A smart city uses digitalisation-supported information and communication technology (ICT) in its diverse operational exercises, shares information and provides better governance.: Constructing materially smarter cities on Elkem.
A smart city uses digitalisation-supported information and communication technology (ICT) in its diverse operational exercises, shares information and provides better governance.: Constructing materially smarter cities on Elkem.
In 2050 close to 70 percent of the world’s population is expected to live in cities and the need for efficient infrastructure will increase. Did you know that the materials used on satellites and space applications play a crucial role in enabling smart and safe cities of the future?
There are different definitions of what a smart city actually is. As a general interpretation, however, consensus seems to align around that the term says something about the degree to which traditional networks and services are made more efficient with use of digital and telecommunication technologies – for the benefit of its inhabitants and businesses
The smart cities put data and digital technology to work to make better decisions and improve the quality of life for example by providing commuters with real-time traffic information, an asthma patient with information on high pollution areas or live usage load in city parks.
This is important, as a study by the World Bank has found that for the first time in history, more than half of the world’s population lives in cities. The study estimates that 70 million new residents will be added to urban areas each year, indicating that more than 68 percent of the world’s population will live in cities by 2050.
Smart cities use Internet of Things (IoT) devices, like sensors, lights, and meters to collect and analyse data. The cities can then use this data to improve infrastructure, public utilities and services, and more.
IoT is the concept of connecting any device to the Internet and to other connected devices (IBM, source).
Cities are also important for value creation and according to the World Bank, 72 percent of competitive cities outperformed their countries in terms of economic growth. In other words, we need the cities and their value creation.
The rapid urbanisation will increase demand for services in urban areas exponentially and put pressure on population centres. In this future scenario, efficient, smart cities can represent a part of the solution.
Elkem has delivered metals and materials for the construction sector for several decades and play a key role in how cities are becoming better, smarter and more efficient.
Elkem’s silicon, ferrosilicon and Microsilica® are materials used to enhance properties and reduce emissions in the production of metals and concrete for the construction sector, and Elkem’s silicones are among other things used as sealants for flexible joints between construction materials, as well as for waterproofing windows, doors and facades.
In addition, silicones also have a wide range of usages within electronics.
“The extreme resistance of our materials, combining thermal and fire resistance as well as chemical stability, make silicones materials outstanding for long-term applications, where you either do not want to or cannot change materials frequently. This is the reason why silicones have become the material of choice in aviation, aerospace and automotive industry”, says Yves Giraud, global business manager in Elkem Silicones.
“For example, if you launch a satellite, you will not be able to change and inspect the materials every three years. The materials must be stable over a 15-year period in a very challenging environment. Another example is 5G antennas, which will become increasingly important as smart infrastructure, where Elkem’s material solutions are vital to protect critical functionalities and to reduce the need for maintenance and inspections for our customers”, says Giraud.
Another example is 5G antennas, which will become increasingly important as smart infrastructure, where Elkem’s material solutions are vital to protect critical functionalities and to reduce the need for maintenance and inspections for our customers”, says Giraud.
With increased demand for new energy solutions and smart applications, the role of cables is also becoming more important. To meet demand, manufacturers are looking for safer, more reliable, sustainable and innovative solutions.
Silicone rubber insulated cables provides both heat and fire resistance, and present high mechanical properties. The materials therefore contribute to protecting our lives in the cities.
Another effect of smarter and more efficient cities is that the need for sensors and intelligence gathering equipment will increase. This is relevant, among other applications, on car windows, which ensure that the lights are switched on when it gets dark, or in buildings, enabling exterior doors and gates to automatically open when approached by people.
“We believe smarter cities are one of several drivers that will increase the need for safe products that lasts. The use of silicones in smart application is a great reusable alternative, and is also of significant sustainability value, generating energy and saving CO2 emissions nine times greater than the impacts of production and recycling”, says Giraud.
The COP27 delivered partial success in an agreement on a fund for those vulnerable countries; however, it still needs to provide an understanding of the most basic requirements for stopping the current climate breakdown. That is mainly to slash the burning of fossil fuels as promptly as possible. In the meantime, life carries on. Like in the story that follows, it is not building better with less at this conjecture and not about decarbonising all active ingredients but, like Azerbaijan sharing investment plans within the concept of ‘smart’ cities and villages.
BAKU, Azerbaijan, November 21. Azerbaijan cooperates with the world’s leading companies in the building of ‘smart’ cities and villages, Azerbaijani Minister of Digital Development and Transport Rashad Nabiyev said on November 21 during an international conference on ‘smart’ cities and villages, being held in Baku, Trend reports.
