Science & Tech

How Russia is adopting next-gen technologies to build the Smart City of the future, today

Capital Moscow is implementing buzzwords like 5G, AI and blockchain in a meaningful manner

by Nitansh Rastogi

When it comes to tech-forward countries across the world, most people think of places like Korea, the United States and Japan. But what if I tell you that Russia is also forging ahead with next-gen technologies for implementing smart cities. Killer Features recently got a chance to visit the country's capital, Moscow, for a conference on smart cities. We also got a chance to interact with Eldar Tuzmukhametov, who heads the Moscow Smart City Lab (a division of IT Department of Moscow Government). We had a wide-ranging conversation about how Moscow is using technology, what are its plans to incorporate buzzwords like 5G, AI and blockchain and more. Here's an edited excerpt of our conversation.


On technologies used in FIFA World Cup

The FIFA World Cup 2018 was a big phenomenon for Russia. To be honest, it was a challenge for us – first and foremost to secure safety and then to improve ICT (Information and Communications Technology) conditions favourable both for citizens and guests of the capital of Russia.
Russian telecom operators invested around 1.3 billion rubles (approximately $20m) into the ICT infrastructure at the stadiums, training bases, transport stations, airports, fan zones, hotels, media centres and management headquarters.

Technology and security played a crucial role for broadcasters, organisers and visitors who set the record by interacting with FIFA digital services. In total, there have been 7.5 billion interactions with official FIFA digital platforms.


As a result, the FIFA World Cup 2018 visitors transferred as much as 144 Petabytes of data over the mobile network, which is equivalent to 72 trillion photos on Facebook, 11 thousand films in 4K resolution or three thousand copies of the digitised version of the largest library in Moscow.
With regards to Wi-Fi, ahead of FIFA, Moscow authorities spent 830 million rubles (roughly $13.3m) on free public Wi-Fi hotspots in an effort to secure the access to the internet for everyone. In total there were 2,000 new Wi-Fi hotspots added to the existing infrastructure of over 30,000 hotspots. The Wi-Fi network was also installed at FIFA venues in Moscow with the average speed of 7 Mb/s. It was 3.5 times higher speed than the speeds FIFA requires.

We are very proud to admit that FIFA World Cup 2018 became the most connected Mundial in history. Moscow authorities have also deployed a sophisticated CCTV system in order to enhance security for every visitor.

CCTV system connected 4,288 cameras situated at FIFA facilities including nine metro stations in the neighbourhood. For instance, Luzhniki stadium and its adjacent areas accommodated 3,150 cameras in total, while 521 cameras were installed at Spartak and its surroundings. With regards to FIFA Fan Fest Sparrow Hills – 393 cameras were installed. The video data from CCTV cameras were also stored for 40 days.

On Russia's plan for implementing the next-gen 5G cellular network

5G is a key component of Moscow’s Smart City Digital strategy 2030. We plan to use 5G in many upcoming tech-savvy urban projects, including telemedicine, infrastructure and education. We are very much eager to develop technologies in the city that could become a basis for IoT, industrial Internet of Things, smart cities, self-driving cars, telemedicine etc.


This summer, during the Russia-Turkey friendly match within FIFA 2018, we have successfully piloted first 5G tests with the VR broadcasts in Moscow.

The World Cup demonstrations are just the first in a series of ambitious 5G tests and rollouts. The city’s government is confident in the capabilities offered by 5G, though carriers, standards groups, and federal agencies are still sorting out how exactly the technology will work.

Moscow will begin permanently testing the 5G pilot zone in early 2019. The pilot zone will be launched by Moscow Government in cooperation with Russian operator Megafon. The operator plans to conduct the commercial launch of 5G networks until 2022. There are four key industries to be tested with 5G networks: healthcare, transport, construction and housing utilities.

By 2024, Russian authorities aim to implement 5G connections in every Russian city which has a population over 300,000 citizens.

Many projects will benefit from a stable 5G network. This includes, for example, a partnership between the city government and Yandex, Moscow’s largest taxi and car-sharing service, to remotely move the company’s cars if they are poorly parked.

Despite their diversity, all of the urban emerging projects based on 5G technology will have one mission in common, which is to move technological development forward.


On incorporating technologies like AI and blockchain into practical applications

We consider blockchain technology as a transparency and democracy tool to ensure trust-based dialogue between the government and the citizens. Thus in November 2017, we implemented blockchain into Active Citizen, an e-voting platform designed to allow citizens to directly weigh in on non-political city decisions—things like setting speed limits, plotting bus routes, and naming subway stations. The important point is that it has nothing to do with politics - Active Citizen is designed to vote for city management issues.

The recently-launched blockchain initiative concerns Moscow weekend fairs. Moscow hosts weekend fairs for farmers a few times a year and every time, the number of applications (close to 20,000) exceeds the slots available. In this case – a blockchain is an option as it allows all the potential participants to have a transparent system in order to see how the applications are processed to avoid complaints afterwards.

On how artificial intelligence can be adopted for smart city initiatives

AI is another irreplaceable element when building a modern smart city. We have currently finished the public discussion on Moscow Digital Strategy 203. The plan is to complete the process of digitising of all the business process in the city – to benefit from big data and make AI work instead of humans.


