IEEE Affiliated Smart City Profile - Ariana, Tunisia

Nowadays, advanced information and communication technologies play a critically important role in improving citizens' quality of life and economic growth.  

Within a city, the use of smart technologies increases the availability of more detailed, smart information tools so that all consumers can reap educational benefits of new technologies and enhance their lifestyle.

This project aims to transform Ariana into a smart city, in line with advanced information systems. The objective is to substantially enhance the city's capacity to act on health care and education issues. Particularly, we attempt to propose solutions that could transmit the right information to the right person at the right time in push.

It is important to emphasize that Ariana has a modern basic infrastructure. It is recognized as one of the biggest economic centre in Tunisia because of its importance in finance, commerce, healthcare, education, tourism, and its geo-strategic location.

1. Education area

The governorate of Ariana benefits from a wide network of schools and universities. It includes 11 universities in scientific, economic and technological disciplines. These institutions train more than 13,600 students per year. Particularly, Ariana enjoys the implantation of two specialized technological centers as telecommunications and information systems in El Ghazala and biotechnology in Sidi Thabet. Besides, the governorate comprises several high-tech companies and start-ups (of about 50 companies). These companies and research institutes provide opportunities for university researchers to link with the applicative domain and contribute to the development of the new technology. Also, they provide college students with internships to allow them to put their knowledge and skills into practice and act as a productive recruitment mechanism and to provide opportunities for young professionals. The governorate also hosts a large number of primary and elementary schools that is valued at 31. Both of private and public schools are subject to a national program established by the Ministry of National Education. Due to the large number of schools, there is an increasing need to create a regional educational network to manage and evaluate regional innovations and changes in schools.

In order to address the education efficiency in Ariana city, we are currently working on the integration of technological solutions into the existing systems in compliance with the government policy to manage this sector. Some of the proposed solutions can be summarized as in the following:

  • Foster the link between the high-tech companies, academic and research institutes by crating user friendly website platforms to improve and consolidate the researchers' career prospects and create an open labor market for researchers.
  • Enable the students, from different institutions in the region, to get access to the same electronic journals, books, and scientific databases.
  • Implement RFID systems in libraries in order to speed material check-in, shelf inventory, and security applications. The use of RFID tags provide the libraries, in schools and universities, with productivity benefits, efficient collection management tools, and enhanced consumer service.
  • Develop web platforms to supervise the functioning in schools and consolidate the relationship between parents, institution, teachers and students by create a venue through which these actors can share experiences, learn about practices external to the region, analyze studies about the advancement of education policies at a global level, and explore areas of cooperation on topics related to the improvement of education in the region.
  • Incorporate e-learning solutions in traditional learning environments by strengthen higher universities with MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses). The design of such open and distributed learning system allows supporting university curricula, academic scholarship, professional development, and corporate training applications.

2. Health area

In health, many doctor's offices, hospitals, medical clinics are concentrated in Ariana city. However, the scope and quality of the health care infrastructure make it very difficult to manage the patients and provide the access to good quality health information. In fact, there is a pressing need to develop sophisticated solutions of electronic health records management in Ariana city. In the smart Ariana project, we aimed to develop a health information exchange (HIE) platform that can provide integrated services which include remote access, central archiving and backup, and unified management of digital health data. The platform, as a whole, is responsible for supporting two major functionalities:

- accommodate the availability of patient data through a rigorous selection procedure and a consultation process
- ensuring a strong trust in healthcare applications, and a strong protection of health data and patient's data

The design aspect of the project is structured in 3 phases:

2.1. Short-term accomplishments

- At this first stage, we propose to implement a health data exchange platform to be connected to the information center of Mahmoud El Matri University Hospital in Ariana, for storing and exchanging digital medical images and biological examinations. In order to allow doctors having online access to the medical records of their patients, a web server is directly linked to the storage server. The authorized practitioners and clinicians will be equipped with web application enabling them to combine the historic of results of biological analyses, DICOM images, and diagnostic software. This service is of crucial need since it allows the physicians to determine the appropriate diagnostic and therapeutic follow-ups. Figure 1 illustrates a SOA architecture based on Web services that enable interoperability between the application server and different client applications (e.g. health equipment, browser, medical software).

Figure 1

Figure 1 : Local platform of Health data exchange.

2.2.  Medium term accomplishments

At this stage, we propose to design an inter-site platform to host and exchange medical images and biological examinations collected from all of the health centers in Ariana city. Two servers will be used for the central archiving of medical data (images and biological analyses). The first one is designated to the medium term archiving (over 5 years) in lossless mode of medical images, whereas the second allows long term archiving (over 80 years). In the second case, images are lossy compressed under rate/distortion constrains, to ensure fast rendering and storage space saving.

The proposed solution guarantees that the patient is the ownership of its medical file. Furthermore, the health centers will be able to collect their data in case of loss in local stations. Generally, the remote medical data access builds consistency in medical data generated in different remote sites. In addition, it ensures remote access to patient records and test results to the treating doctor.

Figure 2 shows the global architecture for the health information platform which enables an easy health information exchange between health-care centers.

Figure 2

Figure 2: Global Architecture of the network health information exchange

2.3. Long term accomplishments

At the third stage, we propose to extend the HIE platform, to be designed in the second stage, by considering the full patient information which includes vaccinations and medical treatment during schooling. By this way we get the history of care for the citizens and adopt optimum care solutions. Finding out the root causes of common diseases improves the quality of life and overall health of citizens.

3. Important related points

  • To complete the smart Ariana project and achieve the aforementioned services, professionals from different areas of expertise have been involved. At the local level, the support of administrators and measures adopted to foster interdisciplinary initiatives are very important factors. The knowledge shared from different worlds provides for greater wealth of creativity, valorizing the originality of the proposed IT solutions related to quality of life for the residents of Ariana city.
  • It is worth noting that Verification and Validation (V&V) methods have always been an essential part of the engineering processes, since they offer the only way to judge the success (or not) of a development project. The (V&V) methods provide ways to indicate where work needs to be done to rectify anomalous knowledge and resolve design problems. For these reasons, we integrated the V&V techniques in the conceptual stage of each proposed system by using specific formal validation and verification models.
  • This pilot project will be subsequently expanded to involve other regions of Tunisia and take advantage from the proposed services at national level.