Smart Cities Rely on Smart Enterprise Transformation

Ten thousand years ago, early agricultural techniques paved the way for the creation of villages. Once food supplies became plentiful, people began developing specialized trades, which led to the creation of cities. By the mid 1700s, the industrial revolution changed cities to the way they exist today. Cities’ infrastructure evolved and public services such as police, fire and sanitation departments were created. Road networks were built, electricity distribution became the norm, and other modern municipal services began to appear due to the rise in urbanization.

We are now part of the third major milestone in cities’ evolution with the creation of “smart cities.” During his last visit to India, Avaya President and Chief Executive Officer Kevin Kennedy, discussed that country’s large-scale digital transformation during an address to India’s CXO community. He noted that ensuring last-mile connectivity in a country with more than 1.7 billion people is a humongous task that not only requires support from the government and various agencies but also from every individual and organization.

To earn the label “smart city” requires more than just upgrading the city’s information and communications technology (ICT) infrastructure. Wise leaders also need to look at the bigger picture and set goals that drive economic growth and improve the efficiency of their city’s services, with the purpose of offering quality and equal lifestyles for all citizens.

But who owns the “smart city”? No one and everyone.

While governments develop the digital strategies for their smart city transformation, what role do the city’s enterprises play? Is a city “smart” if its citizens do not have capable smartphones? Or if service providers do not have the necessary citywide infrastructure?

What if private real estate firms can’t integrate technologies into their newly built buildings or retrofit existing buildings with sensors and smart, connected equipment? Or if no demand exists for smart and connected home appliances? What if private schools don’t adopt a digital educational platform? Or if banks, health care institutions, and safety and security departments don’t adopt smart technologies?

A smart city is like the Internet — every website, service provider and end user’s home network is responsible for building and maintaining it.

While the Internet of Things and social, mobility and cloud are tools to enable smart transformations, a Smart City primarily consists of three building blocks: Smart Governments, Smart Enterprises and Smart Citizens. If one of those is not ready, then the Smart City Transformation is incomplete.

To transform, enterprise leaders must first develop their company’s digital strategy. A key initial step is to identify the main stakeholders in the Smart Enterprise Transformation process: employees and customers. The slow adoption of Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policies and mechanisms have inevitably led to increased shadow IT, in which enterprise employees obtain IT solutions without the IT department’s consent.

An Infinite Convergence survey discovered that almost “70 percent of companies are concerned about employees using third-party messaging and chat apps to communicate and send documents internally” and that “59 percent believe that currently available third-party messaging tools are insecure for enterprise communication.”

On the other hand, a study by market research company IDC revealed that “enterprise mobility is the number one technology area of implementation for CIOs in 2015, while cloud has been at the center of CIO discussions for the past few years.” A solid digital strategy must include mobility, communications and collaboration platforms for employee-to-employee, enterprise-to-employee and employee-to-customer interaction.

While the first key stakeholder in the Smart Enterprise Transformation is the employee, the customer is equally important. If employees are not enjoying their work and engaging with customers in a friendly and efficient manner, customers will not have a good experience. Priorities must be set from the beginning.

Customers today are incredibly savvy about an enterprise’s products and services and expect service through multiple channels, including social, web, mobile, video and chat as well as legacy telephony platforms. Technologies that leverage mobile and wireless communications can bring customers closer to the enterprise. A company’s digital strategy should reinforce the customer’s journey in all of its digital channels to ensure a positive experience.

Adopting open–rather than proprietary–standards allows for agile integration between different solutions while retaining legacy technologies. Security must be managed and factored in well in advance to avoid disastrous consequences. Above all, the belief that the enterprise is a major building block in the smart city vision will help drive the Smart Enterprise Transformation.

However, simply enabling new technologies alone, no matter how sophisticated or solid, will never transform an enterprise into becoming smart. ‘Smart’ is a cultural capability, adopted by enterprise leaders, whose main responsibility is to eliminate silos. Smart Enterprise Transformation must be built on the concept of adapting to agility, serendipity and employee’s sociability. Smart cities can provide benefits to all, but only if created by all.

For more information about the Smart Enterprise Transformation, please visit Avaya at the IOTX exhibition in Dubai June 8 and 9, booth #IoT16. Also, follow us on @avaya_MEA and follow the hashtag #IOTXDubai.

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Q&A: Avaya Chief Technologist Jean Turgeon on Securing the Smart Cities of the Future

How are vendors like you linking IOT with security? What are the challenges?

To address and enhance security as part of a Smart City initiative, many devices, such as cameras, sensors, wearables, etc., need to be deployed and implemented. All these require connectivity at the edge of the networking infrastructure. Of course, carrier wireless will play a key role in this, but many will require connectivity to the city infrastructure. Even the carrier-connected devices will likely have to connect securely back to some common analytics infrastructure securely.

All these are what we refer to as edge devices, which is what the Internet of Things (IOT) or Internet of Everything (IOE) is all about. The challenge is how to securely connect all these devices at the edge of my city network, and connect securely the ones through a carrier or third-party infrastructure?

