INTERVIEW

Smart cities already are in Poland

“Firstly, big cities have knowledge as regards their needs, and they are aware what they can expect in the technological context. Owing to this, they can easier find suitable project partner. And secondly, smaller cities already acknowledge that smart city is for them as well” – says about smart city Wojciech Życzyński, Public Sector SMS&P Lead at Microsoft.

PolandWeek.pl: How did you become a part of Microsoft team?

Wojciech Życzyński: I’ve been working for Microsoft for nine years now. I previously used to work for partner company creating solutions for Microsoft. I spent seven years in the SME from the side of building solutions and sale. For two years I have been involved in the public sector – cities, smart city, and healthcare market. Simply, CityNext.

What is Microsoft CityNext?

CityNext is an initiative on smart cities. It was set up in 2013. In Poland, it has been active for 2,5 years, which is from the moment when this topic has become present among our clients, technological partners, and in Polish cities. CityNext is a platform, which aims at engaging various stakeholders focused around smart cities. We help all parties to communicate with each other, and we provide them marketing assistance. We also show directions of changes related to smart cities, since as a global company, we know the trends, and we monitor the market on an on-going basis. We are willing to share this knowledge.

To whom is the CityNext initiative directed?

Obviously, the most important are urban dwellers and cities themselves. Nevertheless, we began the project from the field in which Microsoft has been the strongest for years, that is, from partner companies, application developers (ISV) that create solutions. The second group is startups. In this area, we have not only firms but also groups of students, for whom Microsoft has organized Imagine Cup competition for 15 years already. The third group is institutes of higher education that is various kinds of research and development projects.

What is the scope of topics covered by the program?

CityNext identified four areas of interests. The first one is digital cities, related to communication between public official and resident. The beginnings of changes in this respect, associated with the beginning of smart solutions in urban areas, were e-services. They focused on specific individual cases. Today it transforms in the direction of creating comprehensive resident relation management system. The second area is safety, initially focused around city monitoring system, today it is an issue of cyber security, related to the digital identity of residents. The third area is education. The fourth and the last one is telemedicine, senior care, using of cloud computing in the process of treatment – everything that concerns health issue.

How does CityNext look like in practice?

CityNext is not a formalized program, rather a path for partners, who create solutions based on our technology, and are willing to conduct marketing and sales activities along with us. For this purpose, we have created the solutions catalog, in which we gather projects developed in the Polish market. We support partners in the program by promoting applications, helping to establish cooperation with cities, we seek units that will implement a pilot program. It is an important question because new solutions need feedback to improve the project.

How does it look like from the city perspective?

We encourage cities to enter a relation of testing any smart solution. It doesn’t require large-scale investments in building another project. The approach consists in implementing many light solutions. The best start for a smart city is a progressive opening of data that business can use to develop solutions for residents.

What are relations between business and territorial units?

The role of the city is efficient administration and not building IT solutions. When the city gets in the role of building solutions, it is at a disadvantage, because it has limited access to specialists. Therefore it is not able to provide residents with such a complex solutions. A disgraceful example is e-services whose usability was at a very low level. It showed that domain of building applications should remain in the hands of business. City, however, can help creating such solutions through sharing data, or pilot implementation. We show London as an example of how effectively relation between city and business can work since the city started at the earliest opening its register of the data, and has engaged business in the whole process. Owing to that many smart city applications working in the city are solutions that London hasn’t spent a single penny.

How would you characterize Polish market regarding the smart city?

We can see two trends on the Polish market. Firstly, big cities have knowledge as regards their needs, and they are aware what they can expect in the technological context. Owing to this, they can easier find suitable project partner. And secondly, smaller cities already acknowledge that smart city is for them as well.

How do cities start applying smart solutions?

All depends on what already works in a given city, and what needs it has. In bigger cities, solutions are well advanced since the crucial issue is to integrate many already existing systems, and adding other capabilities to them. For instance, machine learning, which will develop functionalities with predictive data, allowing, for example, to plan street modernization within the time, when it wouldn’t lead to the gridlock. On the other hand, towns are interested in tools that facilitate the work of public officials and help be more productive. These include for example public procurement management solutions. There is a lot of interest in simple municipal dashboards, which inform inhabitants how town spends funds. The latter solution we can see for instance in Ustrzyki Dolne.

What is the most significant issue regarding building smart city solutions?

Above all else, we point out that citizen is the most important since he or she will use created solutions. And his or her needs and habits should be a guide for application developers.

However, there is also a question of scalability. One should create solutions that are applicable in bigger cities as well as in the smaller ones. In the early stage, CityNext focused around large municipal entities like London or Barcelona. In time, we see more and more projects developed by smaller and smaller towns, and we follow this trend, engaging ourselves in projects targeted at smaller cities.

What is Polish municipalities attitude towards the smart city?

For example, within the framework of the Imagine Cup competition, we created this year the smart city path. In contest participated over 20 teams of students who were building smart solutions. We invited seven cities to patronage over the competition and acceleration workshops. All municipalities agreed what shows how important subject for them it is.

What kind of solutions is adopted most willingly?

Solutions that are adopted the most rapidly are projects leading to cutting costs. In Poland, we have an example of the project of this type. Smartflow is a monitor of water losses, which inform about anomalies on a daily basis, identifying microleakages. That allows predicting failures. When we started working with Wrocław on the project, the city had already implemented sensor system that transferred the data. So there was an IoT layer. However, there was a lack of a tool that would predict malfunctions and allow to reduce water losses and save citizens’ time. This solution already exists, the city built it in cooperation with one of the software houses. This form of collaboration is very modern. At the moment Smartflow has a dozen of clients, who ask about how to implement this solution and expand it to additional areas like heat and energy loss monitoring.

How do you spend your free time?

Professionally I specialize in IT and economy. Privately my passion is aviation and designing utility objects. I am starting a pilot’s course shortly. I am fascinated by the sense of freedom that flying gives.


3 thoughts on “Smart cities already are in Poland

  1. So u want to get everyone out of their cars and on bikes while you fly around in your plane?

    1. Several companies are currently testing hydrogen-fueled aircraft, so the disruption will sooner or later reach Airlines’ customers too.
      The sooner, the better.

  2. How exactly do you “target” small cities to implement your programs and deploy your devices? What does heat and energy loss monitoring mean? Forced home invasion auditing of energy consumption and retrofitting homes w/surveillance appliances to ration energy perhaps?

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