Being Smart

 SMART CITIES 01There are factors to consider when trying to become a smart city.   

By Tyler Haak

Smart city technology, though not necessarily common parlance for most of us, is experiencing a rise of investment throughout the world.  This year, spending may hit $80 billion. By 2021, a growth to $135 billion spent is anticipated. This, however, is not evenly distributed throughout all cities. For some, the path to becoming a smart city will start with regulatory changes and modernization of infrastructure. In others, the first wave of smart buildings has already been developed, setting the pace for continued improvement in environmental, financial and social returns in urban life. But when trying to become a smart city in the 21st Century, what are the most important factors to consider?

Smart Building Management

Smart buildings will be the platform for technological innovations in applications, analytics and services for building occupants and facility managers that are today either sparsely deployed or still unimagined. These launching pads for new ideas will not only facilitate methods for better ways to optimize our building environments and enhance our productivity, they will also inspire smart technologies that branch out into other sectors of our smart cities.  

The key is, and will be, the digitization of controllers, meters and panels throughout all facets of facility operation to create an integrated network of connected devices. With analytics, this data can then be used to inform operator and occupant alike with guidance to optimize their conditions in terms of energy-efficiency, more intelligent and seamless service, and occupant-centric experience measures like comfort, engagement and productivity.  

Reduction of carbon footprint will become an even more pressing issue in coming years. With ample digitization, smart buildings will just as easily impact the supply side of that equation (connecting their own renewable energy resources to the digitized smart grid) as the demand side (pursuing a wider array of utility strategies and optimizing system performance).  

Today, cities consume 75 percent of our global energy resources and produce 80 percent of the emissions – urban buildings are often the leading source. Building automation systems that are supplied and installed with the connected backbone to support the evolving needs of building occupants are a primary means of limiting this impact. By adding sensing capacity with optimized sequences, and connecting historically disparate systems throughout a facility such as HVAC and lighting, smart building automation systems are able to gain greater data insights and make more intelligent and proactive decisions to limit consumption of resources and emissions.

The Impact of Urban Expansion

More and more people are migrating to cities where they can find more opportunities, more people to meet, and more overall convenience and accessibility. By 2050, 66 percent of the world’s population will live in cities. With so much of the global populace relocating to urban environments, it’s vital to improve sustainability and efficiency efforts. 

But the challenges don’t just stop there for cities; they are faced with immense citizen expectations, severe budget constraints, and the need to attract jobs and investment. The only way for cities to measure up to each of these challenges and more, is simply to become smarter.

As we saw previously with smart buildings as a microcosm, many cities are already beginning their own digital transformations with various examples of newly digitized systems that collect, manage and analyze data from connected technologies. As with buildings, government agencies and a wider array of stakeholders are using the IoT to gain new operational insights, enable a more predictive approach and, in turn, improve the efficiency and quality of services. 

Carson City, Nev., is a great example of this, as it has recently deployed mobile-accessible, integrated systems for the management of water, wastewater, renewable energy plants and traffic lights. This transformation has reduced working hours and costs while increasing reliability and responsiveness.

Commercial facilities, industrial plants and homes are already beginning to leverage connected devices and the IoT to boost performance and sustainability. Industry analysts point out that the same level of innovation needs to extend throughout all of the infrastructures that a city depends on. This includes data and communications, energy, transportation, water, public safety and government services.

In power infrastructure, electric utility companies are also digitizing their operations to optimize performance and costs while maintaining a safe and reliable grid. However, utilities still face the need to balance energy production against consumer demand. Not only is the rapid growth of cities putting a strain on the grid, but the variable nature of renewable energy sources presents a new additional challenge for integration.

Developing Smart Urban Infrastructure

As our cities gain in intelligence, we will discover a much safer, more sustainable, and more efficient economy for all. The path to smart cities can be at times unclear and daunting, but starting with the transformation of building technology, infrastructures can provide both a guiding light for further development, and lasting pillars for the future reality of a city’s integrated connectivity.  

Networked smart building platforms, and the user-oriented applications and services we build from their digital data analytics, will be – among other things – a harbinger of things to come for smart cities that look to engage citizens, reduce emissions and consumption, and improve the quality of urban safety and energy. As more buildings amass these technology platforms, an expected byproduct will be a city environment that better caters to its citizens, minimizes its use of all resources and maximizes its overall efficiency. 

Tyler Haak is a US Northeast consultant solution architect for Schneider Electric.



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