“Normally, the smart building and smart city markets seem very separated, seem far apart, and yet we have so much in common and so many things that make us similar. We believe there has been much more overlap than has been thought through in previous years and we believe we need to talk to one another,” said Bob Snyder, Editor-in-Chief at Channel Media Europe, during the Smart Cities Expo World Congress (SCEWC) 2019 in Barcelona last week.
Memoori was in attendance for this major international event to explore the role of smart buildings in the smart city discussion, and therefore the role of buildings within the cities of the future. The 2 markets are evolving side-by-side, both driven by advances in smart, connected, cyber-physical technological concepts such as the Internet of Things (IoT). Many companies with expertise in the IoT, cloud computing, data analytics, and other overlapping technologies serve both markets, often with the same set of products and services.
There are deeper connections too, of course. A city is essentially a collection of buildings. Urban infrastructure alone is just a grid of roads, pipes, and cables, only when the buildings are added can it be called a city. Established cities pushing their smart city agenda are making progress in energy, mobility, governance, and a range of citizen-centric health and wellbeing initiatives. However, whichever smart city path they explore they find buildings that need to be smarter in order to fulfill their smart city ambitions.
“Smart Cities face obstacles on big projects and those obstacles can be quite numbing, quite confronting. Smart buildings can offer a scalable foundation for creating the smart city. Across all types of uses, the smart city infrastructure addresses many of the same issues as the smart building, whether that is energy, water, trash, lighting, ventilation, or whatever,” continued Snyder, who went on to ask, “how can smart building technology help smart cities meet their smart goals?”
Buildings are inseparable from the city, and smart buildings inseparable from the smart city. Buildings are where citizens live, work, and play, where electric vehicles may charge or act as energy storage. A smart city’s health initiatives are centered around smart healthcare facilities, while our future urban energy systems demand solar rooftops, stationary batteries, and intelligent building systems that enable prosumers and demand response. Buildings in their various forms — residential and commercial, or homes/health/education/office/transport hubs/etc — create the foundation of the city, and by adopting smart buildings we can give the city the flexibility and agility needed to become truly smart.
In recent years, municipal and national governments talk confidently about their smart city initiatives, but until they can drive the conversion of old building stock into smart-connected elements of the urban landscape, they are just creating smart infrastructure. Today, smart cities are creating urban networks but at the door of the building, a new network begins, with a new set of applications, and a different set of objectives. To truly see the potential of smart technology, cities must incorporate infrastructure, buildings, and people into their strategy, and that’s what we started to hear increasingly during our conversations at SWEWC19.
“When we talk about smart cities we see three core pillars, which will lay the foundation of the smart city,” explained Thorsten Müller, Head of Global Product Group Building and Home Automation Solutions, ABB Smart Buildings, at the event. “The first is commercial buildings, which include offices, hotels, and other commercial real estate. The second big pillar will be smart homes, because these are the two areas where the people will be most of the time in the smart city. The third focuses on smart mobility and electric mobility, which includes EV and public transport.”
Cities must develop and bring these various pillars together to address major urban challenges. Buildings make up 40% of total energy consumption, so if cities are to tackle the major energy and climate change issues they face, then energy-efficient buildings must be part of the solution. For cities to make life better for citizens, then the buildings where those citizens spend most of their time offer the greatest opportunity to improve lives. Only a smart urban platform that includes infrastructure, buildings, and people, would be able to bring about the safe, secure, and seamless digital urban experience they promise.
Emergency services are a good example of this vital building to city interaction. Emergency response is undoubtedly a city service but more often than not they are responding to emergencies in buildings. By connecting a city’s emergency services to building systems, responders can use real-time information to pinpoint the location of people who may be stuck inside or even identify the source of a fire, which helps them extinguish it — as discussed in our recent article. While urban energy issues can be addressed with peak shaving, load shifting, or demand response, which all require much closer building to city relationships.
City services serve citizens and those citizens are usually in buildings. However, the development of smart buildings and smart cities has, so far, been relatively independent of one another. At the door of the building, a new network begins, with a new set of applications, and an entirely different set of objectives. The smart building and smart city sectors are still new, still defining what they are, and their independent development has been fundamental. However, eventually, cities that place greater emphasis on their buildings will be seen as the smartest cities and every other city will follow suit. Based on our conversations at SCEWC19, this evolution is starting to accelerate.
“When we talk about smart cities, we start with the buildings and mobility because that’s where people spend more than 80% of their time in cities,” Müller underlined to us at last week’s event. The time is coming for the smart building and smart city industries to develop a stronger bond that benefits both and helps us create smart built environments that better serve their occupants. Through this symbiotic relationship between cities and buildings, we can start to develop that smart future that both industries are striving for.