Developing urban efficiency through collaboration

Schneider Electric Pty Ltd
By Joe Craparotta Vice President - Energy Business*
Monday, 14 July, 2014

City dwellers make up more than 50% of the world’s population. Current urbanisation trends show that in the next 40 years, 70% of all people on the planet will be living in cities.

With such explosive growth pending, cities face unique challenges including congestion, pollution and rising energy costs - all the while competing with each other for business, investment and tourism.

While growth-related pressure on cities is high, the demand is likely to continue in the years ahead unless governments and various infrastructure providers collaborate to create cities ready to meet the challenges of the future.

Creating smart cities

The definition of a ‘smart city’ varies, however explanations usually describe the concept as a city infrastructure that integrates social and environment capital, ie, intelligent information management, efficient energy use and resource distribution.

Modern cities have been built by people with an engineering background - but often the bigger picture of life has not been taken into account in order to truly embrace the concept of a smart city. To develop a smart city, collaboration becomes essential. Everyone - municipal governments, the private sector and citizens - needs to be a part of creating and voicing a shared vision for their cities future if they are to develop a smart cities model.

Like with all smart infrastructures, choosing the right technology is essential in developing smart cities and achieving long-terms benefits. When used in developing a smart city, technology can maximise energy efficiency and monitor and track resource distribution. However, technology does not exist in a vacuum and needs strong data to make it relevant. Data on a city, including population, infrastructure patterns and trends, can be gathered from real-time sources and these insights can then help to inform the technology used in the design of the smart city.

Around 90% of the world’s data was created in the last two years. Data and information is now readily available and accessible, but it needs to be optimised and analysed to be of any use for smart city planning. This kind of analysis can only be undertaken by technology specialists and there needs to be a crossover between services, utilities and government industries to make it effective.

Discovering the true value of the data available also requires different government organisations to look and consider the information across the board, not in silos. It is the connection between the government departments and the infrastructure they manage where the most amount of value and efficiencies can be gained. Analysing big data on its own will not achieve the outcomes desired unless it is analysed holistically, taking into account the total objective of a smart city.

Although we are seeing general changes in the way technology is being used, a new generation of young people who are open to the idea of using data to improve the ways cities run are rising to the forefront of city development. These people often live and work alongside an older generation, who are driving the decisions and are often not as open to this way of thinking.

This shows that the collaboration of the human element in the design of a smart city is just as important in the design as the collaboration of the technology and the data that can make everything work together. Within a smart city the partnership between government and private enterprise is imperative in capitalising on the shifting trends of generational change. Access to data is the first step, which then leads to unlocking the maximum efficiency gains through data analysis. Also, partner selection is important from a design and execution perspective. Partners who provide value and experience and touch on key elements of a smart city such as transportation, water, energy and smart buildings, can guide governments into making low-risk, high-value decisions.

The path from here

In order to address the conflicting challenges that face the cities of the future - an increasing population verses the development of a sustainable city - the concept of smart cities must be addressed. For the smart city of the future to be successful, the model must be underpinned by integration; collaboration is key. If cities like Sydney are to compete with cities in the region and also globally, then we will need to see further investment in smart cities technology to attract larger corporations to the country.

*Joe Craparotta has had 20 years of IT industry experience and has seen many of the technological convergence shifts. He was a founding partner of Indicium Technology Group and in 2005, moved to Commander Communications where he spent three years in the Enterprise space of converged voice and data. In 2008, Craparotta moved to APC where he would move into the next evolution of his career - data centres and infrastructure. At this time, APC had just been acquired by Schneider Electric.

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