Creating A Better Tomorrow: Can We Embrace Sustainability Through Smart Cities?
“Two million people move to cities every week. That’s building a city for two million. We must change how we build them. They must be smarter, more intelligent, but most importantly sustainable,” said Marwan Aboudib, CEO and founder of Tekuma Frenchman, as he began the day’s second panel.
So how do sustainability and smart cities overlap to create a better future for generations to come? According to Steve Severance, Head of Program and Marketing at Masdar, just because a city is sustainable, doesn’t mean that it is smart. “We start with smart as the icing on the cake, not the cake itself,” Severance said. “We started with the master plan and said how would we build this city if there were no air-conditioning?”
The panel discussed how sustainability needs to start with the design of a city, such as building thicker walls or smaller windows to help manage the temperature. Once the foundation is oriented towards being sustainable, then technology can be added to create a smart city.
This might work for new developments, but what about existing cities? Technology can play a key role in turning these older buildings into sustainable ones, but as with most new things, educating residents is important. “Engineers are not often good at communicating to the general public what a kilowatt-hour is, or what their consumption looks like, or how they can be involved in the sustainability journey. That’s the next step that we need to take with our partners to engage the community digitally as well as in the physical way that we are doing it now,” said Severance.
As society shifts towards becoming more sustainable, smart cities are becoming more common. According to Caspar Herzberg, President of the Middle East and Africa for Schneider Electric, sensor prices are also coming down, meaning it is more available to more people and easier to add more sensors into a single room. “One of the revolutions of the last year, one we will be accelerating in the next couple of years, are microsensors,” said Herzberg. “The fact is that you don’t have two, three, four sensors in a room but 50, 100, 200, and the price of these sensors are coming down to the point that you can put them into affordable housing.”
Smart cities also generate data and data provides insight into how we can improve in the future. The new technology that smart cities are made up of also requires some form of connectivity to be able to communicate with each other.
The common thread in all the definitions of smart cities according to Fadi Shaanah, Senior Director, Head of Construction Infrastructure and Hospitality at Etisalat are sensing, connecting sensors, transferring data to do something useful with it and eventually make decisions with this data. “Connectivity is at the core of smart cities. There is no smart city if there is no connectivity. With that, telecoms have a huge role to play in this sector,” said Shaanah.
While some telecom operators limit their role to just providing connectivity, others have evolved to provide platforms that enable smart city solutions like cloud computing, operations platforms, analytics, and big data. Although this is a step in the right direction, smart cities are only viable if they are part of an ecosystem of partners.
“Dubai Real Estate Blockchain is a solution that has the ownership data and the title deeds where I can allow each partner, whether it is coming from the private sector or the government sector, to utilize the right data so that they can conduct their services in an easy way,” explained Khalifa Alsuwaidi, CEO and Board Member of ERES, Dubai Land Department.
“If there is one area where Dubai is really pioneering globally, it is the way the city is able to react very quickly to technological advances and quantify that into fairly easy followable instructions for people who want to do business here. That is why it is doing so well,” said Herzberg.
“Connectivity is at the core of smart cities. There is no smart city if there is no connectivity. With that, telecoms have a huge role to play in this sector.” - Fadi Shaanah
CEO & Founder Tekuma Frenchman