Being smart about the macro and the micro

Posted 31.05.17 in Insights

As an architect my focus has always been on buildings and the environment around them. Our linkage with the wider city is usually from a planning perspective relating to people movement or the like.

Buildings are part of the fabric of a city and whilst connected physically there is so much more we can say to connect infrastructure to buildings using already existing smart grids.

With the digital revolution which has engulfed property over the past 10 years increasingly buildings are becoming smart. 

Many of us in construction have focussed on the micro aspects of buildings however there is even more benefit to be realised if we include the city and its infrastructure at a macro level

Infrastructure has a profound effect on quality of life, but one that we only really appreciate when things do not work as well as they should. Anybody who has experienced a power cut, loss of internet or stuck in traffic knows the impact on every aspect of life.

Cities are growing by 1.5 million people per week and by 2050 more than two thirds of the global population will live in cities up from a third in 1950. As cities grow, the way we build and manage infrastructure has never been more critical to economic and social development.

The world is increasingly becoming dominated by cities, sometimes above countries or even regions. In the UK we only have to look at the dominance of London. In five years its population has grown by an additional 469,000 people to 8.2 million. In 10 years time it is predicted the population will reach 10 million. Today the total UK population is 65 million which puts into perspective the dominance of the capital.

To put into context the impact of cities, London is only the 22nd largest city in the world however it is the 5th most influential economically.

Now the number of connected devices has surpassed the number of humans on the planet. These intelligent devices generate massive amounts of data transforming life and business across all sectors. However, much infrastructure has yet to be transformed by the information age. Instead, in most places not only are buildings not connected but neither are; trains, power systems, buses, or roads. 

Some cities are starting their journey to a smart city by looking at some isolated systems. Smart cards are being increasingly used for travel for example. Smart power grids are balancing power supply at certain times.

We are seeing retail and leisure linking to digital infrastructure to assist the visitor to a city. There is also a huge amount of monitoring of environmental data being recorded in cities be it climate, noise etc. In time people will start to comment on things and find value in this information and data.

We only need to see the number of features which have been added to google maps in recent years. You can even visit any city in the world using VR. 

This is not going to happen overnight but over the next 20 years we will see infrastructure, buildings and people linked dynamically.

Rob Charlton, CEO, Space Group