Visionary urban solutions involve more than smart technology. The intelligent and respectful use of developments like Big Data is more important. For example, we can improve public transport systems by using mobile phone location data to map commuter transport patterns. Better transport is just one way of enhancing the quality of urban life; others include stimulating leisure activities, developing green and blue public spaces and establishing an attractive business environment.
Extract information and improve sustainability
How does all this link to smart technology, though? We gain a great deal of information about consumer lifestyle from intelligent information technology. Extracting this information enables us to improve productivity, sustainability and cost-efficiency on a large scale, for example when it comes to energy and district heating grids. Infrastructural solutions and public transport offer alternative options for optimizing the large-scale effects of city planning.
In Greater Copenhagen more than one million inhabitants are connected to an integrated district heating grid. The grid is connected to the multifuel combined heat and power facilities at Avedore and Amager, to large heat storages tanks, to three waste for energy CHP plants (Combined heat and power) and to local peak boilers, all located in city districts dedicated for technical installations. The consumers simply use the heat they need with the help from thermostatic valves, whereas the district heating transmission companies optimise the total heat production hour by hour in central control and monitoring centers. As a result, almost 95% of the heat is produced by the most efficient CHP plants responding on the electricity market. This would be impossible without computerized smart technological solutions.
Too complex solutions
Solutions can also be too smart – or rather too complex. When designing buildings, we have to ensure a person does not need a Ph.D. to operate the indoor climate panels. We are only human. Still, it would be foolish NOT to incorporate intelligent facades on buildings reacting to sun and wind. After all, they reduce energy consumption and generate long-term environmental and economic benefits.
The age of complexity
Today energy, waste, transport, climate change and environmental challenges are interlinked dimensions of urban life. Grasping this complexity requires a multidimensional approach to future-proof urban solutions.
Mobility, for instance, means more than moving people from A to B, it also involves mitigating environmental impact, reducing noise and congestion and optimising safety, growth and productivity for society in general. Holism is the answer to solutions that can benefit every individual in a city. Smart concepts for improved liveability are all about the bigger picture.