INTELLIGENT CITY REASSERTS ITS POSITION AS AN IDEAL SPOT FOR TECH COMPANIES AND STARTUPS TO GROW THEIR VALUE
BY Zoe Phoon
A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, a saying goes.
Malaysia, under former premier Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, took her single step back in the Nineties when master developer Setia Haruman Sdn Bhd built Cyberjaya from scratch on former oil palm plantation land to house the Multimedia Super Corridor (now known as MSC Malaysia).
In May 1997, Dr Mahathir announced at Cyberjaya’s groundbreaking that the Multimedia Super Corridor is to enable Malaysians to leapfrog into the information age.
But along the way in the next two decades Cyberjaya changed tack. From its original aim to be the next Silicon Valley, it decided to become a testing ground for innovative ideas and a breeding ground for entrepreneurs and small and medium enterprises to drive its economic growth.
Property360 recently got an update on Cyberjaya in an email interview with Mohd Najib Ibrahim, acting managing director of Cyberview Sdn Bhd, Malaysia’s leader in developing global tech hubs.
The update is about how smart Cyberjaya has become today, the smart capabilities that are a part of daily life there, and how technologically advanced the live, work, play environment is.
According to Mohd Najib, Cyberjaya has emerged as a significant investment site for major tech companies since its inception 20 years ago and is now well underway in its transformation to becoming a global tech hub.
Today, Cyberjaya hosts one of the largest tech communities in Malaysia. The city is home to 800 tech companies, 48 multinationals, 40,000 knowledge workers and 100,000 creatives, making it a potent playground for innovation.
In meeting the global tech hub agenda, tech hub enabler Cyberview has put in place two core pillars, which are smart city and living lab.
The smart city initiative aims to increase efficiency of public services and city living, improve the quality of life and create a safe city, and improve the standards of environmental sustainability.
Meanwhile, the living lab initiative positions Cyberjaya as a test bed where new technologies, hypotheses, products and services can be tested in the real world.
Mohd Najib said the living lab proposition in fact strengthens the smart city initiative by embracing the startup ecosystem’s outputs to be commercialised through rigorous testing and piloting activities.
Last year, Cyberview also formed the City Innovation Council (CIC) to guide the implementation of smart city pilot projects, and evaluate innovations proposed by startups.
The Cyberview-led CIC consists of Malaysian Global Innovation & Creativity Centre (MaGIC), Sepang Municipal Council, Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC, formerly known as Multimedia Development Corporation), Setia Haruman and the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC), the key players and stakeholders of Cyberjaya.
In May this year, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak launched Cyberjaya as a smart city.
Cyberview’s Mohd Najib said the launch, coupled with business expansion and investment announcements (see table), reflects the government and businesses’ confidence towards Cyberjaya, making it a model for smart cities development in delivering national and socioeconomic goals.
Table: Summary of upcoming smart city projects
(Source: Cyberview Sdn Bhd)
Mohd Najib said Cyberjaya’s development as a smart city is guided by a five-year framework that began in 2015, across four phases that encompass city living in its entirety, which are environment, infrastructure, the economy and social aspects.
Through this framework, Cyberview leads and catalyses collaborative endeavours to ensure that Cyberjaya continues its upward trend towards becoming a model smart city.
Cyberjaya is well-positioned to play a major role in Malaysia’s drive to embrace the global movement towards cashless society, as part of its smart economy initiative.
Fintech, IoT galore
Through its accelerator and pilot programmes, Cyberview opens up opportunities in this tech city for local and global players to begin making inroads in fintech and internet of things (IoT) specifically.
Mohd Najib noted a collaboration with global brand Mastercard is a strategic move in this initial push for fintech and cashless payments in Cyberjaya, and this is followed by various piloting efforts of fintech solutions by local startups and regional partners.
By integrating digital payment platforms, transactions for consumers are made faster, simpler and more secure as well as providing city authorities and urban planners actionable data-driven insights into the retail industry.
With these robust developments, he said Cyberjaya is thus on an accelerated journey towards the swift implementation of cashless payments citywide, and Cyberview is optimistic that the community will soon feel the significant impact of these endeavours.
As Malaysia’s “Capital of Creation” and a bustling global tech hub, Cyberjaya is where entrepreneurs, researchers, investors, industry and partners take innovative technology ideas from concepts and grow them into game-changing enterprises capable of competing on the global front.
