Israel Breeds the Solutions to Future Smart-City Tech Problems
A major focal point and trend for corporations and major metropolises in the world’s developed countries today is that of so-called smart-city technologies. Smart-city tech is a term that refers to any technology consistently being used to improve municipal infrastructure. These innovations typically manifest as upgrades to existing technology and tools already in use for a myriad of daily public functions.
To give you an idea of just how broad the scope of all this is, a recent Frost & Sullivan report suggests that, by 2020, the smart-city technologies market worldwide will reach $1.5 trillion. Despite this being a global trend, experts agree that Israel is at the epicenter.
Delegations from over 80 different cities worldwide are congregating in Israel this month for Muni-Expo Urban Innovation, a summit being hosted in Tel Aviv. In and of itself, it indicates that investors and even mayors are trying to tap into the innovation that they’ve already observed in Israel. The country has already made such valuable, cost-effective changes to vital infrastructure in the vein of smart-city tech that the world now has plenty of examples to illustrate what can be accomplished and how.
The Frost & Sullivan report, of course, estimated based on the presumption that smart-city technologies will continue to accrue more investment and implementation in proportion to the growth of investment thus far. Even so, Israel has directly improved traffic, water and waste management using new innovations in savvy ways, and the payoffs have become obvious, which is part of what’s drawing so many delegations to Tel Aviv. Modi’in Mayor Haim Babas who also chairs the Federation of Local Authorities (FLA) told The Jerusalem Post that his city saves “more than NIS 2 million a year on the new system with collecting garbage.”
Mayor Babas explained that this is because they’re “using sensors and the sensor is part of the garbage truck and the garbage can.” This delegates a significant portion of the job to technology itself rather than another employee; plus, the sensors “count every can. And if [the bin] is empty, the collection services are reduced. If it’s not empty, we pick it up more.” The innovations for waste management alone are seemingly boundless. In Jerusalem, the Greennet waste facility represents what definitely qualifies by modern standards as a cutting-edge recycling and treatment plant.
The plant is now responsible for all of Jerusalem’s trash, and it takes stock of what garbage is particularly abundant using its own tech. About ten percent of that waste is reportedly disposable baby diapers, which is an astounding metric being used to contextualize the current baby boom in Jerusalem. In September 2017, Offer Bogin, CEO of Greennet said in a brief interview with The Jerusalem Post that the birthrate in Jerusalem is “the highest number all over the world.” Greennet has said, however, that they are stepping up to the challenge of handling what is a surprisingly unprecedented problem for any of the world’s recycling and treatment facilities.
“We are in contact with one of the biggest diaper producers in the world and we are trying to develop the first recycling plant in the world to deal with this type of problem,” Bogin said, and if any waste management company is equipped to deal with this sort of problem effectively, it’s Greennet. They operate state-of-the-art tech for automated waste separation that integrates data analytics in all the machines, including their trucks. It’s part of the same tech that incorporates the use of sensors. Though it’s a ways off in the future, he posits that the step after this in waste management will be that “all the garbage will go to waste-to-energy, or burning all the leftovers and making energy from this.” Bogin doesn’t see this development taking more than about five years from now to really make progress.
These innovations are very promising, but the whole point of the upcoming MUNI-EXPO is to highlight for people the fact that increasing the technological infrastructure of a city inherently broadens the Internet of Things and exposes infrastructure to new kinds of cyber threats. The summit isn’t just about bringing municipal leaders together to figure out how best to implement these innovations, though that’s part of it; it’s even more so about how to implement them in the safest possible ways. The FLA instituted MUNI-EXPO as a first-in-kind initiative aimed at nipping this problem in the bud not just for Israel but for the major cities of its ally countries who are already on the same path.
Delegations will be meeting with cyber-security experts from all over, especially from Israel, and they’ll be working to brainstorm amongst each other from all angles to figure out how best to engineer new smart-city tech so that cyber threats come at a minimum.
To that end, ZenCity, a data analytics platform that leverages artificial intelligence (AI) to help cities understand citizen feedback for better governance and data-smart decision making, will present at the summit alongside some 150 other tech companies, and what makes ZenCity an optimal presenter at the expo is that their specialty is using cutting-edge IT solutions for a wide variety of municipal concerns. They empower officials already to peruse efficiently through copious messages and data by alerting them to various complications and generating a response.
ZenCity uses advanced tech to figure out what citizens are most concerned about so that they can share that information with local officials. That tech benefits them via an amalgam of machine learning and artificial intelligence to analyze email and social media messages, and ZenCity creates a feedback loop that puts the results on a dashboard accessible to city managers. It’s precisely the kind of innovation that attracts many municipal officials from cities all over the world, and it’s also technology that could theoretically be abused and that, therefore, needs to be implemented with the proper precautions against cyber threats.