Smartly sus­tain­able

There should be smart peo­ple who prop­a­gate the idea of smart cities, Hala Yousef, head of sus­tain­abil­ity, Cun­dall, writes

Facilities Management Middle East - - VIEWPOINT -

As­mart city must be a city that cap­i­talises on avail­able tech­nol­ogy to cre­ate a pos­i­tive, so­cial and eco­nomic en­vi­ron­ment for the com­mu­nity, util­is­ing the min­i­mum nat­u­ral re­sources, but adapt­able enough to em­brace fu­ture tech­no­log­i­cal ad­vances.

For decades, sci­ence fic­tion has con­cep­tu­alised what a fu­ture city, based on tech­no­log­i­cal ad­vance­ment, may look like, and over time, in­dus­tries have suc­ceeded, in recre­at­ing some of th­ese tech­nolo­gies. With the cur­rent pace of evolv­ing tech­nol­ogy and our in­sa­tiable de­mand as con­sumers, th­ese dreams are now very close to re­al­ity and sus­tain­able smart cities are a pos­si­bil­ity. Trans­lat­ing cen­turies of imag­i­na­tion to real life ap­pli­ca­tions, has meant our lives have be­come in­sep­a­ra­ble from th­ese smart tech­nolo­gies. Like­wise, cities are also evolv­ing to be in­sep­a­ra­ble and equally in­ter­de­pen­dent on tech­nol­ogy.

How­ever, while there is no doubt that we can fea­si­bly cre­ate smart cities, it is very clear that to also be sus­tain­able the whole con­cept of smart city de­vel­op­ment re­quires a change in our cul­ture and be­hav­iour, with po­lit­i­cal re­in­force­ment in equal mea­sure. De­sign can only achieve so much. There­fore, as users of smart cities we have to be in­vested in the ob­jec­tives and take a moral re­spon­si­bil­ity for achiev­ing a sus­tain­able out­come.

Smart means giv­ing peo­ple what they want but in a more creative and ef­fi­cient way. For ex­am­ple, most peo­ple like the idea of a gar­den but don’t ei­ther have the time or de­sire to main­tain it, and so cre­at­ing a com­mu­nity with ac­cess to high qual­ity well main­tained com­mu­nal gar­dens within easy reach would ad­dress this and also cre­ate a more in­te­grated com­mu­nity.

We should be de­vel­op­ing build­ings to bet­ter serve de­mo­graphic needs rather than sim­ply re­spond­ing to con­sumer trends. Flex­i­ble and ver­sa­tile liv­ing and work­ing ar­range­ments are al­ready be­ing de­vel­oped around con­cepts such as co-liv­ing and co-work­ing. We need to chal­lenge our per­ceived need for spa­cious liv­ing ar­range­ments ver­sus more creative and ef­fi­cient liv­ing spa­ces. Ac­cess to re­li­able city­wide wire­less in­ter­net cou­pled with bet­ter tech­nol­ogy fa­cil­i­tates

re­mote work­ing and less de­mand for per­ma­nent of­fice space.

Con­sid­er­ing all of th­ese to­gether, we have now dra­mat­i­cally re­duced the size of what we are build­ing, the re­sources re­quired to build and op­er­ate build­ings, the de­mand for land and the scale and op­er­at­ing de­mands of trans­port sys­tems. This is in­her­ently sus­tain­able and can then be de­vel­oped to be more sus­tain­able through de­sign, con­sid­er­ing en­ergy & wa­ter ef­fi­ciency, choice of ma­te­ri­als, in­cor­po­ra­tion of mi­cro and macro re­new­able en­ergy strate­gies and ul­ti­mately util­is­ing ed­u­ca­tion and tech­nol­ogy to en­sure ef­fi­cient oper­a­tion.

How­ever, this fo­cuses on cities and build­ings, but not so much on sub­urbs or dis­tricts. There will al­ways be a de­mand to live in qui­eter sub­urbs so it is equally im­por­tant for each sub­urb to have its own iden­tity. The di­ver­sity of the sub­urb gives a city its own unique­ness. Th­ese sub­urbs must be de­vel­oped us­ing sim­i­lar con­cepts and should be seam­lessly con­nected via all modes of phys­i­cal and vir­tual trans­port to elim­i­nate so­cio-eco­nomic, eth­nic and cul­tural di­vides which can be prob­lem­atic in ma­jor de­vel­oped cities.

Eq­ui­table, in­tel­li­gent and sus­tain­able trans­porta­tion and com­mu­ni­ca­tion pro­to­cols form the link that se­curely as­sim­i­late the in­hab­i­tants of sub­urbs and cities’ col­lec­tively for greater in­clu­sion across all geo­graph­i­cal panes.

