Creating an African Smart City

11209560_1001449533232489_2585658404618702404_n. . . revolutionizing utilities & connecting energy.

Smart cities concepts are fast becoming a critical pathway for our immediate future, mainly due to the confluence of increasing urbanisation. There is accelerated pressure being placed on the successful management of a city, due to a rising population, and climate change. The digital transformation of information technology compounds the necessity for smart cities. Technology has swept through the globe since the turn of the century, winning the hearts of people across our planet. Computers have fast become part of our daily lives, controlling pieces of our most private communications.

Successful businesses have digital strategies in place. Research shows smart cities growth is presently at 14%, it expectancy to reach a value of $1 265.85 billion by 2019. South African cities need to evolve considerably, as they struggle to transform, perform and improve the quality of communities and peoples’ lives.

But what exactly is a smart city? In essence a smart city provides the technology framework that enables its citizens, resident businesses, and all its counter parts such as government and non-government stakeholders, to be revolutionized through innovative use of information and communication technologies. Smart information and communications technology are an important building block in the energy turnaround to achieve future sustainable transformation.

Pervasive high-speed connectivity is a catalyst and the foundation for development of a smart city. Such high speed connectivity will enable effective data collection and analytics to ensure continuous improvement along with the use of mobile technologies to reach every citizen in South Africa. Once innovative high-speed networks are delivered to our cities we will be in position to address the unique challenges and become smarter.

The reality is the surmountable challenges, a hindrance to South Africa becoming Africa’s smart capital. The skills deficit coupled with the underdeveloped infrastructure sure creates a perplexing landscape to the advancement of smart cities. The development of human capital requires well-trained, tech-savvy individuals who understand and utilise IT systems to enhance smarter transformation.

So where are we on this barometer of culture change? South Africa is currently heavily reliant on traditional energy generation. The green energy sources contribute only a fraction of the country’s total energy output. South Africa’s climate is idyllic when it comes to adoption of renewable energy. There is a need for more incentive programmes to be introduced to stimulate trends towards clean energy.

On this journey we need to foster a ‘culture of diversity’ that creates an inclusive corporate culture of ‘enabling people’ who perform par excellence. It is the people who contribute to localisation and the digital transformation that will harness the skills of the new digital era. In the future smart grids will unlock clean energy, decentralising its production for future sustainability. Smart technology a forerunner in this digital space, is designed to make our live easier by electronically solving problems. Ironically up for debate is Smart meter technology.

Smart electricity meters can make an important contribution to the energy turnaround with near real-time data collection and transmission and potentially new energy savings. Connected smart meters are basically advanced utility meters that record business or residential utility usage in near ‘real time’, in great detail. Smart meters are installed in approximately 0,000 homes across the South African landscape.

Known as the ‘time of use’ tariff system has been around since the late 1990s in South Africa, relatively new in our residential areas. The idea is that the consumer be penalized when over using electricity during peak demand times and be discounted for utilisation off-peak.

Consumers need to adjust their lifestyle/s to benefit from such smart technology. The new system, a smart meter is defined as a digitised meter, enabling 2 way communications, bio directional, digitally records data and analytics for consumption, events i.e. tampering defects and the load profile (tariff).

Operation and efficiency are of concern, as smart meters can be used in various ways to send and receive data. The big question – will the smart meter save money on monthly energy costs?

T-Systems South Africa, are disruptive in their approach and are innovative smart business leaders, who hunderstand and work in this digital transformation space and have developed solutuions, that move towards a smart city service platform, combined with retrofitted communication modules on the end-point meters. Smart technology will lead to the creation of new innovative tariffs provided the load profile is included in the smart system, thus offers multiple tariff options that moves the demand curve.

For those interested in maximising energy consumption there are smart system programs on offer for individual households, with opt in benefits, indication is required for participation and education.

Smart meter technology measures consumption mainly, and its communication is considered safe and secure with 128 bit security encryption, trusted provider i.e. SSL Certificate.

Naturally smart meters are powered by electricity, and as reliability is one of the most important measures of accuracy, what happens during a power interruption? The smart system does retain tariff, credits and readings and is designed to store values for up to 30 days.

Smart meters are digital by nature, require less moving parts, making them more durable, providing more accuracy for greater periods of time between calibration check-ups, thus allowing the customer to keep an eye on things as and when they happen.  The customer uses a handy application on a smart mobile device that facilitates this bi-directional information flow.

