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From smart grids to smart buildings, the Internet of Things (IoT) has swept across Asia. Going well beyond consumer wearables, today’s city planners are leveraging IoT-enabled technologies to address some of the infrastructure and resource challenges of urbanization. The result is the rapid rise of “smart cities” across the region, where technology is being used to help ease the stress of growing populations and make these densely populated areas more livable and sustainable. Thousands of smart devices and sensors are being installed to develop the capability needed for this transformation. Here, we explore a few ways that the IoT is helping create smart cities that are improving urban quality of life.
Existing electricity grids are under pressure to keep up with the demand for power. As a result, some cities are moving toward smart grids, which utilize sensors and automation to accommodate fluctuations in supply, boost energy efficiency, and optimize system operations. More importantly, smart grids make a compelling proposition for sustainability due to their ability to integrate renewable energy sources.
Several smart grid projects are underway in the Asia Pacific. In Thailand, state-owned utilities are set to invest more than US$5 billion to fund the development of up to five smart grid pilot projects under the guidance of Thailand’s Ministry of Energy. Singapore is already offering smart home packages – apartments outfitted with energy management systems – while Manila Electric Company in the Philippines is implementing advanced metering infrastructure. With smart grids, citizens can expect fewer brownouts and blackouts, more control over their energy consumption, and improved energy efficiency.
Metropolitan areas such as Beijing and Jakarta are known for their heavy traffic congestion, which often reaches a complete gridlock and can halt entire city operations. The need for more efficient urban transportation networks has paved the road for intelligent transportation systems, which promise seamless movement across different modes while decreasing the environmental impact of traffic.
Cities across the region are developing high-tech innovations to overcome problems of congestion, road safety, and air pollution that come with urbanization. The transportation network in Greater Tokyo, for instance, includes an intelligent system of rail and highway networks, airports, buses, and even motorcycle delivery services to help keep people moving efficiently. On the futuristic side, Singapore has started testing a Vehicle-to-Everything (V2X) ecosystem for autonomous vehicles. V2X-technology cars can communicate with each other and with roadside infrastructure, providing the backbone for a safer and more efficient autonomous vehicle network.
Buildings are responsible for about a third of global greenhouse gas emissions today, so it’s no surprise that we are seeing more smart buildings as developers search for ways to manage energy demand and carbon footprints. Commonly known as green buildings, these are outfitted with technologies that automate processes – from heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) to building security – to optimize energy and water efficiency while ensuring a healthy indoor environment.
Kuala Lumpur’s Ilham Tower provides a great example of a green building. When you enter, the lighting is set at just the right levels, thanks to smart daylight glare control. The building also features rainwater harvesting and non-chemical water treatment to recycle water throughout the tower. Another interesting approach is the intelligent building management system developed by China’s Wanda Group, the world’s largest private property developer. The system taps IoT data – managing 5.6 million data point devices and capturing 50 billion items of data each year – to monitor a wide range of building areas, including HVAC, power distribution, fire alarms, and parking.
At the heart of smart cities, semiconductors deliver the technology that enables thousands of devices to connect and communicate with one another. Even so, there is constant pressure on chipmakers to continue innovating and delivering next-generation semiconductors that can meet tomorrow’s smart application needs.
Smart devices are getting smaller, so chips will need to follow suit. A compact chip design offers greater room for manufacturers to streamline the form factor of the final devices, ensuring they are small enough to be installed just about anywhere. Sensors of tomorrow will also need to be powerful enough to support time-sensitive applications – such as road safety or healthcare – that cannot afford delays. At the same time, these devices need to address the growing use of networking, cloud storage, and bandwidth-intensive applications such as big data analytics and remote monitoring.
As consumers, we have seen firsthand the countless ways technology has continued to change, simplify, and improve our lives. Now its benefits are being used for “smart” resource and infrastructure management in buildings and cities. This growing trend is improving the quality of living for those in busy metropolitan areas and leading to a more sustainable future in Asia and around the world.