Internet of things for smart city: Green and sustainability

20 Dec 2017 16:45h - 18:15h

Event report

[Read more session reports and live updates from the 12th Internet Governance Forum]

This session was introduced by Prof Xiaofeng Tao, Professor at the Beijing University of Posts and Telecommunications. In his opening remarks, Tao stated that smart cities are the future of development and are founded in technology, especially the Internet of Things (IoT). ITao continued that today’s Internet is based on three pillars, openness, equal basis, and collaboration. By ‘openness’, Tao referred to access by all and ‘collaboration’, as the basis for the current economy. Collaboration in the future will change from the current people to people model to the IoT. He further stressed the IoT’s ability to access real-time data in cities. Tao cited Chinese companies that are currently exploring energy efficiency, the use of driverless vehicles, and the resulting effect on traffic safety, the future design of critical infrastructure, education, and health care and emergency services, making huge improvements to the quality of life. Tao stated that China is a major player with more than 500 cities having IoT plans.  He named several challenges to IoT – security and privacy, the role of policymakers and government, how companies gather and store our personal data, among others.

Ms Helani Galpaya, CEO of LIRNEasia, stressed the importance of data to tackle traffic, health, and other issues in countries which are not economically prosperous. Galpaya explained how anonymous cell phone data are used to solve city problems and make them more livable. She highlighted the use of population density data to help address health issues (such as the spread of malaria and dengue), and data on migration over time to help design traffic models and understand labour mobility. Galpaya said that in the absence of sensors and tracking devices, humans are the best source of information. She also presented predictive models for transport patterns and the spread of diseases based on existing collected data. Galpaya stressed the difficulty for private think tanks to establish data sharing agreements with private companies and to access government data, noting the need for public-private data partnerships while still respecting privacy.

In reply to a question from the audience as to whether framing a request to a government for data an environmental issue would yield greater results, Galpaya cited an example of the World Bank financing a transportation project in Colombo in which it proved to be more effective to frame the request as a way to solve problems. To another question asked about privacy protection and human rights, Galpaya reiterated that the information obtained is historical and anonymous.

Mr Anthony Wong, President of the Australian Computer Society, addressed the challenges of data from IoT devices in Australia. Wong introduced the plans of the Australian government to introduce IoT smart cities projects, including traffic projects and management of the environment in the real time. Wong also stated that challenges include privacy, the co-operation of public and private interests, and socio-economic issues. He further explained the dilemma of ownership of data from IoT devices and control over them, as well as the lack of a legal framework in this respect.

An unidentified speaker, an assistant researcher from the CCIT, introduced the concept of the China Smart City, noting the importance of real-time flows in establishing the management of health and transportation issues while working with municipal and state governments. He also outlined three tasks for the future – cloud systems of data applications; diversity in development paths for different cities; and cooperation between the private and public sectors.

Dr Mikhail Komarov, Head of International Relations at the School of Business Informatics, Faculty of Business and Management at the National Research University, Higher School of Economics, Moscow, has introduced research on the exchange of data between humans and devices and how it influences human behaviour. He explained the value of identifying behavioural patterns and managing them for the purposes of setting up commercial services. Komarov also touched upon the issues of privacy related to this data.

An unidentified speaker explained some issues related to the vulnerability and hacking of IoT devices. He highlighted cost considerations, device security, the mobility of IoTs, as well as the need to operate IoT in both trusted and untrusted environments. He further elaborated on the ways of dealing with possible attacks on IoTs and the damages these could cause. He stressed the need for a 5G network due to the simultaneous nature of the millions of connections per tower which 3G and 4G networks are unable to handle. He concluded by noting that there are a lot of efforts by the IEEE, the ITU, and ISO to adopt standards to provide for proper security governance of the IoT.

The Q&A section of the workshop raised issues on problems and challenges with data sharing between commercial and governmental platforms, privacy considerations, the impact on environmental issues, and the need for 5G networks. Discussion also centred on whether legislation was needed first, or if governments should act on a case-by-case basis in collecting data, and how the information is shared. Wong cited the Australian Government policy of open data sharing, meaning that as a rule public data must be made available. He noted that currently he does not see much public-private data sharing but noted the need for greater cooperation in the future.

By Pavlina Ittelson