“Smart Cities & Circular Economy to succeed must match the acceptance level of their specific Society’s Culture. Over-ambitious Initiatives can damage the effort more and for far longer than inaction. The Sustainability effort is a generational Marathon race, not a Sprint”
Sustainability is not a given, in Nature. – This is significantly more valid in human endeavors.
A City is a living machine.
Like every other machine, the City-machine consumes energy and pollutes.
Cities currently consume 60% of the world’s energy, generating 70% of greenhouse gas emissions and global waste.
They also produce 80% of the Global GDP.
Emissions of global warming carbon-dioxide, increased 2.7 percent to all-time record levels, in 2018.
The City-machine, like any other machine, is not sustainable by itself.
What is even more important, with the current growth pace, is that the problem can neither be solved incrementally nor we have a cut and dry solution.
Cities to survive in the past were built by the river, by the sea and with some access to energy. They ensured their sustainability as centers of production, commerce or administration, with the direct use and later abuse of what the surrounding nature provided.
Abuse of Nature though is unbalancing Nature with the known dire consequences.
The traditional parameters mentioned above are not anymore enough to guarantee the sustainability of a City.
The scales have already tipped. More than 55% of the World’s population lives in Cities and the number is continuously rising. Life in a City can only be sustained through Technology. The more functioning the available Technology, the more quality of life a City possesses.
The primary requirement for a City to exist is Energy, the demand of which is continuously increasing both totally and per capita.
The sustainability and quality of life in a City is defined by the availability and cost of Energy, while the winning strategy is the one that aims in the optimization of its Energy use.
In the 21st Century, optimal use of everything is a necessity.
There are four primary and interconnected parameters where optimization is mandatory in a City:
Energy efficiency – Transport – Communication – Environment
The first three items, when digitally managed, are covered by the collective name, Smart City.
The fourth, which also has a smart component, depends strongly on political will and the Circular Economy.
The term “Smart City” connotes creating a public/private infrastructure to conduct activities that protect and secure citizens. The concept of Smart Cities integrates communications (5G), transportation, energy, water resources, waste collections, smart-building technologies, security technologies, and services. They are the cities of the future.
Smart Cities are conceived, designed and subsequently developed. The two fundamental parameters to take under consideration are the priority of Smart City Services, required by its Citizens, as well as, the Digital Gap between the great majority of the Citizens and their administration.
The Design and implementation of Smart City processes is not a top-down affair but a top initiated planning. It is based on Citizens and all other Stakeholders participation and agile implementation, which is in turn based on a carefully monitored continuous feedback loop.
IoT is the cog of Smart Cities that integrates these resources, technologies, services, and infrastructure. The research firm Frost & Sullivan estimates the combined global market potential of Smart City segments (transportation, healthcare, building, infrastructure, energy, and governance) to be $1.5 Trillion ($20B by 2050 on sensors alone according to Navigant Technology).
5G combined with IoT will radically change Society.
A Smart City optimizes three main parameters:
- Efficient energy consumption,
- Efficient mobility and
- Fast and easy communication
It has not been generally understood that the Technologies needed to run a Smart City exist only partially. Digital and connective Technologies are 2-5 years away from their integrated practical application.
A “City Brain” Technology is emerging and will be fully functional in the next 2-3 years.
A Smart City can only function with a large-scale computing platform endowed with AI. Dynamic and real-time urban infrastructure data, on traffic, water, electricity and air quality will be analyzed in this platform, to optimize the vital City Life parameters.
A Smart City will properly function only when 5G will be operationally available.
Hyperconnectivity is a matter of evolution. It’s not just the super-high bandwidth, and ultra-low latency in data communications. 5G will reduce the cost of data by 10x lower per GB compared to 4G.
It’s evident that to implement cognitive integrated solutions with (near) Real-Time AI response (notification & alerting system), either for marketing with geofences or for security purposes, 5G is a must in the overall planning. With 5G the progress will massively bloom, but we already see significant advances and achievements.
1. Efficient Energy consumption.
As mentioned, +55% of the world’s population currently resides in cities, and the urbanizing trend isn’t likely to slow down; by 2030, 60% of humanity will be city-dwellers. Furthermore, it has been found that a strong relationship exists between economic prosperity and individual energy consumption. This challenge, if it’s not handled, will cause various problems not just due to Carbon Gas Emissions but also to the resource-hungry nationwide electricity system.
