15 November 2019
Smart cities are rapidly evolving from a futuristic aspiration to an emerging reality. Many governments and local councils across the world have embarked on ambitious plans to transform their territories into smart connected ecosystems. The building blocks required for this transformation are already being created — from infrastructure projects in Wuhan and Barcelona to airports in Abu Dhabi and Singapore.
Back in 1900, only 14 per cent of the world’s population lived in urban areas. Today, more than half (55 per cent) of the planet’s population resides in cities, and this is expected to increase to 68 per cent by 2050. Predictions indicate the smart cities market will continue to grow significantly through 2023 – from roughly $308 billion (RM1.275 trillion) in 2018 to roughly $717.2 billion (RM2.97 trillion) by 2023, due to a surge in population growth and the need for more communications infrastructure. Cities are rapidly evolving to keep up with current and future challenges that come with expanding populations.
As more Malaysians live in urban areas, cities are starting to face pain points such as congestion, pollution, and inefficient deployment of urban services. Smart cities are designed to be a next generation approach or future city approach to urban management with solutions that address these issues and improve the quality of life of urban dwellers.
A city is smart when people actively work to solve the difficulties that the citizen can face – from traffic management, pollution to safety – through the implementation of systems that are mostly based on information collected by sensors distributed throughout the city. These are just some of the reasons why cities around the world are making their move on smart cities development. So how exactly do we ‘make a city smart’? Generally, a smart city is a city that uses data and technologies to improve the lives of the citizens and businesses that inhabit it. So, what are these technologies?
IoT (Internet of Things):
Around the world, cities are investing in IoT to create smart cities, designed to improve efficiency and quality of life through data and technology. By unlocking the value of IoT, it enables cities to gather, aggregate and normalise information from siloed city applications and develop a new and comprehensive ecosystem to empower city managers to make better, data-driven decisions.
Data & Analytics:
Big data is imperative to smart cities. In order to become a smart city, cities need reliable (sensory) data to base their long-term decisions – data is the new gold. Cities will need to capture, store and analyse data generated by multiple sources and transform it into useful insight that helps authorities in making appropriate strategic moves and decisions.
The “smarter” we go, the more energy we consume, hence we need to place focus on sustainable sources of energy. For example, cities can pave the roads with the same kind of material that converts solar energy into electricity while automobiles can be equipped with solar panels on the roof.
There are two areas when we talk about connectivity: on the physical end, transportation and on the virtual end, the Internet. Both serve the purpose of bringing people, communities and businesses together – for greater efficiency, productivity and liveability.
Affordability and Safety:
Creating cities that are affordable and safe should be the key priorities. Technologies in smart cities can be used to tackle crime, poverty etc. i.e. during natural disasters (i.e. floods), with mobile apps enabling communities to reach out for help and receive updates on food and shelter provided.
This high-tech urban environment necessitates a new set of requirements on projects – and many construction companies are already responding. If smart cities are to become the ‘new normal’, local authorities and key decision makers need to navigate such difficult areas as technology, communications, data and security, knowing that costs can be difficult to predict and that the project will grow in complexity.
We are truly supportive of the Malaysia Smart City Framework launched recently as it shows government’s commitment in developing and transforming existing cities to become smarter, safer and more sustainable. We are confident in the impact that Smart Cities will have to our economy – in driving efficiencies through automation and improving connectivity with IoT.
However, it is imperative that Smart Cities development must be centred on creating values. Buildings constructed or retrofitted must be resilient and long lasting not only to sustain and protect national assets but manage the impact to our environment. While we are designing Smart Cities that would appeal to the changing demands of our communities, we also need to be mindful of the changing economics of infrastructure that requires the right combination of traditional construction and smart solutions. Which is why for efficient development, more sectors should be included within the framework and not limiting or prioritising only technology or service providers and city managers or state governments. Strategic level of planning will require all parties within a city ecosystem to work together, especially the involvement of construction players as early in the planning stage as possible.
With construction technology coupled with connectivity, this mega city-level collaboration can be made possible. Today large construction projects can be digitised simply by harnessing the power of IoT and combining it with other collaboration tools. However, with the slow tech adoption across the construction supply chain, progress is sluggish. For the smart cities vision to take off, we call upon government to consider allocations to enable not just tech adoption, but specifically IoT adoption. When used in the development ecosystem, it can also potentially lower construction costs and create safer building practices.
As the new ‘architect’ at ORANGEBEAM, Dato’ Faris Yahaya has drawn up a bold blueprint together with his team, focusing on bringing intentional disruption of technologies in its businesses. ORANGEBEAM aims to build on the foundation of this highly technical building and construction landscape to disrupt the industry and build the future.
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