IEEE Smart Cities Questions and Answers

As we relaunch IEEE Smart Cities activites, members of the IEEE Smart Cities Steering Committee have provided a few comments on why they are getting involved in IEEE Smart Cities.

Rolland Vida

Rolland Vida

Head at High Speed Networks Laboratory (HSN Lab)

2018 IEEE Smart Cities Steering Committee - Communications Society

IEEE Talks Smart Cities: Rolland Vida


Rolland Vida represents the IEEE Communications Society in the IEEE Smart Cities Steering Committee and the IEEE Sensors Council Administrative Committee. He also serves as the Editor-in-Chief of Infocommunications Journal, co-sponsored by the IEEE Communications Society and  IEEE Hungary Section, as Operations Chair of the Globecom and ICC Management and Strategy Committee of the IEEE Communications Society, and as Associate Editor of IEEE Sensors Letters. He is an Associate Professor at the Budapest University of Technology and Economics.


Question: What inspired you to get involved in the IEEE Smart Cities initiative?

Vida: Two reasons, both quite practical. I am already involved in many IEEE technical societies and councils that are related to the wireless sensors, vehicular networks and wireless communications that will support smart cities. So it simply makes sense to contribute to the IEEE Smart Cities Initiative.


On the other hand, I began research on wireless sensor networks about 15 years ago and this led to my being appointed to lead the Smart Cities Master of Science (MSc) Specialization for electrical engineers at the Budapest University of Technology and Economics. I have been involved in several research-and-development projects related to sensor networks, vehicular networks and smart cities. Therefore, I was happy to be able to contribute to the IEEE Smart Cities Initiative.    


Question: In which smart city functional domains do you see the greatest opportunities and/or challenges? Where does technical research need to be focused?


Vida: Intelligent transportation will have a tremendous impact on how livable our cities can become. This domain includes how we manage pedestrian,  bicycle, autonomous vehicle and  public transportation. Each of these transportation modes will have their own sensors, radars, LiDAR and cameras by which to monitor the environment, and to communicate with each other and with roadside infrastructure. Computing capacity has evolved tremendously in the last decade, making complex real-time image processing, pattern matching and machine learning possible. However, several technical, legal and ethical challenges remain to be solved before self-driving cars will proliferate in smart cities.


From an individual’s perspective, other opportunities such as car-sharing and the use of community-based traffic and navigation apps that heavily rely on an information and communication (ICT) infrastructure will contribute to make city transportation systems smarter, more reliable and more predictable. Smarter, more reliable transportation systems, in turn, reduce energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions, making a city more sustainable.


Question:  What are the top attributes that make a city “smarter”?


Vida: First we need to understand in-depth how a city operates, how it serves its citizens. That requires gathering immense amounts of data, from the city’s deployed sensing infrastructure to citizens’ smartphone use, in terms of crowdsensing. We need to apply real-time, big data analytics in order to create personalized, context-aware, value-added services for a city’s inhabitants.

Another important opportunity and challenge is to provide open access to the data gathered by the sensing infrastructure and the crowdsensing applications. This will allow anybody to build new applications and services that can serve the specific, localized needs of city residents, which will vary from city to city. This must be done in a manner that preserves users’ privacy and does not jeopardize the security of critical city infrastructure.       


Question: How will smart city projects contribute to a city’s economic growth and benefit its citizens?


Vida: I’ll give you a few examples. Intelligent transportation systems, paired with smart parking solutions, can optimize city traffic and significantly reduce traffic jams. That results in less pollution, lower energy consumption and more efficient means of transporting people and goods within a city. Such efficiencies will provide a healthier environment, improve quality of life and have a direct effect on productivity.


Opening access to data from sensing infrastructure can also increase a city’s economic growth by increasing workers’ well-being, but there’s more. In a study by McKinsey & Co. that focused on London “open data-driven” companies it was shown that these companies in aggregate employ more than 500,000 people and had annual revenue of more than $125 billion in 2016. The study estimated that sharing traffic data in London generates a return on investment of 58 to 1. Looking at this on a global scale, shared open data from public and private sources can help create $3-5 trillion a year in value in different areas of the global economy, such as transportation, electricity, oil and gas, or healthcare.


Question: How is IEEE supporting the evolution to smart cities?


Vida: IEEE does this in several ways. First, IEEE plays a very important role in the development and standardization of different wired and wireless communication technologies. For example, the IEEE 802.11p standard is one of the technologies that would enable vehicular communication among smart, self-driving cars. The IEEE 802.15.4 standard provides the physical- and medium-access layer for different, low-rate wireless personal area network (LR-WPAN) technologies such as Zigbee, Thread or 6LoWPAN – technologies that are used by energy-constrained sensors and Internet of Things (IoT) devices which are important components of a smart city.

IEEE’s convening power means that it can play a leading role in the organization of scientific conferences that focus on smart cities. These conferences are highly respected forums where researchers can present their latest scientific findings and where smart city best practices and lessons learned from real-world deployments can be shared with the community. The 4th IEEE International Smart Cities Conference (IEEE ISC2), to be held 16-19 September 2018 in Kansas City, Missouri, is such a forum, as are related forums on more targeted smart city-related topics.


I should also mention that IEEE is very much involved in the educational aspect of smart cities through its publications, tutorials and webinars. IEEE is a one of the pillars in a global effort to make our cities more livable and sustainable.