18 April 2019

How can digitalization relieve pressure on cities?

We are only just on the brink of the extensive technological change of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, which like others before it, will completely transform societies, economies and cities.

The 4th Industrial Revolution – and how we got there.

Over half of the world population now reside in cities, up to 55.4% in 2018, and it is here the impact of this revolution will be most keenly felt. While rapid population growth can contribute to familiar problems like congestion and pollution, the comprehensiveness of this phase of technological development may also provide new ways of responding. The sheer number of online devices and their interconnectedness will have a multiplier effect on new technologies, exponentially increasing their potential intensity and effectiveness. Cities can harness this process of digitalization to improve efficiency and relieve pressure on infrastructure, the environment and society. Now Siemens has created an Atlas of the Digitalization to explore where the use of digital technologies is developing new ways of living, working and interacting with one another.

Six cities from across the world have been included in the Atlas of Digitalization, London, Dubai, Buenos Aires, Los Angeles, Johannesburg and Taipei.  Each is unique but share one characteristic: their ingenuity in using digital technologies to make infrastructure more productive and to face problems such as air pollution, traffic, and natural hazards. Now these technologies are creating data which has been further analyzed in the Atlas to gain insight and propose new solutions to a range of problems like water distribution, energy stability and even disaster management.

What if infrastructures could talk to one another?

Cities and their underlying infrastructures have already begun the process of using technology to optimize individual buildings, rail networks or assets. But now it is time for the next phase, where the interconnection of different infrastructures drives future improvements and efficiencies.  With the seamless integration of data gathered by the Internet of Things (IoT), the city’s underlying infrastructure layers – such as energy, water, and transport – can be managed and improved together, a change often referred to as City 4.0.

Connected cities

A model of City 4.0 is currently being developed for Expo 2020 Dubai.  During the period of British colonisation, Dubai was called Al Wasl, which means ‘connecting’, as it was a strategic hub and meeting place for people across the region. Now the city is again planning to connect people through Expo 2020 Dubai and the theme ‘Connecting Minds, Creating the Future’. Over a 4.82km2 site and running for 6 months, the event will host up to 25 million visitors from more than 180 countries.

To deliver the most connected Expo ever Dubai has partnered with Siemens to manage all features of the site with intelligent infrastructure and operations. Through our cloud-based IoT operating system MindSphere, Siemens is establishing a series of interlinked sensors and smart meters to collect and analyze data from pavilions, buildings, landscape, water and energy systems. A sudden deluge may require diversion of drainage catchments, while a heatwave may result in increased demand for energy to power air conditioning in the late afternoon.  Now the synchronization and analytic capabilities of this software will allow organizers to respond to and even anticipate these incidents in real time. Through the deployment of MindSphere, Expo 2020 Dubai will show how cities can use technology to predict events and provide energy efficiency, comfort, safety and security in all circumstances.

The interconnected themes of Expo 2020 Dubai – mobility, sustainability and opportunity – also reflect the themes of the Atlas of Digitalization, which further illustrates their importance to cities. Digital platforms are transforming our understanding of mobility by creating new connections between different groups, be they drivers, users, or even cars, trains and buses themselves. Meanwhile digital and data-driven technologies are creating new efficiencies which make cities more sustainable while at the same time driving productivity and economic opportunity.

Keeping score

As each city transforms, we can use the data it generates to better understand its circumstances. In the Atlas of Digitalization, this data has been turned into a scoring system. Twenty indices from comparable datasets have been selected with data averaged to develop a score out of 10 to represent each city’s current readiness and future potential.  The readiness score considers current progress in areas like smart electricity and transport systems, internet connections and digital governance services. The potential score shows us where there is room for improvement by analyzing categories such as innovation, greenhouse gas emissions and time spent in traffic. Together the readiness and potential scores illustrate the different capacities each city already has and must develop to face change and grow in the future.

City 4.0

While the world maintains a rapid pace of urbanization, by 2025 more than 75 billion devices and gadgets will be communicating with each other through the IoT. Technology will create new connections between our devices and each other, enhancing existing services and creating new ones. By minimizing the waste of time and resources, digitalization will boost performance and drive economic activity. It will also be a font of data.  By comparing and interpreting some of the types of data cities are producing, the Atlas of Digitalization represents the extensive transformation of City 4.0 and its effect on each important area of urban life. The themes chosen for it – sustainability, mobility and opportunity – reflect the themes of Expo 2020 Dubai which is already set to be an exemplar of progress in these areas. While the potential and readiness of each city will reflect their unique challenges, what they have in common is their effort to use digital transformation as an opportunity for lasting positive change.

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