In the face of the ongoing digital transformation and looming climate crisis, new ways of using technology to make our lives more sustainable are being explored all the time. In recent years, politics, urban planning, and engineering have focus...
In the face of the ongoing digital transformation and looming climate crisis, new ways of using technology to make our lives more sustainable are being explored all the time. In recent years, politics, urban planning, and engineering have focused on one topic in particular: smart cities and smart homes.
Smart cities represent common concepts with the goal of making towns and cities more efficient, greener, and better places to live. The innovations in technology that are part and parcel of economic and social changes aim to make the urban environment more attractive for residents.
Berlin, for example, has already been following a smart city strategy since April 2015, with goals that include creating a pilot market for innovative applications, using resources more efficiently, and making Berlin climate-neutral by 2050.
Smart products – the foundation of Industry 4.0
Intelligent and digitally networked systems are fundamental to Industry 4.0, since they are intended to enable self-organized production and optimize the entire supply chain. Smart products are absolutely essential when it comes to implementing such systems. Companies use smart products to
adapt their production processes to individual customer needs,
offer digital additional services for products, and
But what makes a product smart, and how does a smart product work? Chips, microprocessors, and embedded systems make products capable of collecting and communicating data during their manufacturing and utilization phase. Cyber-physical systems form the basis of this, as they enable products and manufacturing equipment to mutually communicate via the Internet of Things (IoT). From a production perspective, that has the following advantages:
Greater productivity and efficiency
Transparent and flexible response to deviations in the production system
Profitable manufacturing of customized products
Smart products will find their way into many new application fields and thus enormously influence future business models. Humans, machines, and resources will increasingly work together in a network and revolutionize industrial processes.
Smart cities – there is no one role model
Urban planning in the future will not just be limited to a single smart city concept; the challenges that lie ahead are too complex and diverse for that. Each town or city also has individual requirements that have to be considered.
Smart approaches are already being implemented in some places, such as sensors that facilitate intelligent traffic management, thus reducing traffic congestion and exhaust gas emissions. Other examples include flexible car sharing options, charging points for electric cars, and parking spaces fitted with sensors to help drivers avoid hunting for somewhere to park. The topic of mobility is already a priority in many urban living spaces. In order to support renewable energy sources, many towns and cities are installing solar panels on the roofs of public buildings.
The roll-out of smart cities will only succeed if a high-performance IT infrastructure is also put in place. Along with the increasing numbers of technologies being used, stable and fast connections are also required for a myriad of computers, smartphones, and smartwatches. At the same time, all this data has to be kept secure, without the potential for any breaches.
Responsive cities = smart cities 2.0?
The concept of a responsive city is a fresh iteration of the smart city and is shorthand for a place that prioritizes the needs and requirements of its residents. Although responsive cities also rely on extensive networking and sensors, they are different from smart cities because residents can also access the sensors to control digital technologies in their neighborhood. Using an app to turn on the streetlights when they are needed, or to tell the garbage collection service that the trash bin does not need to be emptied are examples of scenarios that provide specific added value and encourage sustainability.
Can you imagine using your smartphone to help shape the cityscape around you? Residents of Zurich can use an app as a convenient way to report damage to the infrastructure – a win-win situation for both sides. The city council is informed about damage as soon as it happens and can take prompt action to repair it. And sending a message takes very little effort for residents, so they are more motivated to communicate issues and help shape the cityscape. Just like with smart cities, however, the challenge is to manage the huge quantities of data that are involved, while making sure that the data itself cannot be misused.
Smart homes & smart building: in line with smart cities
While smart city strategies are still being developed in many places, smart solutions have been part of everyday life in the home for some time now. From controlling lights and sound systems with voice commands to refrigerators that keep track of their contents and automatically reorder products when they run out, smart homes represent the efficient and sustainable lifestyle of the future.
Smart building, in contrast, involves digitalizing entire buildings, such as installing building electronics that save energy on a large scale. Real-time data can be used to map the energy consumed by heating and ventilation systems, household electric appliances, or cooling systems and tailor their management to individual usage behavior. Intelligent buildings can also generate and store their own energy and make a long-term contribution to sustainable design.
How will digitalization transform cities? Until now, smart cities would have been the answer given by many experts to this question, but a new concept has now emerged: responsive cities, in other words cities where the residents rule.
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