Current and future urban mega projects should be developing ´smart and sustainable and innovative´ cities, says DR PHILIPPE BOUVIER.
The financing, design and implementation of mega urban projects are facing unprecedented complexity nowadays due to the systemic environment of a city. From citizens to mayors, the needs regarding efficient and effective urban management are increasing year-on-year. That said, the pressure is on the urban developers. They have to design attractive urban places (and even complete greenfield cities) with minimum investments (CAPEX) and minimum operational costs (OPEX). When such a project is taken as a whole (with its complete life-cycle), leveraging the use of new technology will indeed optimise the overall investment.
´Dubai South´ is one example where the development of a ´smart and sustainable´ strategy for the new city in UAE helps the developer DWC to improve its investment while developing a human-centric approach for the citizens, businesses and tourists.
Big urban projects
At present, there are multiple examples of mega projects launched with the intention to enhance the quality of living in cities, by developing a ´smart´ and ´sustainable´ environment. We can identify many projects not only in the GCC, but across the world:
All these projects are based on the strategy: Smart and sustainable. And, the differentiating factor among them lies in the way they are innovating their urban infrastructure and urban management to create a new livable, workable and sustainable urban environment, at an optimised investment.
Recalling the concept: Smart and sustainable
What makes the ´Smart City´ approach unique is the use of technology to support the quality of living of the citizens in the urban environment. The organisation ITU defines: ´A smart sustainable city is an innovative city that uses ICTs and other means to improve quality of life, efficiency of urban operation and services, and competitiveness, while ensuring that it meets the needs of present and future generations with respect to economic, social and environmental aspects.´
Then, a communication network will capture and transfer that data from the sensors to information systems.
In those information systems, the data is analysed by elaborated software algorithms. Data analytics tools are used to find patterns in sets of data using mathematical artefacts like correlation and regulation. More advanced tools like ambiguity functions would be reserved to specialists.
The only objective of analysing the data of a city is to create value in the urban environment, because the ultimate goal is to develop a ´smart and sustainable´ city. But the way we create value in one city is very specific to the ´smart´ environment, ie, it depends on the sensors, data, and analysis. As a consequence, the urban value creation will be specific to each city; it is a perfect support for innovation and the heart of the future ´smart and sustainable´ city.
Supporting urban value
creation through innovation
A smart city uses technology to get information on its environment: To create information, we need new data from new sensors. Here, we can develop hardware innovation.
A smart city uses technology to understand its environment: To analyse information, we need new software and algorithms. Here, we can develop software innovation. A smart city uses technology to create value in its environment: To value information, we create new business models. Here, we can develop business model innovation.
But all these innovations are meaningful only if they are human-centered innovations. About 10,000 years ago, the first cities were created and citizens have constantly been innovating their environment to improve the quality of life. When innovation is not centered on the human, there is a risk of developing gadget solutions, and gadget cities, where value will be destroyed in the short as well as long term. This could negatively impact the city.
Urban value innovations help create value for the people and support the sustainable development of the city. From a business perspective, the need is to align innovation with utility (improved quality of living in cities), price (competitive market price) and cost (to produce the product or service). These should promote a sustainable development in cities, where:
- Social innovations should support a social balance.
- Economical innovations should support an economic prosperity.
- Environmental innovations should support a healthier environment.
That said, the city of the future will be a smart and sustainable one. From a sustainable urban development perspective, urban value innovations based on human-centered innovations need to align social, economic and environment positions.
That said, the vision of Dubai South is to build a smart and sustainable city while developing an urban infrastructure and services based on human-centered innovations. Launched in 2006, the city is mandated to manifest the urban and societal themes as outlined in the Dubai Plan 2021. These themes relate to becoming a city of happy, creative and empowered people, an inclusive and cohesive society; the preferred place to live, work and invest, a smart and sustainable city, and a pivotal hub in the global economy. Dubai South aims to change the fundamental concept around how a community is built and what it stands for. The city´s ecosystem is expected to generate over half a million jobs and sustain a total population twice that number. Further, the city hosts the now-operational Al Maktoum International Airport, which will become the world´s largest on completion. The airport will have the capacity to fly 220 million passengers and 16 million tonnes of cargo per year, and will play a role as a major contributor to the emirate´s GDP and employment generator. Dubai South will also host the World Expo 2020 and the Dubai Airshow.
One should not confuse ´cost killing´ and ´optimising expenditure´. With their experience from worldwide projects, urban developers can now improve the value of their investments by using ´smart´ technology. This experience also shows that the larger the project is, the larger the savings in CAPEX and OPEX will be.
Here are some areas that Dubai South has been considering:
Integration of systems: If we take the example of building management, managing building operations for multiple buildings is more efficient than having distributed control rooms in each building. In this situation, energy saving will be between 15 per cent (integration of 1,200 municipal buildings in Brenem, Germany) to 25 per cent (in one large building). Operational costs also will decrease by 15 per cent due to better utilisation of the resources (staff and equipment). Dubai South is pushing integration to support business services in order to facilitate the administrative installation of companies in the city (leveraging integration of information systems across multiple administrative departments).
Data analysis: Urban projects have access to massive quantities of data. Data analysis can be used to identify actionable intelligence that will enhance livability, workability and sustainability in various ways. Situational awareness is the first service that is needed for urban departments like the Police or transportations, but also energy, water, healthcare, etc. This can help to support operational optimisation by combining data from sensors and subsystems to determining the best decisions and operations. The company Smartworld, located in Dubai South, has implemented large data centers to support cloud computing for private and public sectors and enhance complicated data analysis and predictive analytics.
Citywide GIS: Such a system helps in locating the source of an information, whether it is an alert (push button from a citizen), or an event in a pipe, a cable or in any physical asset. Location-related information can then be correlated with other systems to manage operations like traffic flow, share traffic maps with the public, to conduct better environmental impact assessments, or optimise operations by asking the closest staff to manage an incident or a maintenance task.
Security and privacy: As data is produced from citywide sensors, a portion of this amount is related to the activities of the people and businesses. It is important to assure that privacy rights will be respected and data protected in terms of integrity, confidentiality and availability. Promoting security and privacy does not save costs directly but it improves the attractiveness of the city (and so the payback period). Indirectly, securing the city network will protect the infrastructure from being cyber attacked and from all the consequences of such incidents.
Interoperability: This is one key technical pillar of the ´smart and sustainable´ city. Developers should ensure that the technologies they deploy work well together. Costs of integration could significantly impact the overall investment. Open standards and open integrated architectures will facilitate sharing of data and connections between applications.
Connectivity: People talk to machines and machines talk to each other. The city networks should support that interconnectivity to maximise the services that can be created from different parts of the network. There is value creation when cross-departmental planning and design is encouraged. Instrumentation: Smart city means a tonne of sensors to inform on the status of everything on the city. Cost optimisation will be leveraged when sensors are not duplicated but the information coming from the sensors is shared between different organisations.
Mega projects in the urban environment have demonstrated that the use of ´smart´ technology and the integration of systems reduce CAPEX and OPEX. The expenditures can be indeed optimised. But most importantly, by creating these new ´smart and sustainable´ urban places, the developers are also creating an environment which enhances innovative initiatives that will support a social balance in the city, an economic prosperity for the city, and a healthier environment.
About the author:
Dr Philippe Bouvier, Founder & Managing Partner, Urban Value Creation Consulting, is concerned with future cities and has developed an innovative business model to support urban sustainability. UVC Consulting offers services in strategic studies and educational programmes to improve the management of urban services in smart and sustainable cities.