According to Nabiyev, the concepts of ‘smart’ cities and villages contribute to the efficient use of water and other natural resources.
“In the next five years, $2.5 trillion will be invested in these concepts. Azerbaijan has been working in this direction since 2020. Our ministry has studied the experience of leading countries when elaborating on the concepts. Within the framework of the ‘Online Azerbaijan’ concept, large-scale work is being carried out to integrate state systems, switch to ‘cloud’ technologies and other work,” the minister noted.
Besides, Nabiyev noted that the effectiveness of the concept of ‘smart’ cities and villages may differ depending on the region.
“When implementing these projects, we take into account the factor of development of local companies and their localization,” he said.
The minister pointed out that over the past two years, 472,000 households in Azerbaijan have been provided with fiber-optic communication, and by 2024 even the most remote villages will be provided with it.
Speaking about the development of these projects, Nabiyev said that more attention should be paid to ensuring the security of information systems.
“In the next three years, 932 highly qualified specialists in the field of cybersecurity will be trained in Azerbaijan,” he added.
An IoT sensor is great for collecting data on the state of air quality from the moment it is deployed but that data tells us nothing about what happened previously to create the current environmental conditions.
If data is to truly help us build more sustainable, safer, healthier and greener cities, we need technologies that enable us to understand what has happened in the past and predict how a situation might evolve in the future. It isn’t a lack of datasets standing in the way of doing this but rather knowing how to use the ones that already exist.
In Europe and around the world, initiatives such as the EU’s Climate-Neutral & Smart Cities mission and its Mission on Adaptation to Climate Change are helping to galvanise climate action but nobody is under-estimating the scale of the challenge. What these initiatives have in common is the need for constant monitoring of a city’s territory and environment to assess the current situation and check progress. Moreover, this monitoring needs to be put in context with information from decades past to gain the necessary deeper understanding.
This was the aim when developing the climate change adaptation and mitigation platform Latitudo 40, that allows cities to be constantly monitored. It uses raw data generated by earth observation satellites, combined with artificial intelligence (AI), to understand how the earth’s systems have changed and predict how they will evolve in the future. It is designed to provide a more sustainable and resilient approach to urban climate action.
If data is to truly help us build more sustainable, safer, healthier and greener cities, we need technologies that enable us to understand what has happened in the past and predict how a situation might evolve in the future
In our specialist field of satellite remote sensing, we see a lot of valuable data available, but cities are using only a small portion of it to support key decision-making. To change this, we combine data from satellites with data produced within the city and, through a fusion of the two, create information models that help inform urban planners where to invest money and resources when it comes to protecting and futureproofing their cities.
A typical example is our dataset for estimating urban thermal comfort, which brings together information on urban heat island areas, tree canopy (or lack of it) and the age distribution of the resident population. A digital representation of a city can be created in a matter of hours that quickly highlights and offers insight into key climate and sustainability issues.
Satellite technologies are now several decades old but, due to their complexity, have never reached a mainstream level of usage in the market. Image search and image processing requires specific skills and complex processing systems that aren’t typically available within cities. To make the best possible use of the information potential of these images, we have developed what we call “complexity simplification,” a cloud-based processing workflow that automates image search, analysis, and interpretation.
Computer vision and AI algorithms complete the process by extracting the parameters of greatest interest to cities and presenting a simple representation of the evolution of the urban scenarios over time.
Crucially, unlike the aforementioned IoT sensor, satellite imagery allows for a historical representation of the city, almost a time machine that facilitates an understanding of the starting- and end-point and what happened in between, as well as continuous and frequent monitoring into the future.
Thanks to satellite imagery, we can easily understand whether there has been land consumption and how much the relationship between green areas and urbanisation has changed; the state of urban green spaces and how they contribute to mitigating environmental phenomena; and what phenomena have triggered a specific event, such as a flood or the failure of urban infrastructure in the past and activate the best monitoring systems to prevent them occurring in the future.
It’s one thing having the data and tools, though, and quite another ensuring they are accessible to those who need them. If they are to be truly effective, they need to be embedded in the daily operations of urban planners and decision-makers just like spreadsheets and email.
Thanks to satellite imagery, we can easily understand whether there has been land consumption and how much the relationship between green areas and urbanisation has changed
This thinking underpinned the development of Latitudo 40, which we describe as “a digital information factory in the cloud”. It can be accessed by a standard web browser and the processing made available through APIs that allow easy integration with existing spatial information systems. No special knowledge of data processing and geospatial analysis technologies is required and analyses provide a representation of the city with an easy-to-understand map, graphs and automated reports.
