We are in a new industrial revolution – our cities are getting smarter. Digitalisation is changing everything from the way we manufacture, communicate and travel, to the generation and consumption of electricity. By 2050 more than two-thirds of the world’s population will be living in cities, and the way we build and manage urban infrastructure – including buildings – is a key part of this revolution.
Greater environmental concern, the need to use valuable resources efficiently and the persistent requirement to lower running costs are all drivers for increasingly smart infrastructure, and the Middle East region is no different. In peak summer cooling accounts for some 70% of energy consumption, and this can be reduced by up to 40% with technology we already have.
We know digital technology can make buildings more environmentally friendly, more comfortable and more resource efficient, whether it’s new-build or retro-fit. Our role is to use this technology to support our customers in building energy-efficient, safe and secure buildings and infrastructure.
“It’s all about data”
Aside from a general trend towards increasingly digitalised buildings, we see digitalisation, the Internet of Things and the cloud as key trends in building technologies. It’s all about data. Intelligent buildings use data to dynamically manage their systems to suit occupants and the environment. A building management platform accumulates huge volumes of data from systems such as lighting, HVAC and electrical systems, but large volumes of data are of no use without analysis. Pulling this data into the cloud allows you to collect, analyse and act on this data, turning it into real-world gains.
Of course the great advantage of cloud-based building management is the ability to monitor and manage multiple connected buildings from anywhere in the world. Our solution for this – Navigator – uses a customised dashboard to monitor system performance, energy demand and supply from just one building or an entire portfolio. It collects and analyses large volumes of building performance data for efficiency and cost savings, but also to generate actionable information on which to base smart decisions.
It’s only a matter of time before the construction industry makes greater use of digital technologies. The foundations have already been laid in the region: Dubai already has the Middle East’s first 3D-printed building, and also has ambitious targets to have 25% of every new building 3D printed by 2025. New construction methods like 3D printing will have a significant impact on the speed and cost of construction, and our role is to use digital technologies to make sure they are as safe, secure and energy efficient as possible.
The beauty of intelligent building technology is that the results are immediately visible. If we look at efficiency, the gains are there from day one. A great example of this is our work with WAFI Mall in Dubai. We have implemented a series of technologies including our building management system and Demand Flow, a solution that uses specialised algorithms to boost the efficiency of district cooling facilities. For a Demand Flow implementation at WAFI’s Central Chilled Water Plant 1 we were able to guarantee an energy reduction of 30% and a 2.5-year payback.
Alive with technology
Some of the most prominent landmarks in the Middle East are alive with Siemens digital building technology – but it’s almost invisible, operating behind the scenes. The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi, for example, has 8,000 data points carefully hidden from view and connected to our building management system. These sensors measure the quality and temperature of the air, automatically sensing when the occupancy is increasing – for example, during prayer times – and adjusting the amount of cooling and fresh air to suit. At quiet periods, when less cooling is required, the system automatically runs at a more energy efficient level.
In Dubai, the dhow-shaped Dubai Opera is one of the world’s most digital concert spaces, with day-to-day operations monitored and controlled by our most advanced building management platform, Desigo CC, and a Desigo SCADA Management System. The intelligent system generates significant resource savings by integrating the management of energy, air conditioning, ventilation and water consumption into a fully customised, 3D graphical interface, keeping the 2,000 spectators cool and comfortable, regardless of the weather outside.
2018 will continue to see the digitalisation of infrastructure as a cornerstone of energy efficient, smart cities. Buildings will begin to play a larger role in increasingly connected, urban environments, interacting with other infrastructure such as energy and transport and making greater use of cloud technologies to collect, analyse and act upon smart data for real-world gains.