Smart Cities initiatives are taking shape, but there is still a long way to go fully autonomous and self-regulating energy, traffic, and security systems in our cities. The UN estimates two-thirds of the global population will live in cities by 2050. In an increasingly urbanised world, smart infrastructures are required to increase the liveability of our future cities, especially in Australia where some 90 per cent of the population lives in cities.
‘Smart from the Start’
We are constantly “upgrading” our cities. According to Paul Francis, Director of Internet of Things and Smart Cities Lead at KPMG Australia, the construction industry has a significant role to play in making Smart Cities a reality.
Undoubtedly, Smart Cities start with smart construction. Research shows that using technologies such as IoT, BIM, 3D-modelling, and big data can generate from 15 to 25 per cent in project cost savings, and has proven to have a positive impact on operating expenses and ongoing service provision.
Technologies such as IoT, BIM, 3D-modelling, and big data can generate from 15 to 25 per cent in project cost savings.
“Whole-of-life benefits from Smart Infrastructure projects can only be realised by starting at the design, flowing into the construction of such projects. They need to be ‘smart from the start’ in order to gain maximum benefits, which in most cases is achievable at a lower overall cost than a post-build retrofit,” he says.
Another consideration is to reduce the impact of construction jobsites to a minimum. Emerging connected devices and technologies can help optimise scheduling, communication, and movement on the jobsite in a bid to reduce air and noise pollution as well as ensure minimum disruptions in the city’s broader network.
From Vertical to Horizontal
Beyond the construction phase, data-driven initiatives have spread to monitor and optimise specific, vertical processes, such as smart lighting, parking, waste and water management, as well as people counting and security applications. Data-driven insights helping assess those initiatives and their value often have significant impact.
However, Francis underlines that we need a horizontal vision in data analysis and activation.
The true value of Smart City data can only be unlocked when cities are able to look ‘horizontally’ across all the systems that make up the landscape.
“The true value of Smart City data can only be unlocked when cities are able to look ‘horizontally’ across all the systems that make up the landscape,” he says. “That is, being able to take data from each domain and use it collectively. For example, using people and traffic flow data in conjunction with environmental and sound sensors, weather and infrastructure condition data can help anticipate and optimise the provision of various services within the city.”
One example of this is the Tulip Project, a data-driven initiative launched in 2017 in Sydney. This collaboration between government, industry, research institutions, civil society, communities and citizens aims at improving the quality of life in the city. It does this through real-time, hyper-local data collection and analysis, which is available to cities and citizens through an open data exchange to foster innovation and insights.
Citizens Help Those Who Help Them
In the end, the key takeaway is to always keep the citizen in mind. They are ultimately the beneficiaries of Smart Cities, but are also the ones feeding Smart Cities with data to continuously improve their effectiveness and level of services.
“We need to understand the real ‘why’ of undertaking such projects, where technology becomes an enabler rather than being implemented for its own sake,” notes Francis.
As an example, the city of Boston and others around the world are using citizens’ mobile data to monitor multiple variables like traffic and help improve their driving conditions in return. Smart Cities that fail to build ecosystems in which humans are both feeding and profiting from the data will struggle to reach satisfactory service levels.