Smart meters do not save energy people do, while smart meters facilitate the saving of electricity. If we cannot measure we cannot manage, people need to think and act smart understand what they consume, and know where they can make change, adapt, and save. Smart metering systems’ offer consumers the following benefits: a) energy savings by identifying waste of energy and events i.e. tampering b) elimination of intrusive meter readers c) further alerts pre-paid users when usage reaches pre-determined levels d) allows for special tariff campaigns to which the customer can opt in; and e) can buy an electricity token and have it entered into his meter without being close to the meter, but through the back-end system.

There is further debate around smart systems being able track energy usage, meaning that someone knows when you’re cooking, doing your washing, watching TV, sleeping, on vacation and more. This does raise suspicion, as it may be seen as an invasion of one’s privacy. Perhaps this is where education may be seen as a challenge. Users inevitably need to ensure that SMS’ be securely managed away from intruders. After all it’s about raising the bar and being smart, discerning in one’s brand choice.

Further a smart system offers the educated user and / or astute business an opportunity to experience future value add towards future clean energy, as they save, to generate surplus power, increasing levels of mastery coupled with technology provides for enhanced analytics and business intelligence across all levels of suppliers include: Information Technology; Operational Technology, executives, call centre and maintenance.

Let’s take a quick view of a city, Johannesburg needs to transform into a smart utility to meet higher demands and future needs to customers and regulators alike. Today’s utility looks at data in a silo manner. Smart cities, trending globally call for urgent action, as well as opportunities for constructive views and approaches.

Progressive, bold moves come into play as a smart city uses digital technologies to enhance performance and well-being, to reduce costs and resource consumption, and to engage more effectively and actively with its citizens.

Smart industry sectors cover transport, energy, healthcare, water and waste. The provision of energy is one of the most crucial and key sources of revenue for municipalities. The usage monitoring has a direct impact on the municipality’s budget. Johannesburg city needs to embark on a smart utility that ultimately delivers new enhanced capabilities increasing the levels of mastery to become Africa’s Smart City.

Knowledge and management are key drivers for municipalities to advance, possibly a catalyst to gain competitive edge, as SALGA purports their municipal barometer portal, and manifesto. It is through a multidisciplinary approach, of professionals and talented entrepreneurs that we will evolve our thinking towards creating smart cities.

Smart cities are not a matter of bits and bytes but more about people and evolution. Smart cities are where we enter a super conscious world of intelligent, digital and connected cities. IT companies define a smart city through technology lenses; developers concentrate on physical infrastructure, utilities insist on sustainable energy.

Green Peace champion the environment.


About Deutsche Telekom

Deutsche Telekom is one of the world’s leading integrated telecommunications companies with around 151 million mobile customers, 30 million fixed-network lines and more than 17 million broadband lines (as of December 31, 2014). The Group provides fixed network, mobile communications, Internet and IPTV products and services for consumers and ICT solutions for business customers and corporate customers. Deutsche Telekom is present in more than 50 countries and has approximately 228,000 employees worldwide. The Group generated revenues of EUR 62.7 billion in the 2014 financial year – more than 60 percent of it outside Germany.

About T-Systems

Deutsche Telekom considers the European business customer segment a strategic growth area. Deutsche Telekom offers small, medium-sized and multinational companies ICT solutions for an increasingly complex digital world. In addition to services from the cloud, the range of services is centred around M2M and security solutions, complementary mobile communications and fixed network products, and solutions for virtual collaboration and IT platforms, all of which forms the basis for our customers’ digital business models.

With approximately 47,800 employees worldwide, T-Systems generated revenue of around EUR 8,6 billion in the 2014 financial year.

Since the inception of T-Systems in South Africa in 1997, the company has cemented its position as one of the most successful T-Systems companies outside of Europe. A leading ICT outsourcing service provider locally, T-Systems offers end-to-end ICT solutions in both the ICT Operations and Systems Integration markets. Their extensive portfolio of services covers the vertical, horizontal, IT and TC space. T-Systems South Africa’s head office is located in Midrand with another major office in Cape Town, and 20 further representative offices in locations throughout southern Africa.


Wanda J Bruce

If you always do what you always did, you will always get what you always got. –

Albert Einstein.