In smart cities, autonomous energy microgrids are a basic part of the solution. In Fujisawa Sustainable Smart Town west of Tokyo in Japan, more than 1,000 homes are connected to a solar-powered smart grid, giving the neighborhood the ability to run off-grid for up to three days. Thus, the Fujisawa project is a thriving community with 70% less carbon emitted and a 30% return of energy back to the grid.
Decentralized energy production via energy communities is another solution. In this case, Smart Grids will help distribution systems keep pace with the deeper integration of intermittent renewables such as wind and solar, and where smart city projects will be investigating how intelligent, connected local energy storage systems can support more renewables on the grid.
Smart metering & Energy Exchange is the key tools of this concept. However, the most important tools to achieve energy efficiency are the economic ones.
Each city has its own challenges and only tailor-made solutions can be developed on a case by case approach. The tools exist, what is needed is the right management that will combine solutions with new policies and complex financial schemes.
2. Efficient (smart) mobility
In a Smart City people should move around quickly, easily, and with minimal carbon emissions.
Public transit is becoming more of a problem while Private transport impedes mobility. The issues are well known: Diminution of direct and indirect transport cost, increases in ridership & new infrastructure.
As Transport becomes more difficult in Cities, Public Transport must combine with Private Transport so as to improve the mobility of Citizens. The right mobility formula depends on access, convenience, cost, finance, regulation and environmental impact.
A possible solution to this, originating from Europe is the Smart Urban Mobility Plan (SUMP) that we have analytically described in our DVK article. SUMP foresees the balanced development of all relevant transport modes while encouraging a shift toward more sustainable modes like e-mobility and carbon free solutions. Public transport, micromobility non-motorized transport (walking & cycling), intermodality and door-to-door mobility, urban road safety, flowing and stationary road transport, urban logistics, mobility management, and Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS) can all be part of a strategic planning for the sustainable cities of tomorrow.
So, cities have to integrate new private mobility services into their transportation systems through partnerships and Smart mobility. New smart mobility services must be introduced into urban transportation systems by combining local character, policies and innovative technologies.
3. Fast and easy communication
As mentioned above, a Smart City will properly function when 5G will be operationally available. Automatic transport, SUMP and many other technologies available can only properly function in a 5G environment, which will start in 2020.
Hyperconnectivity is matter of evolution. It’s not just the super-high bandwidth, and ultra-low latency in data communications.
IoT – is the cog of Smart Cities that integrates resources, technologies, services and infrastructure.
To develop energy efficiency and smart mobility in a smart city a ton of sensors are required. This isn’t an easy task. In our Microservices Approach article we describe the way where one can “govern” 6.000 sensors, in a secure & scalable way.
Cisco, predicts that 50 billion devices (including our smartphones, appliances and office equipment) will be wirelessly connected via a network of sensors to the internet by 2020.
Clearly only 5G technology can handle the enormous number of sources and data transmitted through the sources. Connection density will be the total number of devices per unit area: 1million/sq.km
The communication among sensors (the so-called Machine-to-Machine) suffers from huge segmentation in the protocols. More specifically everyone is focusing in the “Things” part of the “Internet-of-Things” and forget the “Internet-of”.
The whole ecosystem of IoT devices hasn’t managed to be regulated and standards haven’t been adopted. Devices need to be smarter and more cognitive. Devices should automatically identify themselves in the network, logging in & out, automatically stop to reduce consumption, communicate with other devices in a secure manner. Their statuses and their control should be always in the ownership of manager.
Possibly the greatest challenge threatening a City is the disposal of its Waste production.
Cities increase their waste production continuously. Disposal is a short-term option only. Recycling is the next step but the real achievement to guarantee the Sustainability of a City is the Circular Economy where Waste is recycled and reintroduced in the Production as either raw material or Energy.
According to the World Bank: “Around the world, waste generation rates are rising. In 2016, the world’s cities generated 2.01 billion tons of solid waste, amounting to a footprint of 0.74 kilograms per person per day. With rapid population growth and urbanization, annual waste generation is expected to increase by 70% from 2016 levels to 3.40 billion tones in 2050.’’