The Cyberview Living Lab Accelerator (CLLA) programme, now running in its fourth year, focuses on supporting and nurturing startups, with the last two cohorts chosen from among those in both the fintech and IoT spaces.
“This is because we recognise the demand in these sectors which is critical in ensuring that we are able to bring to the forefront talents and startups with the potential to produce the needed smart-city solutions,” he continued.
“As a smart city, we look at incorporating technology into every facet of the township development.
“This is from strengthening the city’s IoT infrastructure to offer the community more efficient services and solutions as they go about their daily lives, to offering business and marketing support to partners and players collaborating in improving these smart-city offerings.”
Urban living lab
Mohd Najib said the living lab initiative has been nurturing 60 startups focusing on developing mobile applications and smart-city solutions since 2013.
The high level of success points to the key differentiation that Cyberjaya has compared to other tech locations, which is the opportunity for solution developers to exhaustively pilot their ideas and technology in Cyberjaya.
In fact, with 20% of the city’s total population from among early tech adopters, this city is the best place for innovation to thrive.
Cyberview’s collaboration with Atilze in implementing the LoRa network here, for example, has positioned Cyberjaya as the first smart city in Southeast Asia connected with a citywide LoRa network, he shared.
LoRa is a ready and available low power, long range, wide area network (LPWAN) technology that is more advanced and is designed to meet the demands of today’s IoT applications and services.
Its attributes allow LoRa to be deployed with minimal infrastructure costs, faster with minimal configuration, and at reduced gateway and modules costs.
LoRa is necessary to unlock the next phase of smart city development for Cyberjaya from the technology and cost stand points, Mohd Najib said.
The LoRa technology has also enabled the deployment of Air Sense, a network of IoT sensors able to detect particles at PM2.5 level. Information rendered by these IoT sensors is collated, and the data is then fed to a dashboard monitoring the Air Quality Index (AQI) and Air Pollution Index throughout Cyberjaya.
While this is still at the pilot stage, the possibilities that the LoRa technology opens up in environment monitoring, and empowering the community via a more inclusive and open network of information is promising.
The dashboard with detailed and reliable realtime data is available to the public on the Cyberjaya Malaysia website.
Moving forward, Mohd Najib said Cyberview will focus on more smart-city features enabled by the LoRa technology, including intelligent street lighting to detect movements by pedestrians, cars or cyclists, where lights will brighten up when those movements are detected; and environmental management including temperature, humidity, barometric, air quality monitors that can be used to measure and determine weather conditions and the AQI.
Other smart features are outer water gauge to monitor water levels in drains, rivers, lakes, dams and water tanks; asset trackers, for example, to track public buses operated by Cyberjaya on its arrival time and location; security systems for homes and offices; and smart parking solutions to locate, reserve and make payment for the respective parking lots.
To improve the standard of environmental sustainability and the residents’ liveability standards here, Hospital Cyberjaya (the first to be built in the city and expected to complete in 2020) will comply with the platinum rating of the Green Building Index certification standards of sustainability.
It will have design features that facilitate eco-friendly and energy efficient operation.
“Implementing smart city features in line with today’s rapid development of technology is an ongoing process here.
“What we’re doing here adds value to the Cyberjaya population.
“To ensure that we deliver on our promise, we’re open to bold new ideas, businesses and collaborations. It’s how we do things,” he said.
The Cyberjaya smart city initiative, besides creating an open, inclusive and empowering environment that elevates the quality of life of its inhabitants, also provides a sandbox to take innovative technology from ideation and concepts to businesses capable of competing globally, he noted.
“This is a really exciting time as we are currently in phase 3 of our smart city five-year roadmap. At this stage, we are focused on integrating solutions for control and monitoring.
“The next phase would see us promoting widespread access and adoption of technologies which would elevate Cyberjaya to a smart city by year 2020.”
With more startups being nurtured and supported in Cyberjaya in the years to come, coupled with exciting collaborations with industry players and partners, Cyberview envisions a vibrant city with a mature ecosystem where established companies and startups exist in synergy, Mohd Najib added.
(** The second and final part of this article, on how other emerging smart cities and urban living labs stack up, will be follow this one soon.)