From this information, cities can set specific sustainability goals such as increasing green space per inhabitant, reducing the incidence of urban heat islands per inhabitant, and improving climate comfort in metropolitan suburbs. Every city can verify these goals and achievements via monitoring.
Our experience has made us realise that when it comes to data collection and reporting, city managers often allocate high-end budgets for consulting services that can stop with the creation of a static product. What’s needed going forward is a more agile approach facilitated by business models such as software-as-a-service (SaaS) and backed by real-time, accessible data and services. Only then will we be able to turn data into actionable information and use it to build more sustainable, resilient safer, healthier and greener cities.
Our growth challenges in cities globally are becoming more complex. Now more than ever, we need new solutions and creativity to help us shape more resilient and sustainable cities in the future.
For the first time in history, we have access to dynamic urban data to understand people’s collective behaviours in real time. If used, this expansive evidence base can help planners, designers, and decision-makers make more informed decisions about the future of our cities.
However, the timing dilemma is an obstacle in harnessing this data. While urban environments typically develop every 50 years, technology moves more rapidly, significantly improving every five years, creating a disparity between urban planning and urban living.
So how does the planning industry keep pace with digital technology to create sustainable outcomes? One way is to improve our relationship with the digital world and put trust and confidence in digital tools and innovative solutions.
Our cities are where urban planning and living come together. They are a super ‘neural network’ of interrelated systems. To create intelligent, responsive cities, urban development must embrace new possibilities using data and the internet of things (IoT).
Technology and data have never been more available. As a result, urban planning has a massive opportunity to unleash its full potential by investing more time and resources into harnessing data and digital planning.
Tools like the ‘digital twin’ are likely to become an indispensable part of future ‘urban infrastructure’, enabling the seamless integration of the ‘physical’ and ‘digital’ worlds and redefining how we plan.
Similarly, digital master planning is a framework to test thousands of options based on various variables and parameters to test failure, resilience, adaptative pathways, optimal living conditions, human health and welling, energy efficiency and more.
The planning industry must adapt to this changing paradigm, by matching the efforts and confidence invested in building the cloud system and IoT coverage, or risk being left behind.
To create intelligent, responsive cities, urban development must embrace new possibilities using data and the internet of things (IoT).
Projects worldwide show the value and credibility of digital tools to create growth and provide sustainable outcomes.
Cities urban tree canopy is a critical component of green infrastructure providing comfortable environments and reducing heat. Arup’s leading Urban tree canopy analysis used is a study for the City of Gold Coast, which uses a computer algorithm to determine the percentage of vegetation cover over different time intervals to show canopy changes.
Terrain is Arup’s bespoke artificial intelligence and land use analysis tool. It harnesses the power of data analytics, machine learning and automation to accurately digest large quantities of data and satellite imagery. Using this tool, we calculated seven cities’ sponginess by measuring the green and blue infrastructure areas to understand how cities can better use this infrastructure to face increasing threats from climate change – including heavy rainfall and extreme heat events.
Another Arup tool is the City Algorithm Tool (CAT) which tests hundreds of growth scenarios using different development and community value parameters to determine optimal outcomes for urban living. For example, Smakkelaarsveld in the Netherlands used algorithms to optimise the scheme design against multiple KPIs, including sustainability and environmental objectives.
Similarly, digital master planning can test site and precinct options based on various variables and parameters to test failure, resilience, adaptative pathways and optimal living conditions.
The last example, solar analysis helps test hundreds of layouts and orientations to achieve optimal living conditions and thermal comfort. For example, for Mahindra World City Jaipur, we used solar assessment tools to determine the optimal orientation for the plots and streets to provide thermal comfort in a hot climate.
Trust in the planning process is the foundation for our cities to take the best path to sustainable growth. Taking small, calculated risks in improving our digital capabilities now can lead to great rewards for our cities.
Read more on ARUP post.
The above image is of Tomorrow City.
Abdulmajeed Albalawi: We’re mainly focused on solving city challenges and improving quality of life for our citizens. In that way, there’s no contradiction between Madinah as a holy city and Madinah as a smart city. We see our smart city strategy as an enabler to meet the needs of the city and its people, and to create positive experiences for those people.
Our aim is to become more holistic and to introduce more tools that will serve our citizens. That extends to the holy elements of the city and people’s lives and will make the city more suitable for those needs.
