- Project plans
- Project activities
- Legislation and standards
- Industry context
Last edited 04 Jul 2019
The key trends making our cities greener, safer and smarter
A number of industry trends are driving this global transformation, including the development of networked sensors, machine-to-machine communications, data analytics, real-time decision making, and transactive energy systems, while providing communities with the benefits of improved efficiency and resilience.
 Networked sensors
Technology exists today to mimic all five of the human senses plus many additional ones and integrate the data into various computerised monitoring and management systems. Whether 'seeing' security incidents through video surveillance, 'hearing' gun shots through audio processing, or 'smelling' polluted air through chemical and particulate detectors, networked arrays of sensors provide the basis for more accurate analysis and decision-making.
The same networked video camera in a retail store that can detect an after-hours' intrusion can also track the total number of shoppers in the store, determine if there are more shoppers buying sweaters or bathing suits, call for additional cashiers at the check-out line and even communicate with the building management system to adjust the store temperatures, lighting and ventilation based on occupancy to save energy (and sell more sweaters).
 Machine-to-machine communications
While people have been connected to other people and their various software applications via the internet for many years, people are now able to connect to everyday devices such as thermostats, door locks and lights from anywhere at any time. The devices can also talk to themselves, either individually or as part of integrated systems, providing greater functionality and efficiency.
Hospitals use about three times as much energy as a similarly sized office building due to 24×7 operations and energy intensive processes such as operating room conditioning. A typical surgical suite is unoccupied 70-80% of the time during the week and up to 95% on weekends.
By integrating the building management system with the surgical scheduling system and electronic patient records, excess energy used to condition, pressurise and ventilate the operating room can be reduced when unoccupied, saving an average of US$6,000 per year while delivering and documenting safer and more comfortable conditions.
The use of analytics is also a key trend and is often associated with the term 'big data'. Indeed, the process of translating raw data into useful insight and action is a key to delivering smarter capabilities for buildings, communities and cities.
The new Stanford University central energy facility is an example of the latest trends in advanced analytics. The central energy system is managed by an enterprise optimisation system that automatically creates predictive models of hourly campus heating and cooling requirements seven days in advance.
The model predictive control system then uses weather forecasts and predictions of hourly energy pricing from the utility to optimise the control of heat recovery chillers and the dispatch of hot and chilled water storage. The system is projected to save US$420 million over the next 35 years and can operate in a fully automated real-time manner.
The real-time implementation of advanced sensing and analytics allows continuous optimisation of building, energy, transportation and infrastructure systems resulting in greater operational and resource efficiency.
Real-time traffic management works by measuring the traffic flow through an intersection and then automatically adjusting cycle lengths, splits and offsets between intersections to maximise throughput, minimise delays and reduce the number of stops.
Other smart city transportation applications include London’s CCTV-based system with more than 1,500 cameras that monitor and manage incidents and events 24-hours a day and Singapore’s 9km tunnel management system, which monitors more than 25,000 devices. Visitors to Singapore might remember its innovative real-time parking management system from well over a decade ago.
Transactive energy systems are another industry trend in which software applications allow energy producers and consumers (aka prosumers) to use distributed energy resources to bid the generation or reduction of power into the electricity market.
An early 2006 pilot project in Washington State involved 100 home owners and a few commercial/industrial facilities who were given detailed information on real-time and historical appliance energy-use and the opportunity to preprogramme specific actions in response to real-time pricing information.
A more recent pilot project connected 11 utilities and 60,000 electricity customers to specific nodes of the Pacific Northwest’s power grid. Every five minutes, the nodes communicated the delivered cost of electricity, plus a prediction of how much electricity would be needed over the coming minutes, hours and days.
One growing concern of highly interconnected systems, such as the electric power grid, is the risk of cybersecurity breaches. While individuals have always been at financial and privacy risk from their use of the Internet, interconnected devices and systems communicating and operating autonomously over networks raise significant safety and security concerns. The cybersecurity of critical infrastructure and the IoT is currently being addressed by a number of government bodies and business alliances.
 Improving efficiency
Improving efficiency continues to be an important driver for smart city investment. These drivers include operational, resource and economic efficiency improvements across a variety of urban systems and infrastructure.
In 2016, Johnson Controls completed its tenth Energy Efficiency Indicator (EEI) survey of more than 1,200 organisations with commercial, institutional and industrial facilities in Brazil, China, Germany, India and the United States. In the study, 72% of organisations said they were planning to increase energy efficiency and renewable energy investments in the next year.
Resilience is also a key driver, with 82% of organisations reporting that the ability to maintain critical operations during severe weather events or extended power outages is very or extremely important when considering future infrastructure investments.
Many of the technologies which make our built environment more efficient and sustainable also make it more resilient. Following Superstorm Sandy, building owners were surprised that their solar panels did not generate power due to a safety disconnect from the electrical grid. In response to this and other drivers, 62% of surveyed organisations said they are very or extremely likely to have one or more facilities able to operate off the grid in the next 10 years.
To prepare for the future, we must create 'smarter' cities with buildings and communities that incorporate highly efficient designs with advanced envelopes, lighting, heating and cooling equipment, the use of renewable or distributed energy resources, the addition of battery electric/thermal storage and the ability to safely 'island' operations from the power grid.
These cities will accelerate the industry trend towards net zero energy when their buildings and communities produce more energy than they consume from the grid over the course of a year. These cities will also be able to provide their residents with critical services during emergencies including food, water, shelter, the refrigeration of medical supplies and the charging of medical instruments.
While there has been significant technology innovation driving smart cities, there has also been considerable innovation in financial models to support the required technology, efficiency and resiliency investments.
These new business models allow energy savings, utility incentives, demand response and grid regulation payments to be considered in energy performance contracts (retrofits) or public-private partnerships (new construction) making infrastructure improvements more affordable for governments, businesses and residents.
Industry trends, including innovative financial models and leading edge technology including networked sensors, the Internet of Things, real-time analytics and transactive energy systems, are key enablers driving the global transformation to safer, smarter and more sustainable cities.
Written by Alex Molinaroli, Chairman and CEO, Johnson Controls.
 Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki
- 2050 and the Future of Infrastructure.
- Big data.
- Engineering resilience to human threats.
- How business can bridge the infrastructure gap.
- How to utilise technology in construction projects.
- Industry Disruption: 10 ways real estate is changing.
- Internet of things.
- Smart cities.
- Smart homes will be smarter than you think.
- Smart technology.
--Future of Construction 14:30, 20 Jun 2017 (BST)
Featured articles and news
Public engagement in London Borough of Enfield's heritage strategy.
Engineering services in the spotlight.
The Government's Summer 2020 economic update.
Getting organised below the surface.
Securing suitable water systems.
Love them or hate them, they are popping up everywhere.
The initiative to enhance the environment continues.
Could underused community spaces offer an alternative to working from home?
Keeping workers and workplaces safe in the United States.
A history lesson in geographic information systems.
A low tech, easy to use method of extinguishing small fires.
How can these valued spaces be reused?