Today, half of the world’s population lives in cities. By 2045, six billion people will be crammed into urban centers, from small towns to sprawling megacities. In China alone, there are more than 100 cities with over a million inhabitants; the cramped metropolises of Manila and Jakarta are home to 13 million and 10 million people, respectively.
This mass urbanization creates an unprecedented opportunity to improve the livelihoods of billions. Cities are engines of productivity and economic growth; with people closer together, governments can reach more people than ever with services and infrastructure. But with that opportunity come equally enormous economic, social and environmental challenges. In a world characterized by increasingly scarce resources and a changing climate, it will be ever harder for cities to feed themselves and to keep the lights on, while simultaneously improving standards of living, creating decent jobs and reining in social inequality.
As well as preparing for an uncertain future, cities need to be at the forefront of national and global efforts to mitigate climate change -- combined, they account for 70% of the world’s total greenhouse gas emissions.
As they look to meet these emerging challenges, and to create the frameworks and foundations for cleaner, healthier, greener growth, the public and private sectors are turning to data to understand and optimise the urban environment, to make the most efficient use of natural, human and financial resources to create so-called "smart" cities.
A digital mesh of old and new:
The desire to build smart cities has led to some eye-catching projects and initiatives, from street sensors in Amsterdam that tell motorists where to find car parking spaces, to Songdo in South Korea, which was built smart from the ground up, with sensors and communications channels linking everything from water usage to law enforcement.
However, cities are more than the sum of their infrastructure. They are defined by their communities, culture, and history - and by their idiosyncrasies. This means that cities cannot be a blank page for designers and that smart cities need to be more than a collection of small projects or headline-grabbing new developments. To be truly smart, cities need to be able to mesh the old and the new, to layer data and technology over the existing urban fabric; to improve quality of life by rewarding positive behavior and making subtle, but meaningful changes to the environment, from health and wellbeing to transport, mobility and energy.
Alex Lau's Anacle Systems is demonstrating how smart technology can be integrated with the pre-existing elements of a city. His company's technology can be fitted into any building to monitor its energy use and loss, allowing owners and tenants to make better decisions and manage their consumption. It is a powerful tool at the building level, which could be amplified to have profound impacts on how the city as a whole manages its resources.
When people think of smart buildings, they think of a building that's green, a building that's glass, a building that's very well designed by an architect, Lau says. But most buildings that we see today, they are old buildings -- 95% of the building stock is much older, at least 30-40 years.
More than half of these buildings' operating expenditure is on energy, and about half of that is wasted.
That's where we see the opportunity to help these old buildings and turn them smart, Lau says.
Lau argues that smart technology needs to be fast, powerful and flexible enough that it can develop and grow far faster than the cycle of infrastructure construction or building refurbishment.
Existing smart meters are actually not that smart. The average smart meter has the computing capacity of a high school calculator, Lau says. What we've done is to bring fast technology, high computing power, high mobility and high pace of software distribution to a very traditional industry. That's where our products come in and that's where we reinvent the mindset and revolutionise the industry.
This kind of innovation, based on small-scale interventions that combine into systemic change, will be enabled by a step-change in performance. Lau's vision is a city made smart by retrofitting its existing structures and giving all building owners access to cutting edge data management. This vision will be built on systems that can handle huge amounts of information.
I created a device that collects massive amounts of information. In the back end I need a computing platform that's powerful enough to collect and process all these data. The HP Z2 Mini provides the sustained level of high performance and reliability that I need, Lau says. It packs the breakthrough power of a workstation into a form that’s designed for the workspace of the future - very much in line with the technologies we’re developing to make buildings smarter.
For more information visit REUTERS.