Why we should be taking 'smart cities' seriously

Paul flatt bw 2018

The UK could do worse than starting to take the advent of ‘smart cities’ seriously. If nothing else it could make businesses more efficient and the lives of residents, commuters and visitors more tolerable

Business buzzwords and phrases come and go with monotonous regularity. Many seem to have a life-cycle little longer than that of a dragonfly. They are overused and their value overstated for a few months before floundering - spent and largely forgotten. ‘Scaleup’, ‘shrinkflation’, ‘nowcast’ have all thankfully had their time in the sun.

For those working in the built environment sector though there is one such buzzword that refuses to die, probably because it has some evidential weight behind it.

‘Smart’ may not be the smartest of monikers but it has seen itself attached to some of the latest developments in the design, construction and working of the built environment in recent years. First we had ‘Smart Buildings’ now we have ‘smart cities’.

The thinking behind these labels is that with the amount of technology we have available in and around our buildings they can be used more efficiently. For example, a typical newly built commercial office building in the centre of London can be loaded with sensors controlling its environment – sensors to automatically open window vents if it gets too warm, pulse the heating if an area gets too cold, control light levels, limit sound reverberation, increase sound reverberation. It will have already been built to some of the world’s highest energy efficiency requirements because that is what the market demands these days, so now not only is the building envelope itself incredibly energy efficient – often to such an extent that it can become an energy source rather than a consumer – but its occupiers can control and shape that environment to such a degree that they can maximise the working efficiency of their staff. By harnessing the power of the Internet of Things (IoT) companies can plot which areas of their office is used more often and by whom, enabling them to tailor resources such as janitorial, cleaning and identify areas where it can specifically match areas of an office to the requirements of each member of staff.

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