Rise of smart cities in East Malaysia is in the offing — Dayang Shuzaidah Abduludin

DECEMBER 16 — Tech Trends 2020 predicted by Telenor Group which has highlighted 20 fast-moving smart trends may well provide parallel insights into the Smart City Framework and set the backdrop for Sabah and Sarawak to be part of the 4th Industrial Revolution (4IR).

The Smart City Framework set by the government to fulfil the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) which our country has signed up to, would provide the respective state governments with the needed leverage, along with current efforts on accelerating the adoption of latest smart trends, thus ensuring that Kota Kinabalu and Kuching become truly developed cities.

Tech Trends 2020 predicted by Telenor Group has highlighted 20 fast-moving smart trends in a tongue-in-cheek manner among which are “Green Gets Mean” and “Tech-Arranged Marriages”. The applicability of these trends will be seen through adoption, replication, creating, designing as well as building the systems from scratch.

Indeed, should all the transformation take place, we will see a shift in the economic, political, technology and social landscapes in Sabah and Sarawak.

The Smart City Framework launched by Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, which listed Kota Kinabalu and Kuching to be piloted as Smart Cities sets three focus areas — constructing public transportation infrastructure; improving waste management system; and setting flood mitigation system.

Apart from a fair distribution of access to clean water, proper roads, power supply and internet connection to the rural areas in Sabah, plans for public transportation infrastructure has long been overdue in Kota Kinabalu. Inefficient and non-systematic public transportation have resulted in traffic congestion.

For quite sometimes, Sabah is hoping to have a more efficient and systematic public transportation infrastructure such as integrated bus terminals in main towns like Kota Kinabalu. This is critical for the locals to travel. Furthermore, a more viable transportation mode will draw the tourists to visit the state.

Managing solid waste from waste collection to waste processing is another area that Sabah will be implementing as efforts to reduce littering problems and toxic emissions from landfills. The aim is to have a more efficient waste collection and processing in upgrading solid waste disposal sites, reducing operational costs and to enhance environmental protection.

Cell technology are commonly used to treat landfill leachate — liquid that passes through a landfill and has extracted dissolved and suspended matter from it — with an extremely high salt content from a waste cell.

It is also considered an alternative for advanced filtration especially within a hybrid treatment system combining biological-physical treatment and membrane filtration. The implementation of these initiatives will further enhance the municipal solid waste management. The latest green technologies including seepage water treatment is also in the pipeline.

As for Kuching, mobility and urban resilience are the areas that the city chooses to focus on. Known for being a car-dependent city, traffic congestion has become one of the major challenges facing the city.

Kuching is embarking on a plan to improve the public transport system to enhance efficient mobility of the people. As for urban resilience, Kuching city aimed at integrating smart technologies into flood management system to mitigate the serious flooding problem in the city area.

The existing public transportation system in Kuala Lumpur city can be a model for both Kota Kinabalu and Kuching especially in terms of the adoption of smart technologies like Artificial Intelligence (AI) in their ticketing system, parking system, bus route or schedule system, terminal operation system, and related apps.

Embedding AI in a system will create self-learning machine to which it is able to run independently and embrace the ability to “learn” from past errors in order to avoid repetitive errors in the future.

Kuching is also planning for the construction of a flood mitigation system in the Riverfront area facing the State Legislative Assembly, which experiences frequent serious flooding problems, especially during the rainy season.

To mitigate the issue, a combination of smart technologies which Telenor Group described in a tongue-in-cheek way as “Tech-Arranged Marriage” is needed. SMART tunnel as implemented in Kuala Lumpur city is an example of a sophisticated solution to urban flooding. Replication of the system however will be applied for long term plans so as to consider the construction cost and the return on investment (ROI).

Practical measures to resolve the current needs would be detention basin or infiltration basin as proposed by Urban Storm Water Management Manual for Malaysia, which minimises the peak flow rate and energy of stormwater discharges. In the context of Kuching city, this will function to receive surface runoff and provide momentary storage for runoff during rainy days.

A paper proposing on incorporating roundabout as dry detention pond has been modelled by a research team from the Universiti Malaysia Sarawak. As empty spaces are increasingly hard to come by in urban areas, using an open space in a roundabout for dry detention pond is a good example of an innovative drainage system.

Constructing such a system will require a combination of technologies from modelling it out using USEPA SWMM (Storm Water Management Model) software with combined virtual-reality technology to apply the concept into a real-world roundabout, right to applying AI and the Internet of Things (IoT) in calculating, measuring and controlling the water level as well as to configure the network system that consists of pipes, channels, pumps, regulators, storage devices and treatment devices to the dry detention pond.

At the end of the day, the introduction of new technologies to cities like Kota Kinabalu and Kuching are essential in order to give the locals the opportunity to learn, adapt and benefit from the transformation. A pilot project as a kick-off will be good to evaluate the outcome of the system and what needs to be improved.

Also, the commitment by the local state governments to ensure the realisation of all plans are much needed, along with the crucial need of enforcement by the federal government in checking the progress.

Indeed, adoption of smart technologies and a good system replication are not only part of the efforts to become Smart Cities but could also be a contribution to Malaysia’s sustainable development goals.

* Dayang Shuzaidah is a Research Analyst at EMIR Research, a think tank focussed on strategic policy recommendations based on rigorous research.

* This is the personal opinion of the writer or organisation and does not necessarily represent the views of Malay Mail.

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