06 April 2022
With increasing societal pressures, including the need to live and work more sustainably, manage growing populations and improve quality of life, unlocking our ‘Smart City’ capabilities will be key as we face many of our current challenges.
The latest technology is enabling a ‘Smart City’ approach to urban development, unlocking an interconnected, interoperable society.
It’s no longer science fiction, and, as we’ll see below, construction stands to significantly benefit if the sector prepares itself for this emerging approach for data-managed buildings.
Smart Cities, by which we mean an urban area which harnesses the latest innovations to collect data and subsequently augment and improve services and utilities, are on the rise. According to research by GlobalData the Smart Cities market is set to grow to $231bn by 20241.
Over the last two decades, advancements in digital software, voice activation systems and sensor technology are helping to delivery built environments that will enhance resident and worker lives.
No longer is the developer’s role confined to delivering mere bricks and mortar. A rise in hybrid working and EV adoption, spurred by seismic external events, are just two examples of societal shifts changing public expectations. This is prompting asset owners, particularly in the BTR market, to consider how they can build properties which support these rapidly growing trends.
To this, they are encouraging their architects and contractors to consider and adopt a ‘Smart City’ approach to the design and build of future estates. Making them even more relevant to modern requirements and attractive to potential buyers, renters and occupants.
Now is the time for those across the construction sector to get ahead and equip themselves with the knowledge to enable them to capture a slice of this rapidly growing market, particularly around establishing the infrastructure to support it.
Smart cities rely on seamless interoperability between a variety of sensor-supported, IoT-backed devices, collecting data in real-time which can be analysed by relevant personnel to optimise services across a development (e.g. O&M Managers). This could be anything from controlling HVAC systems to programming security cameras or monitoring waste levels in bin stores.
To achieve this scenario, the installation of a secure and highly-responsive network is essential. This will enable a dialogue between the various devices required to support a Smart City ecosystem. An investment in robust connectivity is essential to achieving this and needs to be considered at the outset of the construction journey.
The good news is this is achievable. By investing in technology that can improve the speed and flow of information, such as the latest 5G or Wi-Fi 6 connectivity, asset owners can truly realise the benefits of the ‘Smart City’ approach, increasing operational efficiency and boosting the bottom line from increase sales and leaner estate management.
Too often, this aspect is overlooked and can lead to costly delays. From experience, it’s much harder to attempt to incorporate a wireless infrastructure post-build than during it. As such, it’s best to consider it as you would any other utility going into the development.
Contractors who can offer this facility, working with expert connectivity subcontractors, will stand to make big gains as our world becomes more and more interconnected and the physical and digital world blend further.
To do so means investing the time to understand the structural roots of the smart city concept, as well as the many branches it possesses. This means implementing a cohesive network to ensure every device can communicate effectively with each other to achieve the sites objectives.
Ultimately, there’s no room for corner cutting on this. Any flaw will have knock-on effects across the whole ecosystem, leading to costly remediation and delays. However, contractors who get it right first time, stand to reap huge benefits as asset owners increasingly turn towards digital solutions, in a bid to appeal to the evolving demands of their clients and customers.
Featuring opinions from UK Connect’s Managing Director PJ Farr
As featured in Construction Global
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