How Indonesia became home to some incredible smart city projects

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Indonesian is known for its world-renowned coffee, spices, and wildlife. It’s a vast island nation with beautiful landscapes and Bali is among the top tourist destinations in the world. Surfers around the globe know Bunaken as the premier surfing destination.

Despite all its natural beauty and rich history, technology isn’t the first thing outsiders link to the nation, but perhaps it soon will be. Smart cities are popping up in Indonesia, making it a more appealing choice for startups and other businesses in the technology sector.

Smart cities are a concept where cities or regional territories adopt the Internet of Things (IoT) and other Internet communications technology to assist in the management of infrastructure. Some examples of smart city technologies would be advanced transportation systems that can be centrally managed, adapting to changing conditions on the fly. Smart parking, contaminant detection systems in city water pipes, and even the way data is collected and analyzed are parts of a larger smart city project.

Where are Indonesia’s smart cities?

Jakarta is Indonesia’s capital, and thanks to the Jakarta Smart City project, it’s quickly becoming a popular home for startups and technology-based companies looking to plant their flag in the Smart City space.

For the city, it has gained a better understanding of its citizenry’s needs through IoT technologies that deliver improved public services such as waste management and policing. The public even has a modern way of contacting the city, through apps like Qlue which enable people to report issues and offer feedback.

Makassar is making big changes for Indonesia’s eastern region. Its integrated smart CCTV system has improved safety for its citizens, and during this year projects are underway to overhaul the city’s highways and transportation systems.

Bandung is another big player in the smart city space. With an arsenal of over 300 local apps, its residents have quick access to the city’s government, residential, and business assets. Plans are in place to bring reliable Wi-Fi to every neighborhood, and if something ever goes awry, citizens need but to use an app to take a photo of the problem and send it directly to the city where a resolution is assigned.

Why smart cities are good for Indonesia

Smart cities are an asset for the government and citizens alike. This new wave of technology makes it easier for city management to identify and resolve issues, as well as to better plan improvements and additions. Police can respond to crime more efficiently, fire departments and other first responders will be better able to identify and respond to incidents in real-time.

Smart cities reduce overhead, which is a win for the citizenry. Less cost means either lower taxes or more money for projects that drive the city ahead. It makes cities a more appealing place for business as it becomes a magnet for a more qualified workforce.

In the end, a modern infrastructure for Indonesia’s cities is a great thing for Indonesia, its citizens, and its businesses.

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How Big Data became the precursor to the Internet of Things

If technology is the skeleton of the IoT, data is the brain, distributed. As early as the 1990s Big Data emerged as a concept, but it wasn’t an idea that could be harnessed, leveraged and used for a common good until much more recently. Using the prefix ‘Big’ sometimes has negative connotations, but while Big Data may sound similar to Oil, Pharma or Tobacco, it’s a term that signifies possibility and organisation as well as scalability of the petabytes of information that we generate through our everyday on- and offline activity.

Jeremy Hindle is CTO and Co-founder of Headstart the AI-based recruitment app, and details a few important technological breakthroughs which have allowed us to use Big Data to some of its potential:

“It’s a culmination of fantastic hardware, software and infrastructure improvements which have resulted in more advanced usages –  tonnes of strong analytics tools allowing exploration of that data and UX improvements allowing non-data scientists to explore data naturally – Tableau, Quicksight, Superset etc., the rise in popularity of machine learning pushing more people into an industry which is almost entirely dependent on Big Data (at least for more complex problems and deep learning) and the ever-increasing number of open APIs and connected devices allowing for effective amalgamation and association of data sets.”

In enterprise, logistics and retail, monitoring of storage conditions along the supply chain and product tracking for trace-ability purposes will become ever more commonplace.

Geoffrey Roberts is managing director of Democrata, a predictive analytics company and he says the Big Data evolution is down to two things: first, the concepts that have democratised Big Data such as cloud development platforms like Microsoft, Amazon, Oracle etc. as well as open source software like Apache, and second, there is the technology that has enabled Big Data e.g. MapReduce (for the processing of large amounts of quickly changing data), Hive (a Facebook-developed SQL-like bridge that allows conventional business information applications to run queries against a Hadoop cluster) and PIG (another bridge, developed by Yahoo and open sourced, with similar functionality to Hive). Here’s his take on how important Big Data is to IoT:

“The IOT relies on the ability to make sense of data on the move. It is constantly changing and needs re-evaluating. Without the big data tools mentioned earlier, none of this would be possible. Also, we realise now that to capture data (and we can because of big data tools) we can create the relevant sensor technologies to capture the data.”

Jeremy Hindle adds to this:

“Initially I see the Internet of Things as something which was consumer product driven rather than the other way around. That being said this has now come around and most IoT devices have their highest value in the data which they collect.”

It’s this simple – without Big Data there would be no Internet of Things, and although the two concepts may not have developed concurrently, they are inextricably linked. The success of IoT is predicated on the use and understanding of Big Data.

We have evolved from simple storage of data to active usage of data, for analysis and prediction of behaviour. While industrial designers were busy developing hardware, data scientists were developing ever better ways of understanding the data that came with it. And, even though IoT hardware has existed in iterative but similar forms for decades, this new understanding of data has given our things their Internet. According to Geoffrey Roberts, here’s how enterprise and government could be (and in some cases already are) using Big Data and IoT in future:

In smart cities, among other things we’ll see widespread monitoring of parking spaces availability in the city, monitoring of vibrations and material conditions in buildings, bridges and historical monuments, sound monitoring in bar areas and centric zones in real time. Intelligent highways will display warning messages and diversions according to climate conditions and unexpected events like accidents or traffic jams.

In enterprise, logistics and retail, monitoring of storage conditions along the supply chain and product tracking for trace-ability purposes will become ever more commonplace. NFC Payment processing will soon be standard, and tracking customer and employee habits and preferences will become the norm.

Outside urban centres there’ll be more monitoring of combustion gases and preemptive fire conditions to define alert zones, snow level measurement to know in real time the quality of ski tracks and allow avalanche prevention, analysis of soil moisture, vibrations and earth density to detect dangerous patterns in land conditions, as well as chemical leakage detection in rivers.

The list goes on, and every IoT element is the result of the application of Big Data. However far we’ve come, it’s obvious we’ll be able to do so much more as our software, hardware and understanding improve.

(c) iStock: solarseven, thitivong

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