This means we need much more agility to add tens of thousands of devices to a network that, in the past, would require multiple physical networks to scale and not compromise security. IOT and security, as well as scalability and reliability, all need to be seriously evaluated. What is the point of deploying IOT if it cannot scale, is not secure and not reliable? That wouldn’t be too smart, would it?

In the end, it converges to the need for next-generation architecture to address the next-generation Smart Cities needs. You can’t remain with a 20- or 25-year-old client/server architecture. This architecture allows IP hackers, once through your firewall, to instantly gain visibility to your entire network thanks to IP hopping.

Unfortunately, many vendors are trying to fool the market by renaming and shifting complexity from one place to the other and hoping customers will not notice.

Due diligence is definitely required to achieve these objectives. The good news is that there is a solution to this: a next-generation matrix architecture based on Ethernet transport and optimized for IP services, regardless of their connectivity methodology. This approach literally makes your entire network invisible to hackers.

Avaya introduced SDN Fx for that exact reason, to scale, enhance security, deliver best-in-class reliability and provide the best foundation to Smart Cities and IOT/IOE.

Using this technology, we’ve demonstrated nearly 15,000 cameras running over a single converged infrastructure with one protocol, experiencing 500ms or better recovery times. This is the kind of infrastructure shift Smart Cities require to save lives, enhance resident experience, and enable new services the community will benefit from.

From your travel around the world, how do you see governments looking at national security from an IT perspective?

Cybersecurity is top-of-mind for governments now, and into the foreseeable future.

In fact, I am sure many are starting to reconsider corporate support for BYOD, and certainly SDN, where open code architecture is being promoted and expected to help drive business agility. From a more fundamental security point of view, governments and enterprises are very concerned about anyone penetrating their corporate networks and assets, which exposes their intellectual property and of course, potential citizens and customer information.

Therefore, seeking solutions that reduce the ability for hackers to gain access and visibility of their IP infrastructure and topology tops the minds of decision makers in the private and public sector.

There are solutions out there that can assist, however, they require a shift in mindset and a transition from legacy architecture. Customers need to urgently open their minds and quickly evaluate what’s on offer. The key to a viable solution is to embrace an ecosystem of technology to address these needs.

No one vendor can do this on their own, which reenforces the need for an open architecture away from proprietary schemes. The good news is that there are solutions out there, the bad news is that if private and public enterprises are looking at the same vendors that built their networks 20 years ago proclaiming they can do it all, this approach will fail.

My recommendation is for them to open their minds to an open architecture, and yet controlled with accountability from specific technology experts, which will provide pieces to the puzzle. This is clearly very complex and challenging.

You’ve traveled around the Middle East. What tops the mind of public safety owners, and what can you tell us about their vision and their challenges?

For the last year, I’ve met most of public safety owners in the region and my observation is that public safety and potential exposure related to it, tops the agenda in the Middle East. The issue is that while most look at “emergency services response” as the best answer for public safety, the current emergency response centers have shockingly serious limitations.

With mobile devices being the main mode of communications, you may want to ask if legacy PSAP systems can locate users in the event of an emergency. The traditional model was not built with mobile devices in mind, and hence, it was easier to tie a location to a hard phone in your home or office. Today however, numbers are associated with a person and not with a location, or even a device. Where is that person located, and how can he or she be helped in crisis?

I have been pleasantly surprised with some areas in the region where applications have been developed to provide instant location services as the person in crisis dials for emergency. Without getting into details, this means some systems have already established both a voice and data channel, allowing location to be immediately sent to a central command, as the individual dials for emergency. This is very positive to see, but, as you can imagine it is not broadly implemented in all countries. Some are clearly lagging behind.

In addition, the next step is to take full advantage of the multimedia capabilities and also enable a discrete video channel when dialing for emergencies.

One benefit of the data channel through simple functionality is SMS; this means a video can be pushed to the person in crisis. Imagine someone having a heart attack in a restaurant right next to you. You are not CPR trained; what do you do?

What if the emergency services operator could instantly forward you a video showing how to perform CPR? This can save a life. What if someone was trying to rob a bank, what if your mobile device could be instantly converted into a video surveillance input for the emergency response team to have a live video feed of the situation as they are en route to the bank?

This is what I call “Smart Safety,” and the use cases are unlimited. Smart Safety is now live in many parts across the world and the region, but there is a wide opportunity to progress and make it consistent across countries.

Do smart cities create security challenges? What are they?

I think it is the opposite, if they are truly implementing a “Smart City” solution. Smart City is more than just enabling Wi-Fi services. My observation is that there is a new trend taking shape: while Wi-Fi is certainly one of the services, part of most Smart Cities initiatives that I am seeing are adding video surveillance and analytics in very large scale, which is quite difficult when using a legacy infrastructure.

As governments provision all these new capabilities and services to their smart cities, they will have to review their infrastructure to be able to scale and meet the real-time analytics requirements.

