Smart City Solutions – Gina Heng

This is an op-ed article by Marvelstone Group Co-founder & CEO, Gina Heng. Gina is also a Founding Partner of LATTICE80, and Founder of Miss Kaya.

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How do Fintech and Blockchain play a part in developing a Smart City? In so many ways I would say!

I was delighted to be able to share my views and experience with developing a budding Fintech ecosystem from scratch through my project LATTICE80, as a speaker for the Advanced Solutions for Urban Management organised by Russian Asian Business Union on behalf of Moscow City Government.

Sergey Cheremin, the Minister of the Government of Moscow started the program by sharing the latest updates on the city. With cutting edge technology, and plans to create a new infrastructure for the benefit of its stockholders and citizens, Moscow has been recognised at international levels for its smart city efforts. Aside from the traditional landmarks like the St. Basil’s and Kremlin, the city has become extremely urban and modern. With its willingness to invest in essential urban developments, Moscow hopes to become one of the leading megacities in the future and is employing all its resources to accomplish innovation.

Innovation is not simply invention. Eddie Razak (Lee Kuan Yew Fellow) believes innovation should involve benefits for the people living in a society. It is important that governments solve social issues and unlock new markets through social innovation (growth and development). According to statista.com, spending on smart cities worldwide reached 14.85 billion U.S. dollars in 2015 and is projected to rise to 34.35 billion U.S. dollars in 2020. With the world speedily urbanising and putting enormous pressure on cities to grow rapidly and sustainably, it is important to ask, “What is the effect on society while we are implementing these smart cities?

Taking a look at Moscow, they have implemented online forums such as, Our City and Active Citizen that give residents the option to report any issues and comments regarding public services. It is clear that Moscow is willing to address any complaints from its residents and to give them a greater role in selecting the policies and implementations that affect their environment.

Smart cities such as London, Paris, and New York benefit from innovation and digitisation strategies. Simon Hansen (C40) discussed about the power of effective collaboration and exchanging common knowledge are what will allow urban communities to become more resilient and sustainable. Larger smart cities are able to flourish by effective public-private collaboration. With more resources and knowledge, larger smart cities are able to understand and execute smart strategies.

Depending on your understanding of what a smart city is and what it includes, it’s important to remember that everything comes with a vision. When it comes to designing, and developing urban communities, Rob Khoo (Sunseap Group) asked a great question, “What is your city version of 2.0?”

Sunseap Group is using Blockchain technology to develop its solar energy services. With blockchain entering the energy sector, it will allow people to trade energy among themselves. Utilising blockchain will allow a fundamental shift in the distribution of energy, as it will permit more renewable energy initiatives as a whole, which can fuel smart city innovation.

In order for urban communities to be safe and stable, Jon Carlo Alivio (Pomeroy Studio) mentions how sustainability plays an important role in the design of smart cities and urban developments. Alivio stresses the point that instead of the 3 pillars there is in fact more to sustainability, which are social, environmental, economic, spatial, ecological, and cultural. While these are all important pillars, he says that cities that preserve their authenticity/heritage will be the ones to thrive. With smart cities becoming more urbanized and generic, it is important to keep the traces and markers of historic structures that can add richness to how cities are preserved.

Of course, managing security in a densely populated city can be challenging. Dr Abhijit Shanbhag (Graymatics) shares how his company has developed CCTV cameras, a scalable cloud platform allowing for automatic real-time indexing, analysis and classification of videos/images with a suite of search, curation, and recommendation. By harnessing data from data sources within the city, security can be enhanced.

From an investment point of view, Kenny Ng (Inventis Investment Holdings), believes that when investors look at urban technology, it should be a more holistic approach where they invest in the ecosystem that supports the growth of urban development and the city. More importantly, it boils down to 3 factors, namely 1) Market opportunity 2) How is the city positioned for growth? 3) What makes this business a global leader?

Being the final presenter, I rounded the session up by sharing how my partners and I came up with the idea for LATTICE80, the independent fintech hub that we developed from scratch. Building a smart city takes vision, time and lots of effort. It entails more than just building out physical infrastructures. By trying to be innovative and progressive, it requires experimentation both as a business case as well as a platform. In order to create innovation for a smart city, it is important that we gather and collaborate with the best brains and problem solvers.