Energy efficiency and security: two major challenges for smart cities
By Franck Ladegaillerie, Assystem Marketing and Sales Director and David Lacombled, President of La villa numeris
By 2033, it is estimated that 5 billion people will be living in urban areas, compared with 3 billion in 2006. This massive scale-up requires a total rethink of building management systems both in actual construction projects and more generally in urban planning, raising two major issues for smart cities: energy efficiency and security.
Connected buildings: new ways of thinking about production and energy consumption
Energy poses a huge challenge: in France, 43% of energy is consumed by buildings, while our country is committed to a 75% reduction in greenhouse gases.
Of course there is already an arsenal of regulations inspired by new constraints. And in fact low energy buildings are now becoming the norm, whether they are called Low Consumption Building (LCB), High Environmental Quality (HQE) or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED). In addition, it should be noted that clients – be they individuals, companies or local authorities – are proving increasingly sensitive to environmental or energy-saving issues and factor these concerns into their projects.
However, smart cities raise the challenge of an entire eco-metropolis in which all buildings respond to a coordinated vision of energy. The technological leap of smart cities makes it possible to rethink how we produce and consume energy.
The added value that engineering can provide is the ability to audit a single building as well as an entire city, and offer architects the most efficient and cost-effective solutions both in terms of materials and information and electronics systems by integrating them into a coherent whole, not just at the scale of the building but of the city as a whole.
This opens up a vast arena of innovations. We are already capable of creating self-sufficient buildings in terms of energy production. We also know microgeneration boilers can be used as a single system to produce both heat and electricity. But tomorrow we will need to ensure that the unconsumed energy produced by one building can be consumed by neighbouring buildings. We can recover caloric energy to heat public and private spaces. We also know how to store unconsumed bulk energy as gas by creating interconnections between electrical and gas grids.
Reliable buildings: the dual challenge of security and safety
Another key issue is safety. In a town or city where everything is interconnected we will need to design infrastructures for safer and more secure buildings and objects.
First, they need to be secure to preserve not only the building’s integrity but also all its data. The aim here is to protect against malicious acts, since breaking into a computer system that controls critical functions can have disastrous consequences.
They also need to be reliable so that whatever the nature of an event or incident, the system keeps functioning properly. Connected systems require service continuity.
This is an exciting equation for engineers. It means continuing to develop ever more efficient but also reliable technologies, ensuring that they remain operational and well-maintained and capable of delivering service continuity in a context of increased security risks.
Combined intelligence: systems approaches and hypervision
However, in the logic of smart cities, environmental and security issues are interrelated, and form part of the same intelligence. Today a building must be able to combine the intelligence involved in occupation, the production of heat or cold, access control systems, home automation, security, and more.
And indeed, the future depends on our ability to develop systemic approaches to the city that rationalise rather than multiply functions. A presence sensor in a building can be used both to trigger alarms and calculate the energy required to heat the common areas; a camera at an urban crossroads can help monitor offenses as well as control dipped-beam headlights to better manage traffic flows.
The challenge of centralization is crucial, and this is the task of hypervision. It involves ensuring access to the entire mass of centralized information rather than trying to make several different systems coexist year in year out that are sometimes unable to communicate with each other. As well as making the systems inter-consistent, this makes it possible to have intelligent systems that can provide real-time action scenarios for all or part of the infrastructure and managed systems.
Whether it consists of energy management or security, the goal of smart cities will be to design systems that are powerful, coherent and easy to use.
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