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World Urban Forum: frontier technologies, civic engagement and talking mangroves

This week the 9th session of the World Urban Forum (WUF9) took place in beautiful Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. WUF is the world’s premier conference on urban issues, established in 2001 by the United Nations to examine one of the most pressing issues facing the world today: rapid urbanization and its impact on communities, cities, economies, climate change and policies.

Connected Mangroves
As part of Ericsson’s participation at WUF we organized a side event about our two Connected Mangroves projects. Connected Mangroves in Malaysia is the first project of its kind in the world, combining cloud connectivity, networked sensors, the Internet of Things (IoT) and mobile broadband to help the local community in Selangor better manage the growth of new mangrove saplings. Based on our positive experience in Malaysia, we decided to run a second Connected Mangroves project to help conserve the marine ecosystem of Bangkung, Malapad, in the Philippines, with mobile operator Smart Communications Inc.

Mangroves are a vital part of both Malaysia’s and the Philippines’ ecosystems, by protecting villages near coastlines and riverbanks from flooding risks. Initial pilot results in Malaysia show improvement rates of up to 50% on the mortality rate of seedlings thanks to the local stakeholder engagement in combination with using the new technologies.

Connected environmental monitoring
During the side event we also demonstrated how our IoT Accelerator platform makes use of connectivity, IoT and data analytics platforms to create connected environmental monitoring solutions in urban contexts. These solutions include air and water quality monitoring as well as noise monitoring, enabling cities to make their operations more efficient and cost-effective, while simultaneously improving environmental sustainability and quality of life.

Film contest
At our side event, we also announced the winners of a film contest that was spearheaded by Dr. Shahreen Mat Nayan, Senior Lecturer at the Department of Media Studies at the University of Malaya. Many fantastic contributions were sent in to the contest and the winning entry was “The Daily Commute” by Nuramelynn Izzaty Binti Hisham of Universiti Teknikal Malaysia Melaka.


Photo caption: Dr. Shahreen Mat Nayan, Afrizal Abdul Rahim and Todd Ashton with several
other Ericsson representatives and some of the students who entered the film contest.


Mixed-reality urban planning in South Africa

During WUF the Ericsson team also shared a film about the South African research project ‘Building the public city: new methods of co-creation and visualization’, that we participated in together with the City of Johannesburg, UN-Habitat and Wits University in September 2017. The purpose of the project was to explore how digital technologies such as sandbox-style games and mixed reality can be integrated to create more participatory urban planning processes in Johannesburg. (This project was also featured in the WUF session “Civic Engagement”, where it was presented jointly with UN-Habitat.)

Smart cities and frontier technologies
Throughout the conference, and particularly during Sunday’s “Smart cities and frontier technologies” session, Ericsson shared insights about how information and communication technology (ICT) can accelerate sustainable urbanization. Marcus Nyberg of Ericsson Research was one of the main speakers and he made a strong case that the combination of high-speed, resilient, low-latency connectivity and technologies such as distributed computing, the IoT, machine learning and artificial intelligence is enabling the transformation toward smarter and more sustainable cities. The examples he provided were primarily in the areas of environmental monitoring, smart buildings, smart manufacturing and intelligent transport systems.

Close link to Sustainable Development Goals
At Ericsson we believe that one of the best ways to improve both operations in cities and the lives of citizens is through systemic approaches based on smart sensor networks that gather data for analysis and provide the opportunity to learn from the analyses and implement changes with stakeholders in a timely fashion. Achieving this will help accelerate the progress toward the Sustainable Development Goals: SDG 11 (smart sustainable cities) in particular, but also several others, including SDG 6 (water) and SDG 13 (climate action).

Thanks to UN-Habitat, WUF was a fantastic experience for me and the other participants, with excellent opportunities to engage, learn and showcase real projects in which technology has improved environmental and business aspects as well as addressing the inclusion of young people in urban planning.

 

Written by Matilda Gennvi-Gustafsson

Matilda's early career was in the area of environmental and production management in the food industry. Since joining Ericsson in 1997 she has focused on sustainability, business and change management. From 2009-17 she served as a sustainability director at group level focusing on strategy, climate action and how ICT can accelerate the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). As of 2018 she works within the Internet of Things (IoT) unit, integrating business and doing good.