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Perbadanan Putrajaya partners Vectolabs, adopts new model for municipal smart city management

By Digital News Asia May 7, 2021
  • Will manage LoRA network , set rules, SLAs to ensure quicker, smooth rollouts
  • Spur innovation, new solutions as Putrajaya morphs into smart city living lab

Perbadanan Putrajaya (PPj), yesterday announced an agreement with Vectolabs Technologies Sdn Bhd (Vectolabs), an Internet of Things (IoT) solutions provider, to set up the first municipal operated IoT infrastructure in Malaysia using LoRa technology to boost initiatives under the Putrajaya Smart City Blueprint. The Wireless and Photonics Networks Research Centre (WiPNET) of Universiti Putra Malaysia is also part of the collaboration.

LoRa is a Low Power Wide Area Network (LPWAN) technology that uses a wireless modulation method to create long range communication links with low power consumption, which makes it ideal for transmitting sensor data from IoT devices. A single gateway is able to cover 2-5km radius in urban settings.

With the pilot funded by the National Technology and Innovation Sandbox (NTIS) under its Single Site Innovation Sandbox category, LoRa infrastructure will be built in Presint 15 Putrajaya, a commercial hub, with smart street lighting as the first application.

PPj via the Putrajaya Smart City Blueprint is heading towards creating a well-connected city for its IoT infrastructure. Muhammad Azmi, President of PPj, said, “We are still only at the early stages of IoT development and really appreciate the government initiatives under this National Technology and Innovation Sandbox. It gives us new innovative solutions to help us manage our city better and at the same time it gives opportunities for our entrepreneurs and startups to put their resources into further facilitating urban living.”

In an environment where the majority of smart city deployments today are single-focused to solve one operational pain point at a time, PPj’s model of operating the IoT network itself, stands out.

Typically, without the end-goal of a fully integrated smart city for central monitoring of multiple services, deployments will result in siloed networks and data. There will be various pilots, but hesitance when it comes to a full-blown deployment due to these issues.

The LoRa network in Putrajaya will reduce the cost of ownership of IoT solutions for PPj as the infrastructure will be already in place. PPj will be able to quickly deploy, provision and scale new applications or services using the infrastructure.

“This unavailability of a municipal operated IoT network is a major barrier to build smart cities because every pilot project requires its own network infrastructure without any interoperability. This drives up costs,” explains Faizal Ali, CEO of Vectolabs.

Faizal hopes that Putrajaya can serve as a model for other cities to emulate, which  includes full ownership and control of the infrastructure, devices, and data.

The Sandbox project is implemented based on the Build-Operate-Transfer model. PPj will own and operate the LoRa network for Putrajaya when it is completed. The project started immediately after the NTIS funding was released in February 2021 (the application was made in Dec 2020), and reached a key milestone in April 2021 after the LoRa network mapping and asset inventory capture for Presint 15 was completed. The project is expected to be completed after the transfer phase for training and handover by Vectolabs to PPj in August 2021.

Operational  costs, down..efficiencies, up

Smart cities are able to enhance delivery of services, such as reducing down time of street lighting with automatic failure detection, alleviating congestion by directing traffic where parking is available, or keep citizens informed of water and air quality. Operating costs can be reduced by operating efficiently when city services can be delivered on a relatively small budget. 

The smart street lighting system developed by Vectolabs for Presint 15 will be the first of its kind in Putrajaya. The system is designed to manage all types of street lighting assets, which includes feeder pillars and all types of street lighting, from the smart-ready LEDs to the conventional High Pressure Sodium (HPS) luminaires.The system helps PPj to resolve faulty street lighting proactively with the automated notification system, and quickly using the information provided, such as possible faulty components, exact location of the luminaire, and the feeder pillar, circuit and phase the luminaire is connected to. PPj will also be able to track work orders for the faulty street lighting to ensure high quality of service to its community.

Besides efficiencies enjoyed, PPj also seeks to spur innovation and attract new smart city solutions into Putrajaya which will morph into a true smart city living lab that is a platform for Malaysian innovation and economic development.

The Sandbox project includes the creation of an operational framework to establish the municipal operated LoRa infrastructure for smart cities and communities that will be published later this year.

The framework seeks to complement regulations set by the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) by providing practical operational guidance on network planning, deployment, device management and evaluation in terms of network interactions and regulatory requirements and managing and monitoring a LoRa network. The framework is constructed by a coalition of founding members from the LoRa technology value chain consisting of PPj, WiPNET, Kerlink (Asia Pacific), Murata Manufacturing, Cre8IOT, Vectolabs, Favoriot, Myinvent Technologies and MSD Innovation.

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