Waste management is only the first step. Waste valorization is the aim.
Waste management and waste valorization rest on four pillars (Legal & Regulatory Framework):
- Legal & Regulatory
1. Legal & Regulatory Framework
This is the basis for any Waste Management and Circular Economy activity.
The Legal & Regulatory work must be based in a State’s Culture not its Strategy.
Great Waste Management strategies can be resisted by ethnic cultures – “culture eats strategy for breakfast”.
The first thing that the lawmaker has to examine is the degree of civic cooperation that can be expected by its Citizens.
There is nothing worse than a, partially adhered to, law.
This means that the laws and regulations must be produced incrementally using simultaneously and massively multi-channel Communication to influence and steer Culture.
The selected Technologies must also match Culture. They must consider every Citizen as a Customer and be used in such a way that the Citizen feels both moral and material satisfaction from using them.
Although many Waste Management companies attempt to reduce their costs by obliging the Citizen to do a lot of primary waste separation work, this does not work in practice.
The key is one word: easy
It is only when separation of Organic from non-Organic Waste is more than 80% successful, that the next step can be massively imposed.
Separating plastic is the next step.
The global environmental damage of plastics is well documented. As Jamie Wilson observed, of the overall 8.3 billion tons of plastic we’ve churned out to date, 91% has not been recycled. We also know that plastics are in our intestines and our blood, further to the damage done to our environment.
The most prevalent plastics are polyethylene terephthalate, known as PET, and polypropylene — components of food packaging and water bottles.
The great work, Plastics by the Numbers, written in 2012 by Greg Seaman offers a clear guidance to the subject.
It is useful to repeat here it’s introduction:
“Within each chasing arrows triangle, there is a number which ranges from one to seven. The purpose of the number is to identify the type of plastic used for the product, and not all plastics are recyclable or even reusable. There are numerous plastic-based products that cannot break down and cannot be recycled.
Plastic resin codes:
Understanding the seven plastic codes will make it easier to choose plastics and to know which plastics to recycle. For example, water bottles that display a three or a five cannot be recycled in most jurisdictions in the US. A three indicates that the water bottle has been made from polyvinyl chloride, a five means that it’s been made of polypropylene, two materials are not accepted by most public recycling centers.”
Paper is the next material to be recycled in bulk. Paper is a very significant percentage, about one third of solid municipal waste or more, in modern Society.
The existing technology can recycle profitably most waste and thus ensure the Sustainability of the City. This can only be achieved by the appropriate regulatory framework that takes under consideration the Culture of the Citizens and mobilizes them through insistent and consistent Communication over a number of years.
As with every effective communication, Smart City, Recycling and Circular Economy Communication must start with a Story.
The Story, designed for the specific culture of the specific Country must be able to cover in an attractive way the Whys and be articulated in such a way that parts of it can be expanded and modified for the various population segments.
Since the whole Society must develop this culture, the Communication effort must start at primary school and continue all the way to everyday professional and social adult life.
The Story should be able to stand the test of time for many years.
Each development of it must be specific to the targeted segment, measurable, attainable, realistic and time based.
Communication should emphasize more the positive side and less the “don’t” domain, using a mix of different media platforms and techniques.
It must be noted that for the objectives to be attained, awareness, conversion and training will take many years and must be continuously developed, embedded in a Country’s educational and social system.
It is estimated that the broad market for smart cities products and services will be worth $2.57 trillion by 2025, growing at a rate of 18.4% per year on average.
Currently, $12 trillion in assets in the US goes to sustainable investment. That represents about a quarter of the total under management, and a 38 percent increase in just two years.
Around the World, Ethical Green Profits are rapidly increasing and the opportunity to combine Sustainability with Profitability attracts strong new investments.
GCC countries can save almost $138 billion by 2030 if they adopt a circular economic model, according to a report, published at the World Government Summit in Feb 2019 in Dubai.
To achieve Sustainability is a necessity for the modern City.
The holistic approach by the simultaneous adoption of a series of converging Technologies is the most successful way forward.
The incremental, centrally controlled, application of a strong, forward thinking, institutional regulatory framework, properly adapted to the culture of the Country, is the key to ensure a sustainable platform of prosperity and quality of life to the Citizens.
Technology, Communication and feedback controlled Regulatory development are keys to success.