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Smart business needs smart city

The seamless connectivity between smart city applications and smart buildings can create a completely connected, smart and efficient business world, leading to energy and resource efficiency, says BRENDAN YOUNG of Johnson Controls.

We are globally experiencing some common challenges such as a shortage of energy, water and other resources, which are crucial to sustain our cities and homes. In order to conserve these scarce resources and minimise the impact on the environment, a more ‚controlled’ approach is required where there is significantly less wastage. By controlling excessive use and waste, we can lessen the need to find alternative sources.

Johnson Controls is using technology to help win this battle. Our technology is getting smarter at reducing waste and improving efficiency. Smart technology also ushers in a host of other benefits that promise to take our world into a whole new dimension of Smart Buildings and Smart Cities.

Smart Technology promises to deliver a better quality of life by automating the built environment and extending connectivity. It will also enhance functionality that will change the way we work and conduct business, and digitise the way we interact socially. Automation is at the heart of this technology with intelligent appliances and building equipment at the edge, all interconnected to smart communications system.

Smart Technology applications called Smart Grids and Smart Power Networks are just a few of the groundbreaking solutions to emerge recently that provide for better control over wasted resources. This Smart Technology also delivers the means to improve energy efficiency at various levels of city and building infrastructure.

One such ‚Smart’ application uses the existing power line infrastructure of the city distribution grid to network all the demand loads and responding generation supplies. This includes upgrading the point of interconnection onto the grid with the installation of intelligent computerised control devices. These devices communicate with each other and with master systems, providing a city-wide level of control over energy and waste. The application provides other smart benefits such as automatic meter reading, high speed data and voice communication and granular energy control. It also provides a backhaul data super highway for gigabit internet connectivity that supports social feed applications and more.

However, functioning within the expanded ‚smart city’ are smart buildings that combine automation, smart communication and smart appliances into the commercial or home space. These use resources intelligently to reduce their carbon footprints, lowering energy usage and helping businesses to achieve sustainability goals. At this level, smart applications use the existing power reticulation infrastructure within buildings to enable a smart building to deliver granular control down to the switchboard and appliance level (even up to every light bulb, switch socket or electrical device). These devices can be managed intelligently and networked through to a building management system or a home controller. The systems run independently of each other and continue operating even if the power circuits are switched off, delivering a reliable, uninterruptable solution which saves energy by switching off all unnecessary appliances and controlling the duration of energy usage. Another benefit of the smart building solution is to delivering faster (gigabit), more efficient media and social communication capability.

When viewed in isolation, these technologies have significant benefits both for cities and buildings. However the true power of smart applications only emerges once the two are combined. Seamless connectivity between smart city applications and smart buildings can potentially create a completely connected, smart and efficient world where all devices communicate constantly for the greatest energy and resource efficiency, right down to individual light bulbs in every home. When this is used in conjunction with renewable energy solutions that incorporate intelligent energy storage devices, the smart city can potentially move the focus away from the traditional centrally generated energy supply that we know today, towards micro decentralised solutions that can operate collaboratively in combination with sustainable sources of energy at the edge of the grid.

People are becoming more aware of the need for greater levels of sustainability and eco-consciousness, as well as the need for more effective planning to deal with growing populations around the globe. Saving energy and becoming more efficient are of the utmost importance globally and in particular in South Africa where energy and water resource prices continue to climb. Along with this, regulatory bodies are beginning to adopt tougher carbon reduction and environmental impact compliance standards. In light of this it is vital for organisations to begin looking at initiatives to reduce their base operating cost and optimise efficiency. This can help to produce a significant and sustainable difference in bottom line earnings while keeping up with customer demand and global trends. The idea of the smart city emerged as a solution to all of these needs, using technological intelligence to improve quality of life and economic wellbeing.

The expanded smart city concept features a smarter, more intelligently designed city infrastructure that enables all elements to work in harmony with each other and the environment. It combines elements such as economic development, transportation, social services, education, public safety, healthcare and energies into a holistic entity that uses resources more efficiently and provides a sustainable way of living for the populations of the future. Improving building efficiency and adopting green business and building standards such as those promoted by the smart city concept, as well as implementing smart technology, are the first steps in achieving the goal of reducing waste.

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