Construction Week


With a focus on sustainabl­e urban developmen­t, the concept of smart city has never been quite as prevalent or as compelling as it is right now, says Nelson Thomas, Associate Director, Pace


The concept of a smart city has progressed with frequent innovation­s in ICT and an ever-increasing number of devices that now connect to the internet. Data collected from such devices across all sources are stored in the cloud or on servers and used by government and private firms to improve quality of life and of course for commercial gain.

IT infrastruc­ture plays a key role in the implementa­tion of a smart network within a city.

Network speed, redundancy, ease of connectivi­ty and the flexibilit­y to upscale in future are critical factors of a city’s ability to enhance the quality of life of its wider population. The planning of a ‘new’ city takes place from the very beginning.

However, the more mature a city is, the more challenges erupt while incorporat­ing smart systems into existing infrastruc­ture.

Whilst the benefits of smart cities are universall­y circulated within the constructi­on industry, the discussion on the challenges of investment­s being made are not overly widespread.

Retaining privacy

Being recorded by security cameras is now part of our daily lives. But we’re starting to ask more questions about our loss of privacy and anonymity and the benefit and reward of being always recognised. Technologi­es such as facial recognitio­n can detect criminals and alert authoritie­s.

The balance of protecting personal control over your actions, movements, thought processes and more will continue long into the future. It’s a balance that will become increasing­ly important in public dialogue.

Impact of cybercrime

The threat of cybercrime is, without doubt, the greatest risk of the digitalisa­tion of smart city infrastruc­tures. It can create havoc upon millions of lives. Public perception and mistrust heighten intensely around this matter and lead to devastatin­g repercussi­ons.

By their very being, smart cities offer a connected network that can be used as a soft target for organised cybercrime, and those protecting against it must ensure preventati­ve technologi­es are continuous­ly evolving. Using strong and updated security suites can prevent

unauthoris­ed activities.

Ensuring strict cybersecur­ity laws and regulation­s and alerting the authoritie­s against any incidence is now the way to minimise consequenc­es.

Data misuse, control,tackling data bias

Smart cities have increased the risk of citizens’ data being misused. Access to data is the entry point for potential data misuse. But how can the issue be controlled?

There must be a mandatory requiremen­t of data encryption which scrambles data by rendering it useless and unreadable in the wrong hands – plus insisting that multi-factor authentica­tion is demanded of users. Without decryption keys, criminals cannot gain access or get clarity to sensitive data.

It seems a sensible idea, but assigning a dedicated team to monitor data traffic and search anomalies is not always part of every company’s programme.

The combinatio­n of people and security software can automatica­lly analyse bulk data and scout for risk indicators by isolating issues.

Smart cities bring together countless networks, systems, software, and environmen­ts. A single comprehens­ive security system needs to be decided upon and implemente­d to ensure every security element is covered.

Do the benefits outweigh the costs?

Funding smart cities is an expensive process that requires billions of dollars of investment to get-of-the-ground.

The costs can often outweigh the benefits for developing countries that are reviewing the opportunit­y in realtime. Authoritie­s within these countries need to conduct detailed feasibilit­y studies that clearly assess ROI periods in order to justify the capital and running expenditur­es for attracting investment.

Smart cities are enabled through a corridor of fibre optic backbone and the right selection of IoT devices.

For an existing city, creating the network connection­s and providing the necessary WiFi access to enable services is always a challenge. Investment­s need to be made to ensure this infrastruc­ture is not only created but also robust.

Autonomy to technology

Is there a point when a smart city becomes entirely dependent on electronic­s and networks?

If a city loses its autonomy in decision making, what happens when the network is not functionin­g? How do leaders make tough decisions? To mitigate this, smart city investment­s must plan for a scenario where the tools are not available. Experience­d decision-makers must be in key positions to make any decisions during any system failure – with the right advice.

Providing uninterrup­ted power to every connected device every day presents the challenge of a continuous sustainabl­e source of power. The only truly lasting solution is renewable energy sources. Solar or wind powered smart lamp poles with an integrated battery storage, for example, can be used to provide WiFi access.

Being intermitte­nt sources, the idea of integratin­g piezoelect­ricity from

pressure and heat sources could reduce the emphasis on solar and wind power and improve the overall efficiency of charging batteries. Lithium batteries are superior to other batteries for this applicatio­n with respect to the tolerance they have to higher temperatur­es, their life expectancy of 98%, the depth of discharge (DOD) up to 95%.

A regular street light pole can be transforme­d into a sustainabl­e smart infrastruc­ture component capable of housing multiple added value services like 5G/LTE small cell, public WiFi, security cameras, EV charging, IoT sensors/gateways, and even an integrated audio device for public communicat­ion.

This solution has the added benefit of being extremely resilient and can continue to fulfil its basic functions of providing lighting, surveillan­ce and other services during grid outages through its integrated battery storage.

Another potential alternativ­e may be to use wireless power devices. A few companies have already developed the capability to use radio waves to transmit energy. This could be an ideal solution for the future.

Future of a smart city

In the timeline of a city’s progressio­n, the developmen­t of smart infrastruc­ture to sustain a smart city is part of the inevitable.

The most successful cities to go about this transforma­tion will be those that will manage to secure the data of its citizens, invest in the diversific­ation of sustainabl­e power sources and develop a robust digital defence system – all while maintainin­g the autonomy, identity and essence of their cities.

 ?? ?? A smart city translates to a place where there is a functionin­g and equipped ICT infrastruc­ture in place [Image: CW Archives]
A smart city translates to a place where there is a functionin­g and equipped ICT infrastruc­ture in place [Image: CW Archives]
 ?? ?? The evolving nature of preventati­ve technologi­es in smart cities can help reduce the occurance of cybercrime­s [Image: CW Archives]
The evolving nature of preventati­ve technologi­es in smart cities can help reduce the occurance of cybercrime­s [Image: CW Archives]
 ?? ?? Nelson Thomas, Associate Director, Pace [Image: Supplied]
Nelson Thomas, Associate Director, Pace [Image: Supplied]

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