Today’s cities cover only 2% of the planet’s surface but hold 50% of the world’s population. They also generate 80% of the global CO₂ emissions, and consume 75% of the energy. In less than 40 years, the percentage of city dwellers will jump to 70% — our younger generation will see the global urban population double within their lifetime. In both emerging and mature economies, such explosive growth presents challenges to our existing city infrastructures. However, opportunities exist to make cities much “smarter” when it comes to energy management.
What are Smart Cities?
Efficiency, livability, and sustainability represent the three qualities essential to a smart city. An efficient city leverages technologies such as infrastructure software and smart metering to integrate systems that traditionally operate as stand-alone silos. The more efficient these systems are (e.g., water, gas, electric, traffic, emergency services, waste disposal, security) the more attractive the city becomes as a place to live and work. As the city becomes more economically and socially sustainable it also becomes better able to compete for jobs, investment, and cultural development.
5-step practical approach to creating Smart Cities
Schneider Electric’s 5-step methodology, as presented below, combines a bottom-up, systems-centric approach with top-down, data-driven actionable intelligence.
Step 1 : Setting the vision
A smart city cannot be developed by decree or by a single entity. Everyone — municipal governments, the private sector, and individual citizens — needs to develop a shared vision of their future city. Cities can then develop an integrated roadmap for realizing the vision and avoid the siloed approach that hinders more comprehensive, long-term improvement.
Step 2: Bringing in the right technology The quantity of available technologies is overwhelming. So where does one start? First, cities must prioritize their pain points, identifying which ones need immediate attention. Then an energy management partner such as Schneider Electric can draw on its expertise to find a solution that not only addresses the immediate problem but can be leveraged to solve other long-term challenges. Mumbai, India, for example, deployed a Schneider Electric traffic-control system to mitigate congestion. As a result, average traffic time within the city has decreased 12% — and traffic lights are consuming 85% less energy.
Step 3: Integrating the systems No matter what the technological solution, individual systems must be architected to capture and share data. Then that data must be analyzed to improve system performance. Gathering system data from the bottom up (from smart meters, for example), and then harnessing it for analysis from the top down (via software dashboards), enables cities to make informed decisions based on accurate data. In the end, the city’s population benefits.
Step 4: Leveraging innovative business models Municipalities are concerned about how to pay for their Smart City vision. Innovative business models allow cities to fund improvements without shouldering the burden of a large up-front cash outlay. In Houston, Texas, for example, Schneider Electric leveraged an energy saving performance contract to retrofit 40 city buildings to become more energy efficient. Financial backers were able to recoup their investment from the $3 million the city saves annually in energy and water costs.
Step 5: Driving collaboration Successful smart cities are those who enlist technology and energy partners that work in a collaborative manner to build the most valuable long-term solutions. For example, Schneider Electric teamed up with Cisco to integrate Schneider’s building management system (BMS) and Cisco’s IT energy-monitoring solution at a large university in the United Kingdom. By extending the BMS to the IT domain, the campus realized incremental energy savings, reduced its carbon footprint, and hit its energy-reduction targets.
Cities are a complex web of interconnected systems, and each city faces its own unique set of challenges. No “one size fits all” blueprint of solutions exists. But by combining a bottom-up, system-centric approach with top-down, data-driven actionable intelligence, city planners can build more efficient, livable, and sustainable Smart Cities.