Demographic and economic incentives for a smarter city
A rise in urbanisation, resulting in over 50 per cent of the world’s population living in urban areas, is one of the key drivers for smarter cities. By 2025, as per the United Nations’ prediction, the world’s cities will have to gear themselves to provide for over 2 billion people depending on them for their livelihood and social and basic amenities. A majority of North American cities already have about 85 per cent of their population living in urban areas. This radical shift toward urbanization is resulting in our cities increasingly becoming a critical part of the economy.
The economic contributions that result from various activities, which, in some cases far exceed the economic output of entire countries, highlight the growing importance of the city. For instance, in the US, the gross domestic product (GDP) of New York City is larger than that of South Korea’s. This could place the New York metropolitan area as the fifteenth largest country in the world, if, hypothetically speaking, the New York metropolitan area was designated as a country on its own. However, New York is relatively small when compared to some of the larger Mega Cities and Mega Corridors around the globe, such as New Delhi or Tokyo, in terms of physical area, demographics, and economic activity.
Smart city is not just about the city, but rather the corridors that encompass development or regeneration of entire urban sections linking urbanised satellites. For instance, the Boston-Washington corridor is estimated to be home to over 58 million people by 2025 and contribute to 20 per cent of US GDP. Such demographic shifts and the growing economic importance of cities are compelling reasons for cities to become smarter. However, along with the benefits, there also are serious consequences that cities must address as a result of these rapid transitions.
Using “Smart” to mitigate growing city challenges
Smart city challenges include more congestion, environmental issues, waste, and crime. Therefore, becoming a smarter city is really about trying to leverage some of the key elements of technology enablement and smart management practices to mitigate such challenges. In the context of a smart city, “smart” is generally about looking at using existing assets more intelligently and making small CAPEX changes that could yield big OPEX returns. It is about using technology, innovation, and IT- and sensor-aided intelligence to make better decisions about running city assets and operations for optimal results. A crucial aspect of this is data and visualization—the ability for city officials to measure efficiencies and improvements in real time and make informed decisions about their operations and continued management.
A smart city can mitigate challenges by focusing on transportation, buildings, energy infrastructure, smart connectivity, smart mobility, and smart buildings.
Smart buildings: the underutilised enabler of a smart city
Smart buildings are a somewhat overlooked aspect of a smart city, but they resonate very well with residents. Smart buildings can be utilised as a dynamic termination node in which sensor-aided intelligence can be embedded. With this, a city can monitor and manage various essential services in real time, including crime management, crowd control, dispatch of essential services, and weather-related advisory. Smart buildings can be the conduit for channeling smart data and information about the city so its citizens can take action.
The impact of the Internet of Things (IoT), big data and data analytics is resulting in novel opportunities in building operations, automation, and building energy management. These trends are changing how buildings function; buildings are progressing from a state where they were functioning more in isolation as a piece of real estate, to increasingly becoming a key part of that connected world within the urban setting of a city.
Technology convergence and Internet of Buildings
In the previous decade, building energy management (BEM) comprised of relatively basic energy management using automation and controls. It has evolved into a prolific arena of sophisticated management platforms, cloud-based delivery, innovative new entrants with cutting-edge software capabilities, self-learning, and measuring, monitoring and optimization of energy usage within a building.
Additionally, the convergence of sustainability, facility management, and assets management functions within the building with BEM is helping define a new era for the smart buildings industry. In its new sophisticated form, BEM, and the technology and service enablement around it is taking on the challenge of balance of supply and demand across infrastructure, not just within individual buildings.
The Internet of Buildings (IoB), where the functions within a particular building are brought into the management of the BEM system along with interconnectivity between buildings or within localised energy-generating facilities, is a key aspect to consider when using smart buildings to realise the vision of a smart city. Individual smart buildings linked through IoB have the capacity to make decisions about their current and future state of energy at any time based on multiple intelligence points within the smart city. This is the future of smart buildings and their intrinsic relationship with smart cities.
Successful pilots conducted in Seattle, Toronto, and London, with the support of local utilities, technology service providers and third-party monitoring providers, have already demonstrated that concepts like building intelligence, BEM, and IoB can offer distinct advantages for a smart city and should be included in a smart city’s vision and planning process.
Konkana Khaund is an industry expert with over 15 years of experience in consulting in environmental technologies, energy, building technologies and urban infrastructures. She currently serves as the Consulting Director for the Homes & Buildings team at Frost & Sullivan where she focuses on both traditional and sustainable solutions.
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