South Korea’s second city of Busan hosted this year’s ITU Telecom World event, bringing together governments, tech firms and startups to discuss new digital technologies.
One of the main goals of the event was to promote home-grown innovations, in particular ‘smart city’ technologies.
Itself a pioneering smart city, Busan showed off some of its own novelties including a traffic-monitoring system that can inform drivers about accidents ahead, a healthcare system that monitors patients in real time and sends the information on to doctors, and even a system which switches off a user’s access to his/her smartphone when crossing the road to avoid them being distracted and getting involved in a traffic accident.
According to Aidan Lew of the Internet of Things Business Team with Lotte Data Communication, “the important thing is to make people’s lives more convenient and safe, because Korean people already have experience of the IoT (Internet of Things) devices, and they want even higher services and applications.”
It’s not just the South Koreans who are embracing smart city concepts.
In Switzerland, a leading mobile phone company is testing how its data could be used to analyse traffic congestion.
“We have lots of mobile phone information. We generate 20 billion events every day – that’s to say that each time your mobile connects to an antenna, it creates a digital imprint. And we approached the towns to say, ‘Here we go, we’re going to be able to show you the traffic in real time. And then on that basis we’re going to be able to pinpoint more targeted town planning,” explained Raphaël Rollier, head of Smart Cities at Swisscom.
5G for 2020
To really make smart city concepts happen requires the implementation of ultra-fast 5G mobile networks. The task of the ITU, a UN agency, is to define the spectrum for this network before 2020.
“5G provides a hyper-connected environment for consumers. So all devices which are connected, operated by consumers in their daily life, should be connected with 5G,” says Chaesub Lee, director at the ITU Telecommunication Standardization Bureau.
Security was a big topic at this year’s ITU Telecom World, in light of predictions that the number of connected devices will rise from 6 billion today to 200 billion by 2025.
One answer is to build security into the system. According to Ammar Alkassar, CEO at Rohde & Schwarz Cybersecurity, “we need to change the way we do cyber-security. What we need to do for the future is to look at more proactive systems, systems by design, security by design. It’s not about additional software we add to the devices, rather it’s about building these devices in a secure way right from the start.”
PyeongChang Olympics: a hyper-connected event
The security questions notwithstanding, the drive to offer consumers 5G services is rushing ahead, with South Korea planning to make its upcoming Winter Olympics a hyper-connected event.
“We are trying to install the 5G network for the first time in the world to provide trial services for the audience and the participants in the Olympic Games,” explained Dongjun Lee, network strategy specialist at KT Corporation.
Many of the attendees of ITU Telecom World will be watching those 5G Olympic trials eagerly, as the world prepares for another big jump in connectivity.