PLDT Digicon: A Sustainable Smart City Starts at the Infrastructure Layer

Summary Bullets:

A. Amir

• A sustainable smart city should consider the deployment goals, but also the underlying infrastructure.

• PLDT checks most boxes in the infrastructure and technology layers as well as in the other ICT domains but it could consider further expanding its capabilities in the professional services and partner ecosystem.

PLDT’s Sustainable Smart City Initiatives

In the Philippine Digital Convention (Digicon) 2021, PLDT shared its initiatives and capabilities in driving sustainable smart city adoption and helping industries to achieve goals in the sustainability three pillars: economic, environmental, and social. On the application layer, PLDT offers a range of smart city solutions across verticals in line with the sustainable smart city goals. This includes remote learning in education, COVID response in healthcare, and emergency response in public safety. As an ICT provider, PLDT also continues to build the underlying infrastructure to enhance existing applications and enable new sustainable smart city solutions. It has 15 subsea cables including Jupiter, Asia Direct, and Apricot, and 12 point-of-presence (PoPs) across the world to offer reliable global interconnections. Domestically, it has over 540,000km of fiber providing high-speed connectivity nationwide as well as more than 4,000 5G base stations covering major Philippines cities. Besides connectivity, PLDT has 10 interconnected data centers that deliver 9,000 racks and 27 MW of power to host enterprises applications and workloads. Further, in line with its sustainability agenda, it is working to achieve 1.4 power usage effectiveness (PUE) for its facilities, source at least 20% of its data centers’ power consumption from renewable energy, and obtain Leadership in Energy and Environment Design (LEED) and ISO 50001 certifications.

Perspective:

Smart cities have been around for many years and implemented in many countries globally whereas sustainable smart cities have a similar concept but with deployment goals geared towards the three sustainability pillars of economic, environmental, and social. There are many sustainable smart city applications. Some of the widely deployed applications are connected street lights that reduce energy consumption (environmental goal) and smart surveillance to increase safety response (social goal). There are also newer solutions that leverage the latest technologies such as autonomous vehicles that drive all the three sustainability goals.

While many conversations on a sustainable smart city are around the outcomes, one of the most important aspects that is often overlooked, is the underlying infrastructure. A sustainable smart city application can reduce the power consumption of a system but the enabling solution may require higher energy (e.g., from devices, network, platforms, servers, etc.). A sustainable smart city should consider the deployment goals, but also the underlying infrastructure. Infrastructure enables smart city applications and drives deployment efficiency. For example, 5G can enable a large scale of sensor deployment with massive Machine Type Communications (mMTC) and provide reliable and secure connectivity through high bandwidth and network slicing. Combined with edge computing, 5G Ultra Reliable Low Latency Communications (URLLC) can enable data to be processed close to the device in latency-sensitive applications such as autonomous vehicles. Further, service providers are also increasingly adopting sustainable energy to power their data centers while vendors are continuously optimizing the power management of network solutions.

A sustainable smart city application is an end-to-end solution that goes across the ICT stacks. Besides the infrastructure layer, other technologies such as analytics and AI and are also playing crucial roles in a sustainable smart city. An analytics platform is important not only to turn data into insights, but also to orchestrate data from across different applications such as traffic lights, environmental sensors, and surveillance. And the most important feature in a sustainable smart city is security. Security has been a key concern in smart city deployment. The growing cybersecurity threats especially in the last 18 months combined with a wider deployment that consists of multiple applications are driving a rather complicated security framework. Comprehensive cybersecurity solutions from endpoints to platforms are required to strengthen sustainable smart city protections.

PLDT is on the right track to become a sustainable smart city provider. It checks most boxes in the infrastructure and technology layers with its fiber and 5G coverage, initiatives in using renewable energy to power its facilities, and capabilities in the other ICT domains such as analytics and cybersecurity. A successful sustainable smart city is also often driven by professional services and partner ecosystem. PLDT has an established professional service capability (e.g., ePLDT) and wide partners with various leading IT players. However, it could consider further expanding its professional service capabilities and partner ecosystem specifically around the sustainable smart city domain. For example, driving wider co-creation initiatives with industry players, strengthening smart city application development capabilities, and expanding partnerships with endpoint players such as surveillance cameras and vehicle manufacturers.

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