Our objectives are to improve city life for all citizens and create new jobs and economic opportunities – for example, around start-ups and technology. These are the driving forces behind the projects that Madinah has taken on so far, and as we see it, one influences and helps to solve the other – improving quality of life leads to better opportunities and a better urban economy.
As part of this work, we’ve designed an engine to capture the challenges the city faces so we can more easily connect together the issues and needs with solutions, with a view to meeting our main objectives.
AA: We have challenges split into two sections – business and operational. In terms of business challenges, we’re aiming to reduce the unemployment rate in the city through the projects we launch, and improve the digital skills of the workforce as part of that.
On the operational side, we’re looking at how we break down siloes between departments and promote a more open mindset. It’s a clear challenge for a lot of cities that needs to be solved, and for Madinah we want to overcome it to ensure that everyone can work towards our smart city objectives in the right way.
We see our smart city strategy as an enabler to meet the needs of the city and its people, and to create positive experiences for those people
There are other challenges out in the city that we’re facing, too. Madinah’s status as a holy city means a lot of the activity in the city is centred around the Holy Mosque, both for residents and visitors from around the world. As a result, there is a constant flow of people in and around the mosque which we need to manage to cope with crowding in the centre of the city. To deal with this challenge, we have launched an incubator in partnership with universities, experts and start-ups from around the world.
The incubator will be dedicated to solving further urban challenges in Madinah, too, identifying and defining the issues being faced and then engaging in a continuous problem-solving process with experts to overcome them. It’s a unique proposition for the city to work in this way and to have potential solutions being recommended on a continual basis from international experts.
AA: Our technology partners are crucial in achieving our goals as a smart city. We’re currently working with FIWARE and using their technology to create our own smart city platform. Madinah is the first middle eastern city to make use of FIWARE’s platform. We chose FIWARE’s open platform because our objectives call for us to view Madinah from a ‘city as a system’ perspective, and to solve problems based on what the system is telling us.
We’re now creating our city as a system via the FIWARE platform, meaning we’re connecting the dots between Madinah’s services, operations and departments, and beginning to break down siloes to identify the right solutions to issues at the right time. We’re collecting data from all over the city and connecting it together to enable data analytics, which will be really important in how we work out the kinds of solutions we require.
The main benefit of breaking down these operational siloes is being able to better define issues and challenges, as we have much more context on the city and its operations as a whole. It’s crucial for Madinah to be able to work in this way, and the challenge with crowds at the holy mosque illustrate why; we need to understand where the problem originates so we can solve it at the source.
Another benefit is that Madinah’s city departments have been able to collaborate more often and more easily. In turn, that has meant we have been able to push towards our primary objectives more collectively.
Outside establishing the smart city platform through FIWARE’s technology, we’re now looking into smart lighting. We see connected streetlighting as the beginning of a nervous system for the city, able to gather data about the city and monitor pedestrian and traffic flow, as well as air quality. We’re also exploring how we can use the same infrastructure to promote messages and information to citizens through digital signage. The streetlights and all associated monitoring will feed back into the smart city platform to give us a more holistic view of the city and how it is operating.
We have recently signed an agreement to build a full-scale digital twin of Madinah using satellite imagery, becoming the first city in the Middle East to do so
Coming back to the crowd challenges around the holy mosque and the central area of the city, we’re also developing a simulator to model those crowds. We’re currently designing the model and later will deploy sensors in the city to gather data to be able to monitor crowds and simulate scenarios. This won’t necessarily be a full digital twin of the mosque, but will be a mirror for the movement within and around it, including parts of the city infrastructure and operations that have an impact on movement and crowding.
We have recently signed an agreement to build a full-scale digital twin of Madinah using satellite imagery, becoming the first city in the Middle East to do so. We’ll use the 3D model digital twin for urban planning, traffic management, crowd management and urban analytics across the entire city, not just the centre and the holy mosque. We anticipate that we’ll have a digital twin of the city in the next three months.
AA: Through all of this smart city work, it’s important that we also look to promote the city’s culture and history, so we’re assessing how we can use technology to bring that history back to life. Here, Madinah is looking to use a combination of augmented reality and digital twin technology to illustrate our history in a more dynamic and modern way, both for the benefit of citizens and visitors.
I think innovation is all about how to open doors to experiences and the city’s unknowns. Technology is a great enabler for Madinah’s heritage and culture and can help to show everyone in the city how its identity has developed to become what it is now. We’re not designing the city around technology, we’re designing it around experiences, and how those experiences can create stories to be shared among people. Madinah’s culture flows through that process and innovation just helps us to draw it out.