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Moscow to test and integrate new smart city technologies

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Jonathan Andrews spoke to Andrey Belozerov, Senior Advisor on Strategy and Innovations to the CIO of Moscow, during Mobile World Congress in Barcelona where he outlined future plans for Moscow’s smart city capabilities In the last five years Moscow has laid the foundations for a smart city, mainly focusing on e-government and management services, yet is still lacking a formal smart city strategy. Is this something you are working on?

In 2011 we developed strategy called Information City which has been extended until the end of 2018. With a US$600 million annual budget, we invested in ICT infrastructure development and m2m projects, e-healthcare and e-education, public services delivery, citizen engagement and much more–all solutions that now are included in the smart city concept. Within six years, we implemented unified e-doc flow and accounting for all governmental institutions, online procurement systems, open budget, automated healthcare and education systems for all public clinics and schools, built IoT platforms for smart metering and city vehicles, deployed citywide e-voting and crowdsourcing platforms and moved more than 200 public services online including through mobile devices. In 2011 we didn’t realise that in fact it was about making Moscow smart, but now we prefer calling that strategy Smart City Moscow.

What are the next steps now the foundation is laid?

Chatbots, artificial intelligence, augmented and virtual reality, big data and blockchain are not something far from the future. Tech companies are already delivering many practical tools–governments have to identify the opportunities and integrate new technologies into city life. Later this year we will launch a city chatbot that will partly substitute our call centre, and we will pilot blockchain for recording and storage of e-voting results. We are also testing AR [augmented reality] and VR [virtual reality] to customise pupils’ experiences in life science classes, and computer vision in CT and X-ray images processing to support clinical decision-making.

Moscow has been a finalist twice now at the World Smart City Awards, held during Smart City Expo World Congress in Barcelona. Will you be entering again this year and under which project? Sure. Last year we entered in the city award category with our concept of delivery of public services. The concept seamlessly integrates offline offices with online platforms, mobile apps and multiple SMS and USSD services. This year we will enter–more likely–with a single project, not for a city award: it will be about technologies that improve citizens’ experience. In what ways is your team assisting your colleagues in transport and are the two departments more interlinked?

We built an IoT network for 32,000 city vehicles, including technical and public transport–a powerful tool to manage resources, plan routes and optimise fuel consumption. It plays a critical role during wintertime snowfalls–we monitor the situation and optimise resource utilisation. We broadly use big data to optimise public transport fleets, routes and schedules–by integrating data from mobile operators and our road sensors to understand how citizens and cars move around the city. For the purposes of planning, we actively use our citywide e-voting app–many of the new public transport routes and frequencies were proposed and approved by citizens.

Cyber security is a big concern facing many cities across the world particularly as cities become more smart and connected. Has Moscow faced an increase in cyber hackers and ransomware software? How is it combatting this? Russia has always had many smart guys, enough for both sides of the cyber battlefield. Thankfully, we have to follow very high safety standards regulated at federal and regional levels–this keeps us focused. We also invest a lot in testing processes to identify and eliminate weaknesses. I am sure that new technologies like blockchain, AI-based bot protection or multi-factor authentication will make city infrastructure safer.

How do you work with the city’s Smart City Lab? What is their role in the smart city make up of Moscow? Have there been any successful projects that have been up-scaled and in use? In 2016 we launched the Smart City Lab to boost the process of testing and integration of new technologies. A new team collects best practices, coordinates activities from the different structures of the Moscow Government and helps small and medium-sized tech businesses to adopt their solutions for city needs. We expect that at least one third of all the projects that the Lab has launched this year will reach citywide level for 2018.

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