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Borislav Gorov: Every smart city solution stems from or leads to more sustainable living

Borislav Gorov: Every smart city solution stems from or leads to more sustainable living

Interview with Borislav Gorov, CEO of Telelink City Ltd.

Mr Gorov, please tell us what a smart city is? Give us an easy-to-understand perspective on this phenomenon.

A smart city can be everything – there are many definitions and none of them are complete. For me, a smart city is one that uses informational technologies, data gathering and analysis to create better services for citizens, and improve society, economy and the environment.

A smart city uses a network of IoT sensors to monitor different aspects of the urban environment: traffic, parking spaces, lighting, air quality and temperature... This network provides information that can help city management take informed decisions in real time. For example, using traffic data can help them reduce congestion in the central part of the city and free up parking spaces, which will, in turn, improve air quality in the area.

The development and implementation of a centralized analytical platform by integrating multiple solutions, existing and future ones, will help change the way the city's assets are managed. It will improve the quality of life, public safety, promotion of tourist attractions and cultural heritage, environmental protection, and the efficiency of public services. Vital systems will be interconnected into one ecosystem that uses data for constant optimization. This interconnectedness creates possibilities for achieving a higher quality of life and sustainability.

In smart cities, how do citizens first acknowledge the shift towards ‘smartness’?

This depends on what is the most used and most vital part of the ecosystem, as perceived by the citizens themselves. In bigger cities, this is almost always public transit – as many people use it daily, it is easy to notice the improvement in its services. But for smaller cities it might be a digital citizenship platform that connects the community with city authorities, helping them save time by using different digital services (payments for communal services, participation in relevant polls, access to the different administrative services online & more).

The most elusive, yet one of the most important aspects of smart cities, is their ability to optimize resources. By optimizing the entire system, city management can effectively reduce the prices of services, thus reducing the overall cost of living in the long run.

What are the benefits from the "smart" factor in a city? Which aspects of life can be improved and become more manageable?

In a well-optimized ecosystem, all aspects of city life have the potential to be improved. We rarely think about how connected the different phenomena in our cities are. The most obvious example is pollution, which is a collateral effect of traffic, industry, burning fossil fuels, meteorological conditions and many more.

We have robust tools to optimize traffic so that there are less congestions and more people who choose to not use their cars in favour of public transit, define the biggest industrial offenders and enforce solutions to diminish their ecological footprint, help citizens transition to more eco-friendly sources of heating through renewable energy pilot programs... With that, we have improved not just one, but three aspects of city life.  

Manageability is a different issue altogether. Smart city technologies can help reduce the effort that goes into the monitoring of different processes, as this can be automated to deliver reports in real time. This will help city management define points of improvement quickly and tackle day-to-day issues more easily. It will also optimize the work of important support infrastructures: waste management, electrical and water supply, etc.

What are the latest trends in smart cities? Give us an overview of what is happening right now on a global scale and share some predictions you might have for the next 10 years.

Currently, we are all consumed with dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic. This means the deployment of as many contactless technologies as possible across the city – for example, public transit, parking, digital citizenship platforms. Digital surveillance has also become an important part of city management.  

It is very difficult to predict what the landscape will look like 10 years from now, but the emerging trends are all focused on disease prevention and sustainability. Micro mobility will be a big trend in public transportation.

Currently, data sharing issues are a big stopper to scaling innovations as many cities still do not have the proper tools to manage systems that collect data and use it collectively. In the future, data sharing might be the starting point towards taking more informed decisions.

Smart City Circular infrastructureWhat issues can a smart public transit system resolve?

Intelligent transportation systems can help tackle numerous problems at once, such as traffic congestion, air pollution, shortage of parking space in central parts of the city, improvement of pedestrian zones, and many more. It would be ambitious to state that they could resolve these issues and eliminate them forever as these systems are highly dependable on adoption rates, but they are a step in the right direction.

All these aspects, when combined, improve the overall quality of life of citizens. Some may recognize all improvements while others may see only a small portion of them. It depends on one’s way of life and the areas of city they are most involved in.

Therefore, it is important not only to communicate the benefits before the implementation of a smart solution but also the results afterwards.

Which smart city solutions can effectively resolve painful issues such as overflowing bins?

Smart waste management is the lead actor here – with the help of a system of IoT sensors installed in waste bins, waste collection services will be notified when a bin is full and needs to be emptied. The itineraries of waste collection vehicles can be optimized in real time so that there is no bin left behind.

How can smart solutions such as mobile ticketing help keep citizens healthy?

We are all weary of hearing how we should avoid touching money and surfaces in high-traffic areas to avoid getting infected. It is not only the novel coronavirus that poses a health threat – there are millions of dangerous bacteria and viruses that live on these surfaces. Mobile ticketing helps people stay healthy by reducing the need to use cash because all payments are securely made through a mobile app, and then the same app is used to scan and validate the trip onboard the public transit vehicle.

Is it possible to improve living standards in a city within one year by implementing a smart solution?

It won’t be an exaggeration to say that every smart city solution stems from or leads to more sustainable living. In an ever-growing world, the challenge of creating sustainable communities is a responsibility of city management.

Implementing a network of sustainable solutions across the city and facilitating the proactive approach of citizens has an impact on the whole ecosystem. Ensuring seamless connectivity for data exchanges between different service providers is critical.

Smart public transit solutions are one such case – as already mentioned, this is an area of city life that many people use, so an improvement in these services will quickly get attention.

Did the Covid-19 pandemic accelerate smart city tech adoption? In what ways?

Many cities saw the vast potential of smart city tech while trying to bring the pandemic under control. This made them act more quickly on programs that they had already planned or search for innovative solutions to old problems – especially in the domain of public transit.

Contactless payments became the new standard, and in this sense, mobile ticketing adoption rates grew at scale. The need for alternative personal transportation saw the use of micro mobility options skyrocket as well.

Finally, surveillance of quarantined individuals was necessary to ensure public health and some cities opted for smart apps that used a combination of GPS tracking and local IoT systems for detection and health status monitoring.

 

Telelink City has successfully helped cities across Europe implement smart solutions through the 75-year combined experience of its experts.

 

We can partner with global and local institutions to efficiently integrate smart innovations in your city.

 

Contact us:

 

Website: telelink-city.com

E-mail: telelink-city@telelink.com

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