Smart Cities – intelligent solutions for future generations

Many of the building blocks for creating smart cities are already available. It is an ongoing evolution rather than a disruptive change.

In 2009, for the first time in history, more people lived in cities than in rural areas. According to the United Nations, by 2030, 70 percent of the world’s population is expected to live in cities. The largest growth areas are expected to occur in Asia and developing countries.

City inhabitants already consume 75 percent of the planet’s resources and contribute to urban activities responsible for 80 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions. The looming question is then, what does this population shift mean for the sustainability of the world’s future generations?

I recently participated in the VDE Congress 2014 in Frankfurt, Germany and had the opportunity to discuss smart cities with other industry leaders. VDE, the German association for electrical, electronic and information technologies, has taken an active role in facilitating dialog between industries and users for the development of technology and standardization roadmaps. Under the motto “Intelligent solutions for future generations” this year’s VDE congress provided an expert network and highly-visible platform to discuss the entire spectrum of challenges and solutions around smart cities—from infrastructure, services, planning and  implementation, key technologies, capabilities, standardization, testing, and transport logistics to analysis of networks and data analysis, and security and safety.

Technology to help decouple economic growth from environmental pollution

How we can best shape the future of our living spaces is a global concern, impacting every one of us. And questioning how we can continue to improve the quality of life for the world’s population while minimizing the environmental impact has created an international call for action. How we meet these two goals poses huge challenges. But the challenges also bring enormous opportunities for sustainable development through innovative and intelligent infrastructures. However, this requires an integrated planning and implementation of city structures and infrastructures using not only existing solutions but also developing new technical and organizational possibilities.

An effective way to meet these challenges is to use technology to monitor, optimize and control key systems and infrastructures in a more intelligent way—to operate as a smart city. ABB is actively communicating the merits of smart cities to public decision makers and business leaders as a way of reconciling the apparent contradiction of growth and sustainability.

A toolbox of smart solutions for cities

Many of the building blocks for creating smart cities are already available. What we are talking about is more an ongoing evolution than a disruptive change. It is important to keep in mind that all cities are different, therefore there is not one smart city concept, but rather a toolbox of solutions available to help cities serve their citizens better. But to achieve this city authorities need to be aware of all the technological opportunities available in this rapidly evolving environment. One group trying to address this need is the Smart Cities Council, which serves as an advisor and market accelerator promoting the move to smart sustainable cities.

There are still many questions to answer, but what is crystal clear now: our cities can only become smarter through the power of collaboration and a shared vision. All companies involved in the fields of energy, mobility, communication, health, safety and the industrial Internet (referred to in Germany as Industry 4.0) need to work together and take advantage of the great opportunities in terms of technical advances and synergies. Only through cooperation across industries, systems and disciplines will we be able to implement intelligent systems for smart cities and achieve a successful solution.

The interest and awareness that was seen throughout the VDE congress was exciting and thought provoking and indicates that we are on our way to meeting the challenge of sustainability.

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About the author

Jochen Kreusel

I lead the Industry Segment Initiative "Smart Grids" in ABB and I am a member of the Steering Committee of the European Technology Platform for Electricity Networks of the Future – short ETP Smart Grids. From 2008 to 2013, I was Chairman of the Power Engineering Society of VDE. Furthermore, I am an honorary professor at the RWTH Aachen and one of the four Vice presidents of T&D Europe, the European Association of the Electricity Transmission and Distribution Equipment and Services Industry, in charge of Energy Policy and chair of T&D Europe’s Energy Policy Working Group.
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