Smart Cities

Future Proofing Smart Cities Building-by-Building with Open Data Platforms

“Today we hear about the smart city, the sustainable city, the green city, the resilient city, the diverse, inclusive, dynamic, creative and caring city. All these buzzwords are thrown around but in the end, it’s all the same. Strategies to prepare cities for the future,” Ahmed Abu Laban, City Director for the city of Ramallah, Palestine, told Memoori. “To launch a strategy is a big achievement but the most important challenge is to implement the results, activities and recommendations of that strategy.” Memoori met with Abu Laban and his counterparts from cities around the world at the Smart City Expo World Congress 2019 (SCEWC19) in Barcelona, Spain, at the end of November to discuss the role of buildings in achieving our urban future-proofing initiatives. Each building within the city has unique challenges that come together with other factors to shape that’s city’s unique urban challenges. Yet cities and buildings in different cities have so much […]

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“Today we hear about the smart city, the sustainable city, the green city, the resilient city, the diverse, inclusive, dynamic, creative and caring city. All these buzzwords are thrown around but in the end, it’s all the same. Strategies to prepare cities for the future,” Ahmed Abu Laban, City Director for the city of Ramallah, Palestine, told Memoori. “To launch a strategy is a big achievement but the most important challenge is to implement the results, activities and recommendations of that strategy.”

Memoori met with Abu Laban and his counterparts from cities around the world at the Smart City Expo World Congress 2019 (SCEWC19) in Barcelona, Spain, at the end of November to discuss the role of buildings in achieving our urban future-proofing initiatives. Each building within the city has unique challenges that come together with other factors to shape that’s city’s unique urban challenges. Yet cities and buildings in different cities have so much in common and so much to learn from one another in the context of planning for our shared future.

“Each building is unique in terms of its purpose, lifespan, tenants and challenges,” highlights our recent report Future Proofing Smart Commercial Buildings. “In a smart building context, future-proofing will involve the delivery of technical solutions that are flexible and adaptable to accommodate changing tenant demands over time; meeting the future needs and expectations of clients, end-users, and/or occupants in terms of health, safety, and comfort. A future-proofed smart building will be better prepared to withstand any adverse impacts from future shortages in energy or vital resources, as well as better prepared to withstand extreme weather impacts and other environmental issues.”

Each city is also unique in terms of the challenges it faces and a city’s ability to manage that future-proofing process was often framed as “resilience” in our conversations at SCEWC19. The UK capital of London is currently in the process of evaluating its new resilience plan. “Resiliency has existed in London for a long time but always in the framework of emergency planning. We have made resilience about that point where things go wrong and how we manage it. Now we want to detach resilience from emergencies and ensure it exists in all our policy areas,” said Alice Reeves, Deputy Chief Resilience Officer (CRO) for the Greater London Authority.

Dallas, Texas, is America’s 9th largest city facing increasing tornadoes, flooding, and drought, events due the climate change but it is also home to 10 fortune 500 companies and a lot of poverty. “We have a lot of wealth but also great disparity, and that defines our resilience strategy for the future development of our city,” said Genesis Gavino, Deputy Resilience Officer for the City of Dallas. While in Ramallah, Abu Laban spoke the unique challenges of urban development under occupation, “after 23 days of 2.5 million citizens under curfew we stepped out the next day we started to rebuild with optimism. The definition of resiliency for any city is it’s ability to survive, adapt, and grow.”

Be it London, Dallas or Ramallah, cities face social, economic, environmental, and political challenges when trying to prepare for the future. Future-proofing strategies for buildings and infrastructure come together to create a framework for urban resiliency. Buildings and infrastructure create the foundation for urban development and by applying future-proofing strategies to those urban elements we create systems resilient to the unknown future. In this context, one concept above all unites resilient development in all these unique and smart urban elements — open data.

“While in practice Open Data approaches have proven valuable, they do not help us
design future cities and communities nor help us identify gaps and opportunities. In practice, cities should adopt both ‘from goal-down’ (by design) and ‘from foundations up’ (open data) strategies simultaneously. A goal-down approach helps cities prioritize the order that open data sets should be released,” reads the 2018 paper Future Cities Thinking — Future Cities and Communities by Design by Data 61 and CSRIO.

While in buildings “It’s critical for engineering professionals to design long-term future-proof systems when upgrading, and one of the most important elements to consider is an open platform for smart building IoT deployments,” said Jason Gladney, VP and Branch Manager at Envise. “Open platforms are beneficial because they can be inspected, enhanced, and upgraded according to needs, and they can create a central gateway to connect many different devices and sensors, improving interconnectivity.”

“This is particularly important when building smart cities, as more sensors are being deployed and will likely be connected to other infrastructure, like transportation systems, utilities, and even commercial consumer interaction platforms. More sensors means more data, and open-source tools are useful for collecting and processing large amounts of data and for ensuring future integration possibilities” continued Gladney.

Today, most smart buildings offer vertical capabilities focused on individual functionality, such as turning off the lights and heating when occupancy reduces. Horizontal, or cross-functional, capabilities, such as linking heating and shading to external weather and solar radiation levels or connecting the smart building to the smart city, offer huge benefits on the macro urban scale but also on the building and human scales. We must address these issues-of-change at every scale, designing for the human with the building to enable the future-proofed smart city.

“As more and more building systems controlling various elements of a buildings function, are interconnected by the BIoT, more sophisticated solutions can emerge that combine the data from these previously disparate [building and city] systems to provide more complex functionality,” reads our recent Future Proofing Smart Commercial Buildings report. The multitude of systems that have the potential to be integrated onto the BIoT, as well as the potential interactions with wider Smart City level IoT solutions are perhaps best summarized in Memoori’s “Tube Map” of the BIOT shown below.

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