Much ef­fort is be­ing in­vested in de­vel­oped cities to tackle park­ing is­sues and de­creas­ing traf­fic con­ges­tion through smart park­ing sys­tems and smart sig­nal con­trols, but we all know that cars are sim­ply not sus­tain­able, and park­ing takes up valu­able space and re­sources. New cities must there­fore fo­cus on the im­prove­ment to mo­bil­ity in a sus­tain­able man­ner that will cater to the cur­rent and fu­ture de­mands of the city. Many ex­ist­ing cities around the world are fo­cus­ing on im­prov­ing their pub­lic trans­port and with this shift we have seen many in­no­va­tive ideas emerge in the mar­ket, such as shar­ing ex­ist­ing mo­bile phone net­work in­fra­struc­ture data. The ap­pli­ca­tion of IoT has al­lowed trans­port providers to now sense de­mand, pre­dict and plan seam­less jour­neys for com­muters us­ing real time data. Other IoT ben­e­fits in­clude the use mo­bile phones as dig­i­tal tick­ets and pay­ments which uses the lo­ca­tion of the phone to cal­cu­late fare cost and fi­nan­cial syn­chro­nised ap­pli­ca­tions to trans­act pay­ments. The data shared across in­fra­struc­ture plat­forms can also be used op­er­a­tors to mon­i­tor the health of the trans­port as­sets and re­spond be­fore any dis­rup­tions to the net­work.

With this in­creas­ing de­mand on com­mu­ni­ca­tion net­works ex­perts es­ti­mate that in the fu­ture the num­ber of de­vices re­quir­ing con­nec­tiv­ity will far out­num­ber the pop­u­la­tion of a city. There­fore, re­al­time con­nec­tiv­ity is im­per­a­tive to the blue­print of a truly sus­tain­able smart city. If con­nec­tiv­ity is the heart­beat of a smart city, then it is es­sen­tial that in­fra­struc­ture sys­tems, op­er­a­tional pol­icy and statu­tory reg­u­la­tion fa­cil­i­tates and en­sures eq­ui­table and fair con­nec­tiv­ity. De­vel­op­ments around en­hanced con­nec­tiv­ity in ex­ist­ing cities have al­ready demon­strated sig­nif­i­cant com­mer­cial and so­cial ef­fi­cien­cies, al­low­ing cities to thrive with th­ese tech­no­log­i­cal de­vel­op­ments in all as­pects of so­ci­ety with­out geo­graph­i­cal re­stric­tions.

Our in­sep­a­ra­bil­ity to smart tech­nol­ogy has al­ready had a big in­flu­ence on

IoT. In­flu­enc­ing ev­ery­thing in so­ci­ety, govern­ments are able to strate­gi­cally lo­cate fur­ther ex­pan­sion plans based on the pop­u­la­tion needs and move­ment pat­terns. They can mon­i­tor a wide range of com­mu­nity is­sues such as air qual­ity/ pol­lu­tion, traf­fic con­ges­tion, weather, etc., and this in­for­ma­tion can be used to gen­er­ate and im­ple­ment pre­cau­tion­ary mea­sures in ad­vance.

Us­ing all the data cap­tured, we are able pro­vide more live­able, health­ier and safe cities with­out the need of du­pli­ca­tion of spe­cialised sys­tems but ac­tu­ally shar­ing of in­fra­struc­ture for generic shared sys­tems. Open data will al­low govern­ment, pri­vate or­gan­i­sa­tions and users to make the most of the avail­able in­for­ma­tion. Pri­vate en­ter­prises have and can con­tinue to de­velop ap­pli­ca­tions for smart cities such as fast routes of travel, best air qual­ity for walk­ing routes and other in­no­va­tive ini­tia­tives.

How­ever, this re­quires open source data and lan­guages which are re­place­able and up­grade­able by any num­ber of tech­nolo­gies, con­se­quently mo­nop­o­lies in tech­nol­ogy com­mu­ni­ca­tion pro­to­cols have no fu­ture in smart build­ings.

This does raise very sen­si­tive is­sues around data pri­vacy. Open data pro­vides vis­i­bil­ity, and with vis­i­bil­ity comes ac­count­abil­ity. We know in the sus­tain­abil­ity in­dus­try that vis­i­bil­ity and ac­count­abil­ity are key driv­ers in en­sur­ing build­ings and or­gan­i­sa­tions op­er­ate ef­fi­ciently through trans­par­ent re­port­ing and mon­i­tor­ing. There­fore, so­ci­ety as a whole will need to em­brace open data but this re­quires greater cy­ber se­cu­rity.

There is a broader spec­trum of se­cu­rity in cities that needs to ad­dress pub­lic safety in re­sponse to the po­ten­tial threats of crime and ter­ror­ism. Smart phys­i­cal and elec­tronic so­lu­tions, cou­pled with smart ap­pli­ca­tions, can be de­ployed to en­hance se­cu­rity, pro­vid­ing op­er­a­tors with the abil­ity to watch over most if not all of the city.


Hala Yousef, head of sus­tain­abil­ity, Cun­dall.

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