‘Self-isolation is payment for the underdevelopment of the IT infrastructure and diagnostics’

Skolkovo expert on how IT systems will defeat COVID-19

‘Self-isolation is payment for the underdevelopment of the IT infrastructure and diagnostics’
Photo: author’s courtesy

The coronavirus pandemic that has brought citizens of Russia and other countries of the world into self-isolation will be useful for manufacturers of smart technologies, specialists consider. While the integration of IT systems into different spheres of society (first of all, health care and housing and communal services) can already help to fight COVID-19, thinks digital economist Ravil Akhtyamov. In a column written for Realnoe Vremya, the expert talks about how the infrastructure of smart cities should be working in the current conditions and how to get ready for the post-coronavirus era.

“Whether a black cat will bring misfortune mainly depends on whether you are a human being or a mouse.” Janusz Leon Wiśniewski Blood Flow

Digital integration to fight COVID-19

I think that self-isolation is payment for the underdevelopment of the IT infrastructure of a smart city and the system of diagnostics in health care. The price is too high for society and businesses. Instead of random control and mass diagnostics, a total control that is fraught with a collapse of the economy has been introduced.

What is a smart city? Smart cities use sensors in real time mode that transmit data to digital platforms to make decisions at all urban management levels.

For instance, a system used to measure temperature in a crowd is tested in the city of Mexico. This is who the authorities are trying to keep the coronavirus from spreading. A resident of the Academic Park in Novosibirsk has developed an IT system to fight the coronavirus. The system helps to detect potentially infected people, their circle of contacts and track how self-isolation is met. Retailers are launching smart apps to combat the coronavirus.

A smart city starts with smart planning and smart managerial solutions. Any crisis makes businesses be torn between what’s now and what will be after. Moreover, as a rule, a successful user experience of executives of digital transformation is a driver of digital transformation. In this sense, the role of digital economy leaders comes to the fore.

If the IT infrastructure is developed, it is possible to organise quick testing of a big number of citizens sending this information to a regional health care information system. Integration of regional IS with related systems of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and other competent bodies based on IT solutions (for instance, digital ID) would allow quickly localising infected citizens and taking preventive measures. We have long had such technologies, and they have been tested, for instance, during the FIFA WC in Russia in 2018. For instance, when speaking about QR codes for organising access of citizens, this system can be set up quickly.

Photo: mos.ru
Smart cities use sensors in real time mode that transmit data to digital platforms to make decisions at all urban management levels

To think of post-coronavirus health care

With the support of the Industry Development Fund, it is also possible to quickly arrange the production of necessary tests and equipment. The effort of the IT community, innovation development and support institutions must be mobilised to perform these priority tasks.

In this respect, only strict control measures have been taken here, though in China they go hand in hand with prevention measures against the disease itself and introduction of the latest technologies. For instance, Xi Jinping urged to make metropolises smarter. In the Chinese leader’s opinion, the use of Big Data, cloud technologies and artificial technologies can help with it.

Precisely for this reason, I think that the development of smart city infrastructure is the state’s best investment in the current conditions.

At the moment, the load on the internet infrastructure has significantly gone up, the load the networks are operating with is over 90%. A 5G boom is awaiting us. More people are starting to work, study and chat in the Net due to self-isolation. In the future, this will help to develop new-generation networks.

The load on health care establishments has increased too. Manufacturers of IoT devices will have to focus on smart health care and the post-COVID era now. Only 7% of developments of the biggest IoT companies in Asia are dedicated to health care.

Five technologies that help to fight the pandemic:

  • thermal imaging are looking for infected people in a crowd;
  • video analytics is fighting the spread of infection in hospitals;
  • artificial intelligence is forecasting where the epidemic might start;
  • urban portals are helping to stop the panic;
  • telemedicine is unloading hospitals.

Telemedicine is a key to a victory over the coronavirus and it will remain important after the pandemic. Smart city technologies allow saving energy, optimising waste disposal, improving water and power supply, managing traffic. The topic of smart city in general has significantly crossed the borders of housing and utilities.

Photo: rubaltic.ru
Telemedicine is a key to a victory over the coronavirus and it will remain important after the pandemic

Whose hands will the pandemic play into?

The economy of energy resources and re-organisation of the current system of housing and communal services and construction with the introduction of energy-saving technologies and smart city principles is a topical task within top measures to increase the stability of the economy.

In general it is necessary to develop and approve a programme to develop smart city technologies that includes support for IT services, which will help citizens to work remotely and will help introduce technologies to remotely send data to housing and communal services and construction sector.

Moreover, I think that as a supporting measure to introduce digital innovations, it is necessary to create an initiative to introduce a test legal regime (TLR) in big data turnover. Nowadays such initiatives are discussed by a task force Special Legal Regimes of Skolkovo fund’s Competence Centre for Regulation of Digital Economy. The initiative of TLR can be presented within the corresponding themed task force. The Ministry of Economic Development of the Russian Federation has been tasked with summarising such initiatives. Considering close economic links of Bashkortostan and Tatarstan, such an initiative can be presented on behalf of the two republics. Other neighbouring regions can join it too.

As a goal of the introduction of smart city principles in public security, it is necessary to provide a higher security level, prevent the number and growth of clearance rate. Video surveillance systems have already covered a considerable territory in cities. It is necessary to introduce artificial intelligence algorithms to analyse and process videos.

The absence of a legislative framework to provide data, the necessity of agreement with owners of facilities, organisation of interaction with public order protection bodies, development of biometric legislation are a problem. And here the introduction of TLR in Big Data might perform this task.

It is also necessary to adopt a regulation on digitalisation and installation of devices and meters according to one pattern. This regulation must envisage the creation of a centre for resource accounting (data operator) to create an online united digital platform, determine a clear order of co-financing/financing on installation of meters and digitalisation, a competence centre for resource accounting (installation, maintenance and integrity of meters).

Photo: Oleg Tikhonov
Demand for smart construction will rise in the next years. The use of renewable energy sources, the introduction of the Internet of Things and automated control systems will allow the market of smart houses to demonstrate significant growth in the next years

With other countries’ anti-crisis policy, it is also necessary to consider additional measures to support the construction sector that help re-erected facilities to meet principles of energy efficiency and smart city. A system to control housing supply and monitor construction stages need to be introduced.

It is also necessary to introduce a control system at regional level and regulate a developer’s obligations to install a telemetry system and remote data transmission when residential and social houses are projected. The coronavirus is playing into voice management system manufacturers’ hands. Sales of voice management systems for smart houses are expected to grow by 30% this year.

I should put an example of the construction of so-called smart quarters abroad. It is an example of a successful project of public and private partnership between a municipality and developer. The infrastructure of this district is created from scratch at the expense of a private investor, a smart system for utility resources and energy-saving technologies was introduced, all buildings are very energy efficient.

Demand for smart construction will rise in the next years. The use of renewable energy sources, the introduction of the Internet of Things and automated control systems will allow the market of smart houses to demonstrate significant growth in the next years.

I think it is necessary to limit the issue of certificates to build blocks of flats, while new blocks of flats should be built considering energy efficiency and smart city principles. It is necessary to create a council for energy-efficient construction and smart city technologies with interested sides and independent auditors to choose these projects.

By Ravil Akhtyamov
BashkortostanTatarstan