauwels (Singapore), the Deputy Director, ST Engineering-NTU Corporate Lab presented on driverless cars and the future scenarios that they are likely to unfold. In his session, practicality, technicality, safety and various other implication were explored and assessed.
Smart Citizen Theme Stream (Day 2)
The smart citizen stream was centred around citizen sourcing and citizen involvement in co-creating smart cities. In this stream case studies from Malaysia, Indonesia as well as NGO perspectives were shared.
Dr. Mazlan (Malaysia), CEO Redtone IOT, shared numerous practical examples on how to engage the citizens to improve the cities. Through the data gathered, Dr. Mazlan pointed out that the main pains of urban dwellers were vandalism, unattended garbage, illlegal parking and potholes. He emphasized that initiatives like crowd sensing were not an IT job but encompassed a much larger skill set necessary to implement them.
Jeremy Lee, the CEO of Social Ant (Jakarta), the only distributor for Qlue emphasised the important role that citizens play in creating smarter cities. In his session, he showed a live demo of Qlue in Jakarta Smart City. He showcased the comprehensive reports of citizen complains and comments, and complimented the Jakarta municipality for the quick turnaround speed in resolving such issues.
Swee Meng (Malaysia), the resident technologist for the NGO Sinar Project, talked about the importance for the government to have an open data policy. He stressed while applications can help, policy is the central force to enable strong citizen participation.
Closing panel and conclusions
The conference concluded with an expert panel discussion on what is expected to happen on the smart cities scene in Malaysia and globally in the coming year. The experts agreed that while there is not enough activity yet taking place in Malaysia at the moment (with notable exclusions of the Smart Selangor, Iskandar Smart City and Malacca Smart Sustainable Cities), we will see exciting developments in the nearest future.
Vincent Fong, General Manager Knowledge Group