They would also have to consider adding sensors technology to address various needs contributing to making the city safer. As an example, if the city uses natural gas, they may want to implement sensors to detect the flow and potential leaks of gas throughout the city to quickly react to a potential issue. For instance, governments can leverage video surveillance analytics to be able to intelligently track an Emergency Response Vehicles and control the lights and reduce the time to destination and collision potential.

In many cities around the world, street lights are a source of wasted energy, which can be remotely controlled throughout the night depending on cars and people traffic intensity. By leveraging real time analytics, this can be easily achieved, reducing electricity consumption without compromising residents or visitors security.

There are many examples like this, but I would summarize in saying, Smart Cities will improve security as opposed to augment or create security risks if properly implemented.

Nations have different visions of what Smart Cities are. What is a Smart City from your perspective?

Smart Cities are about enabling new services to better service your population. This is about making your city safer, offering new services while enabling consumers to use to drive net new revenues or in some cases focused only on providing a better experience to visitors and tourists.

If residents feel safe, get best-in-class services, and feel their city is at the forefront of offering new services, they will be happier and they will share their feelings with others and especially on social media.

In the Middle East we refer to the “Happiness Index.” Smart Cities are all about delivering on that objective. It is about providing best-in-class services, making governments and cities stand out from other destinations around the world.

People have many destinations to choose from. They can live anywhere. Would you want to live in a city not committed to improving the population quality of life? All of these define what Smart Cities are all about. Drive the “happiness index” to new levels and have the world know about your city being the best, most secure and interesting city to visit and potentially move to.

From a technical perspective, how can governments make their cities safer?

Cities have to move to a different architecture model to support next-generation “Smart-X” services. The legacy client-server model has served us well, but over the past 25 years, have increased in complexity and made reliability a huge challenge due to complex protocols required to address all of these business needs.

Is Your Approach to SDN Putting Lipstick on Your Networking Pig?

Your network is ugly. I know you agree, even if you don’t want to publicly admit it. If it looks like any of the organizations I’ve visited recently, your network is an aging hodgepodge of hardware and software, stitched together with antiquated protocols. Racks here. Wires there.

And, it’s breaking. Unfortunately for you, it’s breaking at the worst possible time.

Every day, the business puts more pressure on the network–new applications to run, more devices to attach, more bandwidth to provision and an endless stream of users to connect. Cloud-Mobile-Analytics-Social has forever transformed the speed of business, but also created a yawning agility gap between the speed of the business and the capability of the network.

Software-defined networking (SDN) is supposed to solve this challenge; however, while it does promise a simpler, more agile architectural approach, many prevailing models are incomplete.

Most effort has been focused on the data center. Many approaches advocate for the introduction of new hardware or software overlays to enable SDN, but the paradox is that these attempts to deliver greater simplicity have resulted in additional complexity.

Is transitioning from CLI scripting to open-source programming the answer? How many programmers will you need to get going? How much training will be required to ramp up and be able to maintain this new environment? The foundation is cracked, and it’s just lipstick on a pig unless it’s addressed.

Let’s look at some of the real-life woes I’m seeing and hearing:

Hospitals are being blanketed by mobile devices, in addition to highly-mobile, and often remote, care teams. Diagnostic equipment like X-ray machines come to the patient, producing results immediately accessible by a specialist four cities away, who consults with the radiologist to recommend an immediate course of treatment to the attending physician.

Compliance regulations require security of the information as it traverses the network. Distribution requires bandwidth, speed and flexibility. Securely connecting everyone and everything could be a nightmare all its own, but there’s the added concern of protecting the rest of the network from increased risk that more users and devices can introduce.

Further, care teams exemplify the mobile workforce trend, which brings rising costs for connecting and provisioning services–even while there’s pressure to cut IT costs.

Boosted by the Internet of Things, this scenario is playing out in multiple industries: manufacturing, retail, financial services and governments developing Smart Cities.

All this means that the issues around service configuration, identified as the number one pain highlighted by IT professionals in a recent Avaya survey, are unlikely to decrease.

That is, unless there’s a new approach to close the gap.

Avaya SDN Fx takes that unique approach to specifically deliver simplicity beyond the data center. We think networks should simply be a dynamic series of plug-in points, so when IT personnel connect anything to the network, the network automatically handles traditionally manual network functions.

Avaya’s fabric-based SDN approach extends from the data center to the edge, to automate much of the networking functionality through software–making it easier for devices to connect securely to the enterprise network.

Avaya SDN Fx helps companies avoid the vendor lock-in that ultimately ossifies many networks. The open ecosystem that underpins Avaya SDN Fx includes standard protocols, open interfaces and open-source customization tools that provide the flexibility and agility to meet the current and future use cases arising from the Internet of Things.

The bottom line: When your network is already breaking, going with a networking vendor for SDN simply because they’re already in the closet is like putting lipstick on a pig.

Companies need to take a step back and find a trusted partner who will help build SDN strategies around actual use cases, their challenges and what they want to achieve. It’s only then that an SDN strategy will reap true benefits.