The world’s population is growing rapidly and today half of all people live in urban areas. This trend continues with the United Nations predicting almost 70 per cent to live in cities by 2050. And cities themselves will continue to grow. Around the globe, the number of megacities with more than 10 million inhabitants is projected to rise to 43 in 2030, according to the UN.
With the world’s population migrating to cities, pressure on existing city infrastructure grows and cities will need to find new ways of tackling the problems that are likely to affect quality of life. This includes growing demand for utilities like power, better transport and road infrastructures, and the need for safety and security.
New technologies like the Internet of Things (IoT) and sensor technology play a key role in addressing these new-found challenges and can help transform cities into much smarter places.
The IoT for example enables an enormous network of connected devices from traffic lights, modes of transportation and industrial machinery, to security cameras, temperature controllers and lighting inside buildings, whilst sensor technology can help street lights automatically adjust to the amount of ambient sunlight and guide car drivers to an empty space in sensor-equipped parking lots.
In other words, smart cities have data and information and communication technologies (ICT) at the heart, with the overall purpose of meeting the needs of their citizens. It is all about data, specifically collecting data, analysing data and integrating data in order to gain insights that can help improve processes, reduce consumption and costs.
In order to transform conventional cities into smart cities we need to look at the ‘components’ that make up a city and one such integral piece is the building. So, what role does a building – or better an intelligent building and integrated building infrastructure – play in the development of smart cities?
Intelligent buildings are driven by intelligent systems which integrate and control all elements of a building digitally. This can include the lighting, auto cooling or heating of occupied workspace, and security systems.
Intelligent buildings have advanced systems and sensor technology to monitor, collect and analyse information from a variety of building systems and their devices. In this way, intelligent systems provide an environment that is measurable, controllable and green.
At their core, these buildings have a single unified structured cabling network, such as category 6A or category 7A copper cabling, which enables IP-convergence by supporting formerly disparate building systems over one unified platform. At the same time, the cabling supplies low voltage power via power over Ethernet (PoE) technology to these connected systems and their devices. This generates tremendous savings on capital and operational expenditures, and it significantly reduces a building’s energy costs.
For smart cities to develop, smart buildings must be interconnected to each other in a strategic manner. If data that is gathered over time from various intelligent buildings in the city, then monitored and analysed, cities can become smarter, reduce their energy needs and carbon footprint and improve allocation of resources.
It’s important to consider, however, that not every smart building fits into a smart city network. Whether a building is compatible within a smart city network, depends on its potential to interact at specific ICT layers and this requires a framework to assess the capabilities of smart buildings.