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Smart cities moving from concept to reality

Released at: 06:41, 06/12/2019

Smart cities moving from concept to reality

Photo: Viet Tuan

Smart city initiatives are already making their presence felt and proving the wisdom of such endeavors.

by Linh San

The Pham Hung - Me Tri intersection in Hanoi’s Nam Tu Liem district was equipped with state-of-the-art traffic control technology last March. Overall power consumption has fallen roughly 70 per cent since, as the installation replaced existing signal heads with very-low-power signal heads from German giant Siemens. The intelligent road solution was installed in a cooperative effort between Siemens, the Hanoi People’s Committee, the Hanoi Department of Transport, the Hanoi Department of Traffic Police, the Itelco Technology JSC, and the FPT Group. In addition to new traffic lights at the intersection, a compatible Siemens “sX” (Smart Crossing) controller was also installed, ensuring traffic lights operate correctly and safely and determining the timing of green and red lights. 

“Through close cooperation between Siemens and various parties, we are extremely proud to deliver such innovative and green traffic solutions to the city of Hanoi,” said Dr. Pham Thai Lai, President and CEO of Siemens ASEAN and Vietnam. “This is an answer to the increasing demand for traffic management and environmental protection for citizens.”

Smarter and livable cities

Siemens’ work at the Pham Hung - Me Tri intersection is part of a pilot project called VAST (Video Analytics for Smart Traffic). The next step is the integration of video-based traffic detection, which enables the preparation and implementation of traffic light planning. This new solution is intended to be rolled out to other parts of the city to improve the overall traffic conditions in the capital. 

Figures show that more than 90 per cent of registered vehicles in Hanoi are motorbikes. During rush hours, intersections are clogged by thousands of them. Siemens’ traffic control via VAST offers a customized solution to address such conditions. Traffic is detected and traffic light timings adjusted accordingly throughout the entire city, to allow the best possible traffic flow. For example, during the morning rush hour, green lights are synchronized at intersections along one direction of travel, while the opposite occurs during the evening rush hour. This increases traffic throughput at intersections and allows traffic to flow throughout the city, cutting overall travel time as well as noise and emissions. These improvements also foster better driving discipline, encouraging road safety among riders and drivers and ultimately improving the quality of life for city dwellers.

“A thriving, modern city leverages information and communications technology (ICT) and smart and resilient infrastructure to facilitate and enhance economic growth,” said Dr. Lai. “This, in turn, has a significant impact on the efficiency and capacity of infrastructure and service delivery to citizens, providing greater economic opportunity and better quality of life overall.”

As a trusted global company in sustainable city development and in Vietnam for more than 26 years, Siemens fully understands the challenges the country’s cities face in becoming “smarter”. It is working with Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City on urban mobility options to help overcome the challenges. “We have a unique digital offering for the infrastructure needs of a city,” Dr. Lai went on. “We are working directly with cities to ensure that digital technologies are integrated into planning and provide benefits immediately by reducing traffic congestion, improving air quality, and increasing energy reliability. Providing cities with the best possible products, solutions, and services is a strategically important task for Siemens. We are very excited to help make cities in Vietnam smarter and so more livable and sustainable.” 

On a larger scale, with the city of Vienna in Austria, Siemens has been carrying out one of Europe’s most innovative and sustainable energy efficiency demonstration projects since 2013. The project, the Aspern Smart City Research GmbH & Co KG (ASCR), ran its first phase in 2018, which is part of the 240-ha “Aspern - Vienna Urban Lakeside” - one of Europe’s largest urban development projects. By 2028, Aspern is scheduled to have around 10,500 apartments, 20,000 jobs, a school campus, an industrial park, and a research center. The project is seen as a good example for other countries around the world when it comes to a smart city model. 

Smart cities in Vietnam

The Siemens pilot project in Hanoi was implemented at the same time as Vietnam determined that investing in smart cities is a new driver and solution for developing urban areas sustainably. Under Resolution No. 52-NQ/TW from the Politburo, approved by Party General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong, three smart cities will be developed in the north, south, and central regions. By 2025, the resolution states that the share of the digital economy in GDP is to be 30 per cent while e-government and smart urban structures in key economic areas are to be fully completed. By 2030, Vietnam is to be listed in the top 40 leading countries and territories in the world in the Global Innovation Index (GII).

In early October, BRG-Sumitomo officially kicked off a $4.2 billion smart city project in Hanoi, which is the first-ever such project in the country. It consists of six main features: smart energy, smart traffic, smart governance, smart learning, smart economy, and smart life, and is expected to be completed in 2028. 

According to Ms. Nguyen Thi Nga, Chairwoman of the BRG Group, the smart city will be a gateway to the capital when completed and a driving force to develop urban areas to the north of the Red River, creating many jobs and making other contributions to Hanoi’s socioeconomic development.

“The Vietnamese Government has facilitated Hanoi developing into a green and friendly capital with smart urban areas and management based on new technologies and smart infrastructure, to serve people better and create an open and friendly community,” Mr. Nguyen Duc Chung, Chairman of the Hanoi People’s Committee, was quoted as saying. 

The development of the first smart city in Hanoi and Siemens’ pilot project will pave the way for other cities in Vietnam to develop as sustainable smart cities. But there must be effective cooperation between stakeholders at various levels in city administrations, ensuring the development and delivery of an integrated multi-modal master plan. This may require the implementation of updated policies to guide the development of urban planning, the creation of new bodies to coordinate cross-sector activities, the training of staff to operate new equipment and analyze output data and trends, and the pursuit of new approaches to secure alternative sources of financing. 

There is also some confusion about which technology is most appropriate in a given circumstance, and in this regard Siemens’ experts suggest cities identify their key challenges and priorities and work together with the private sector to develop solutions that will work for them. “We are well aware of tightened public budgets, which are now common around the globe, so I strongly recommend that the private sector in Vietnam be engaged more actively in smart city initiatives,” said Dr. Lai. 

10 reasons to become a Smart City:

  • To cope with increased demand on basic infrastructure
  • To reduce demand for scarce resources by identifying actual needs and eliminating waste
  • To drive further efficiencies through reduced service delivery costs
  • To add network capacity at optimized investments
  • To reduce costs to citizens, businesses, and visitors
  • To deliver better, more reliable and connected services to citizens
  • To empower people with information and choice
  • To provide a healthier environment and reduce pollution
  • To drive innovation and provide business opportunities
  • To enhance quality of life and attract human capital and business investment for economic growth.

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