Visualizing the Universal Framework for Smart City Construction


    Jan 06, 2020

    “If you are curious, you will find all kinds of puzzles around you. If you are determined, you will solve them.” Erno Rubik

    I help our customers and partners with their digital journey, which involves innovation, business growth, and digital transformation. I’m globally involved in global public and private initiatives and programs, scaling from small up to medium and large rollouts across the value chain. And I’m often asked, “What is a smart city?” “We want to build a smart city. What should we do?”, “Which is the smartest city in the world?” and “How can we implement a project like smart parking?”

    To answer these questions in this blog series, I’ll be looking at the “building blocks” of smart cities in the context of:

    1. The concept of the universal framework for smart city construction (this post)
    2. Implications for city managers, the role of eGovernance and how it evolves
    3. The intelligent city ecosystem and industry convergence
    4. Why enterprises cannot compete on their own
    5. How intelligent cities will evolve into a connected cities ecosystem
    6. The hierarchy of needs for connected cities

    However, my analysis does not intend to be “complete” or definitive. The digital transformation and smart city journeys are – at least in my view – organic and dynamic, almost like a living organism comprising a beating heart, a skeleton, muscle power, a brain and nervous system. There is no end to a smart city, and it’s certainly not “a project”.

    The aim of this blog series is to produce a framework that might help city planners and governments to better determine their next steps on the smart city journey and how to approach evolving the brain and nervous system of smart cities.

    And to start, I want you to imagine a cube.

    The Principle

    You may have grown up with it, you may have been able to solve it. And if you didn’t or couldn’t, you at least know its name.

    In 1974, Hungarian architect and mathematician Erno Rubik wanted to create a structure from which its pieces could move independently without making the structure fall apart. Not long after, Rubik’s Cube was launched.

    What we don’t necessarily know is that the principle of Rubik’s cube is based on a universal framework that we can actually visualize. I don’t mean the cube or its pieces. What I mean is the wireframe that holds the individual pieces of the cube together.

    Why the Smart City Platform Is a Cube

    I consider smart cities to be a platform that links and integrates all programs and initiatives that help move a city higher up the value chain. Such a platform is of course technical, but we can also look at it as a principle or framework – like a cube with building blocks and individual pieces that builds and makes the smart city and holds it all together.

    Each piece has its unique identity and characteristics. In the framework of this cube, this platform, each piece can move independently without breaking the overall structure.

    The Core and Center Pieces

    We can consider the cube’s core and center pieces to be the brain and nervous system. In ICT terms, this is the Intelligent Operations Center (IOC) that integrates and interconnects information and processes and provides the cutting-edge technology for daily operations and city management.

    Monitoring city operations in real time with a silo-free, interconnected information system enables each block to move freely and in concert with the others. This creates very real benefits, from accelerating emergency response and enabling cross-agency collaboration to simulating city operations, which in turn facilitates intelligent decision-making using big data analytics and unified city management, development, and planning. At the same time, an open source data system can even offer personalized smart data services for individuals, for example in the areas of social security, elderly care, specific permits, driver’s license renewals, visa applications, residency and housing registration, to name but a few.


    I consider safe cities to be the cornerstone of any smart city foundation, and it is as such the cornerstone of the cube analogy. In Huawei, the safe city solution is part of the public safety industry domain.

    Accelerating urbanization presents extensive challenges for city infrastructure and safety. City officials rely on ICT to help protect the public and, in that space, Huawei has partnered with global security specialists to provide comprehensive public safety solutions.

    These solutions provide converged command control and visualized dispatching to improve emergency response times. Cloud platforms and intelligent analytics combine to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of law enforcement, and ensure a safe and secure environment for the public.

    Support Pieces

    The whole is more than the sum of its parts. In an intelligent world, an enterprise will be unable to compete in the market on its own. It will be necessary to join ecosystems to survive and prosper.

    From transportation, finance, and energy to education and healthcare, the business environment in almost every industry is becoming more complex. With the convergence of industries and changes in consumer demand, enterprises need to become more open and flexible. They also need to choose and establish sustainable ecosystems to establish long-term competitiveness and sustainability.

    The support pieces represent the ecosystem and eco-partners. Combined with the corner pieces and the core and center pieces, they complete the cube analogy.

    But one cube is not a cube; one smart city is not a smart city. The universal framework for smart city construction stretches far. It holds a tremendous amount of pieces – it links and connects many cubes, creating a network of connected cubes, of connected cities.

    The Rubik’s cube can help understand and position each of the building blocks in smart city construction. But more specifically, the cube helps visualize the universal framework that holds all these pieces together – that’s the wireframe that allows these pieces to move independently, without making the structure fall apart.

    Huawei’s digital platform for smart city construction is built on the same universal principle as Rubik’s cube: Safe City is the cornerstone, the IOC is the core, and the ecosystem of enterprises and industries are the support pieces, the key building blocks of smart city construction. When put together, they make a universal structure where each piece can move independently without making it fall apart. City managers and urban developers can start using this principle as a baseline to simplify and visualize their smart city planning and construction.

    In my next post, I’ll explore the implications of this framework for city managers, the role of eGovernance and how it evolves.

    Click the links to read more about the Safe then Smart concept and the Huawei Intelligent Operations Center.


    Disclaimer: Any views and/or opinions expressed in this post by individual authors or contributors are their personal views and/or opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views and/or opinions of Huawei Technologies.


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