I would not list all existing AI-based technologies but our RadIO technology for instance, detects early lung cancer with 88 percent accuracy rate. To diagnose diseases at 97 percent success rate over 6,000 computer tomography and X-ray images were uploaded in AI system. And we are truly proud that we make RadIO publicly available for everyone on GitHub.

On how civic applications can change lives

Moscow is a giant, highly dense city with an extremely fast rhythm of lives of its citizens. The city must respond to this speed, and in this case, switching to digital platforms and e-public services is essential in terms of time optimisation and efficiency of city management.

We have a single point of contact for public services – MOS.RU, a one-stop shop for over 220 public services online, which comprises 75 percent of all services provided (healthcare, school enrolment, etc.). The system processes over 650m requests per year – Muscovites can within minutes pay traffic tickets and utility bills, arrange a doctor's visit, sign up children for a club among other things.

We are keen to engage residents in city management as much as possible. Currently, we have three city management platforms: Active Citizen, Crowd Mos and OUR CITY, used by city individuals, business representatives and public officials as an opportunity to express their opinion, suggest an idea, report a problem, vote, crowdsource and make decision important for the city in general.

Here are some facts and figures to illustrate:

OUR CITY - problem reporting

  • 1m+ users
  • 2m+ issues resolved
  • Improving quality of life and creating better environment for citizen

ACTIVE CITIZEN - Electronic non-political blockchain-based voting system to influence the city’s transformation

  • 2m+ users
  • 3,500+ votings held
  • 107m opinions considered
  • Citizens register online, filling in the questionnaires - the city collects data to organize targeted votings among the selected groups
  • Gamification element to engage a broader audience

CROWD.MOS.RU – ideas crowdsourcing

  • 140,000+ users generated 88,000+ ideas
  • 16 projects implemented
  • 2,700 ideas selected for further elaboration

Moscow is moving forward to provide even better and faster delivery of public services for its citizens and in the future:

- Chatbot will partly substitute Moscow call centre

- Pre-delivery of public services: citizens won’t need to apply for a service, as the state is going to act proactively

On exciting technological implementations across Moscow

As I have previously mentioned, the core of any smart solution implementation is the resident of the city. So, I’d say that criteria of “excitement” in this case would be positive feedback and high esteem of Moscow citizens. For instance, 95 percent of Moscow residents are satisfied with the level of public services they receive electronically, which are provided seven days a week from 8 am to 8 pm, without breaks and weekends. The offline centrrs “My Documents” have the shortest queues in the world - no more than three minutes of waiting. For reference, this varies from 5 to 27.5 minutes in other countries. And we keep on engaging citizens online in city management via digital platforms like Active Citizen, Our City and Crowd.Mos.Ru allowing citizens to communicate with the city authorities on a permanent basis.


It is also exciting that Moscow residents are looking towards the future, they are open and ready for tech-savvy innovations. For example, Moscow has large Wi-Fi coverage in public areas - 30,000 free Wi-Fi hotspots. Not to mention that the Wi-Fi system of Moscow’s metro is the only one in the world that provides internet access in the tunnels. Every day, we register over 2.5 million connections.

It is exciting to see the actual results of your work. When implementing the Moscow Online School project, which unified 980,000 pupils and 65,000 teachers through a unified e-learning platform. We didn’t even expect that in less than one year, we'd see 15 percent growth of academic progress in the schools participating in the experiment.

On data security and privacy of citizens

Development of new technology is always intertwined with facing new threats to information security. And data security is one of the main concerns for the whole global society. In order to withstand potential challenges, measures for guarantying data security should be taken at least on three levels: federal, local and personal.

First of all, digitisation and automation of public services is carried out in accordance with the strict information security regulations measures, and is controlled at the federal level. FSTEC of Russia and the Federal Security Service of Russia are legally obliged to protect information during all the stages of its processing.


For Moscow IT Department, information security is of utmost importance at all stages of the data lifecycle, from collecting to further exploitation. This applies to all levels of information systems: network infrastructure, virtual environment, application software, as well as a number of activities, such as vulnerability analysis and penetration tests. It is an ongoing process, as every day, we identify new threats to information security which require constant monitoring and prompt response.

The data protection system of data processing centres in Moscow has multi-level protection. To ensure information security, Moscow uses the most modern and efficient methods to combat cyber threats. It helps prevent targeted information attacks on information systems of city services and combat fraudulent activities and unauthorised access to city information systems.
Here in Moscow, we try to use all the leading approaches in terms of data security and that is why in November 2017, we implemented blockchain into Active Citizen, an e-voting platform designed to allow citizens to directly weigh in on non-political matters like setting speed limits, plotting bus routes, and naming subway stations. Not only it makes the processes transparent, but secure as well in terms of data.

Besides, in March 2018 we have created blockchain-powered service for digital meetings among neighbours. In practice, it means that you do not need to be physically present when need to have a local meeting in order to discuss house management issues, like installing a driveway access gates to the yard or hiring a new doorkeeper.


As can be seen from the conversation, with such initiatives and active participation of its citizens, Moscow could soon be the model for others to follow while planning for a smart city.

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