Will Cebu be a Smart City?

FROM FAR AND NEAR - Ruben Almendras (The Freeman) - January 11, 2016 - 9:00am

The title and the subject of this column are not directly related to the telco that your cellphone is subscribed to and to whom you prepay or pay every month. These telcos may and will be part of smart cities depending on their technical capabilities and willingness to participate. Smart phones are part of Smart Cities due to its video-audio and data gathering capabilities as we shall see later.

"A Smart City is a city that uses information and communication technologies to enhance quality, performance, and interactivity of urban services, to reduce cost and resource consumption, and improve contact between citizens and government." The definition of a Smart City is still evolving but this is the best definition I have found so far.

The components of the cities that will be impacted and improved by ICTs are the areas of: 1. Transport and traffic management, 2. Energy consumption, 3. Water availability and consumption, 4. Waste management, 5. Healthcare provision, 6. Government permitting and licensing. All of these are susceptible to tremendous improvements with the use of existing and future ICT tools and practices.

There are a number of cities all over the world that are already employing ICTs and we will just cite four (4) cities that are more advanced than others. Santander, a city in Spain has 20,000 sensors all over the city that tracks and measure in real time, pollution, noise, traffic and parking. The data collected are used to alert and correct pollution and noise, direct traffic and parking. Amsterdam uses data also from real time monitors to reduce and direct traffic, advise homeowners on their energy and water consumption, and monitor crime and collect crime data. Barcelona on the other hand uses the cameras and sensors to optimize bus routes and integrate it with their smart traffic lights. They also have sensors in all the public garbage receptacles so that they are only emptied when they are full, saving on unnecessary garbage truck trips. They also have sensors on all their escalators to monitor pedestrian traffic and to reduce on energy consumption as the escalators only move when stepped on. In Sta. Cruz, a small city in California, the data from sensors and monitoring cameras are used for police deployment and predict policing requirements in the different areas of the city.

Major cities in the US, Europe, China, Australia, and the cities of Singapore, Hong Kong, and some Asian countries are already using some of these ICTs. We even have some of them in the Philippines like the pollution monitors, traffic monitors, (e.g. WAZE) and various CCTVs; but the ultimate Smart City is the city that will be able to integrate all of these technologies to the satisfaction of the people in these cities, with the improvement in the livability of the city.

Where does Cebu City stand in this spectrum toward a Smart City? I have been involved in two (2) of the components of a livable city namely; water and traffic as Chairman of the Board of Metro Cebu Water District for 12 years and now as chairman of Cebu City Traffic Office, and we are aware the technologies for a Smart City. Twenty (20) years ago MCWD already had a SCADA system that monitors the pumps in the Weir Dam that allows it to throttle the volume from the dam remotely. And we already have district monitoring sensors to determine flow and leakages within the system. The traffic lights installed in Cebu City 20 years ago, the Sydney Coordinated Adaptive Traffic System (SCATS), had sensors embedded in the intersections and were centrally monitored and controlled. And we are about to install a more modern traffic lights system in conjunction with the Bus Rapid Transit System. 

Cebu City was at the forefront of using ICTs twenty years ago but we failed to keep abreast so we have a lot of catching up. In the next five years we have to install more monitoring cameras, which will include "no contact traffic violation system" and electronic parking monitoring which will improve the productivity of the parking attendants, increase parking revenues, and decongest traffic. And MCWD will have to improve further and reduce the non-revenue water ratio to less than 10% with more advanced sensors.

The present and future governments of Cebu City and the surrounding cities have a huge task and obligations to fulfill if they want to be Smart Cities. Mega Cebu which is spearheading the movement for a more livable Cebu, have included the smart cities components in their strategy and the cities would do well to work with them. These are not really very difficult to do as the visions and missions have been laid out. It does need political will and the cooperation of all sectors, public and private.

As a postscript, of all the cities I've been to, Marikina strikes me as a clean and organized city with the best systems and procedures in the City Hall. There are also very few or hardly any street children and beggars. And somebody told me that there are no beggars in Siquijor. I wonder why?

almendrasruben@yahoo.com

A SMART CITY BUS RAPID TRANSIT SYSTEM CEBU CEBU CITY CITIES CITY SENSORS SMART SMART CITIES SMART CITY TRAFFIC
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