Features, INVESTMENT CLIMATE, TECHNOLOGY

Russian cities grow smarter

According to analysts’ forecasts, by 2020 there will be somewhat 600 smart cities worldwide. Some Russian agglomerations have a chance to be on that list. This year, some pilot projects of implementing complex smart solutions will be launched. Such solutions will help making smart both municipal services management and the entire city environment. Eighteen Russian cities are expected to get smarter. In case the efforts are successful, the experience obtained will be offered to other regions.

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Pioneers’ time

Moscow, even though it strives to be smart, is not part of the experiment. Other locations have been chosen for testing technology solutions. The exact number of the cities was announced by Mikhail Men, minister of construction, at Smart City: Exterior Perimeter conference arranged by Kommersant Publishers. As a result, the final lists includes both a number of one-company towns such as Satka, Glazov and Yelabuga (eight, all in all), and some major regional capitals such as Voronezh, Yekaterinburg, Novosibirsk and Perm. The list also included Yevpatoria (Crimea). Local authorities of all those places will start implementing complex smart solutions this year. Earlier, such solutions were only implemented occasionally. Voronezh, for example, has already got a smart traffic management system (smart traffic lights).

In the Western countries, the practical implementations are far ahead already. When referring to a successful implementation of smart city technologies, Mikhail Men noted Spain’s Sandero where municipal resources management is based on the data supplied by 20K sensors, electronic devices, mobile phones and cameras.

The sensors supply information on traffic situation, monitor air and water quality, check security issues”, Mikhain Men specified.

As he explained, in Russia the projects will allow testing integrated solutions and specific technologies, making urban life more comfortable. The solutions which are successful in the selected regions, will then be implemented in other cities too. At the moment, the data on both offered solutions and their practical implementations are accumulated in the Smart City solutions bank of the Construction Ministry.

According to Men, the fundamental principles of the project are urban environment’s technological effectiveness, satisfaction of residents’ needs, improving urban resources management quality, economic performance, safe and comfortable urban environment.

At the moment, the Smart City project is being handled by a special task team within the Construction Ministry. In early March, the Ministry came up with an initiative to have the project included in the Digital Economy government program.

The ministry expects to see the early results of the Smart City project implementation by 2024.

By then, no less than 50 million Russian nationals will be living in smart cities where smart municipal resources management system will function”, Mikhail Men stressed.

Focus on utilities

For the urban ecosystem, the most widespread digital practices are solutions in housing and utilities. Smart improvement of housing and utilities is among priority goals within the Smart City project in Russia. The focus of attention is not only due to the scale of the industry which employs two million people and has an annual turnover of RUR 5 trillion ($81 bln), but also to the difficult situation the industry faces. Its capacities operate at the maximum load level, while significant volumes of generated and supplied resources (such as water, heat and electricity) are used inefficiently, Elena Solntseva, director of Housing and Utilities Department of the Construction Ministry, pointed out.

The main expected solutions include smart meters which can remotely submit measurement data. According to Mikhail Men, by 2024 over 70% meters in private housing will be able to submit data remotely.

But it is precisely in housing and utilities or, more broadly, in residential buildings management where significant hardships and obstacles to housing technical infrastructure improvement are confronted. In the much depreciated residential facilities, infrastructure is most scares and, at best, allows to reach a lift operator, Ilya Dyomin, director of IT in Housing and Utilities at Moscow IT Department says.

The problem is most acute for ordinary towns which just lack funding to introduce smart technologies at separate buildings. Yet, new possibilities for installing smart systems at cities and towns are offered by LoRaWAN technology, Evgeny Luppov, Russian representative at Actility (France), says.

This technology appeared three years ago and proved to be energy efficient and commercially feasible for quite a number of cases”.

In Latvia, for instance, a local operator used LoRaWAN to actively introduce its smart water and electricity consumption metering. Similar cases can be observed in other EU countries such as Belgium and Netherlands. In Northern Italy, in Bologna for example, the technology is used for smart garbage collection. There, the timing of garbage removal depends on the data on waste containers’ fullness supplied by dozens of thousands of smart sensors. In Japan, the technology is used for air quality monitoring, while in the Netherlands, for flood monitoring and preventing.

LoRaWAN network is being deployed n Russia. The project is implemented by ER Telecom Holding independent Russian telecom services provider in partnership with Actility which is a supplier of integrated network low energy consumption solutions. By the yearend, networks will be launched in 50 Russian cities, by the end of 2019 the number will be ten times higher. Solutions based on the technology also attract interest. St-Petersburg authorities, for instance, are interested in flood prevention systems. Their implementation is now under consideration.

Sensors are not enough

The roadmap for the Smart City project implementation, developed by the Construction Ministry, also includes digitalization of various stages of energy resources management. That may turn out to be one of the most sophisticated tasks since it will require refurbishing the entire industry management mechanism. According to Evgeny Grabchak, director of Power Industry Operational Control and Management Department at the Ministry of Energy, digitalization in power industry must envisage not just smartness, but rather a broad robotization. The priority should be optimization of the existing system and the possibility to process data at the monitoring points already in operation.

Sensors can be installed everywhere. The question is, what for? A regular power plant already generates about 2 TB of data per day. Of that amount, only 1.5% to 2% are really used to monitor some processes. The remaining data is unused, since that is the unstructured data”, Evgeny Grabchak notes.

The main problem is not the lack of data describing some processes within the industry. Currently, there is no modern management model based on use of such data. Therefore, it is the development of such a management model that is of prime importance for the power industry digitalization. A risk-oriented management model should be realized to reduce monitoring and supervision by collecting technology data directly, with no human involvement.

As Evgeny Grabchak says, even though electricity price for the ultimate consumer in Russia is two to three times lower than in the US or Europe, power assets operation costs are, in turn, five to ten time higher. That is partially due to the inefficient and inadequate industry management mechanism. All improvements must now be focused on lowering running costs.

In Finland, huge hydro power stations are operated and managed remotely. At a sophisticated and hazardous hydro generator there would be no staff at all”, Evgeny Grabchak notes. “There is no sense in implementing any new sensors before we have a new management mechanism installed”.

By Olga Blinova

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