Digital Twins for Smart Cities
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ESG in front
When it comes to designing smart cities, it’s easy to focus on the technology and
wonder about how data can improve performance or efficiencies. However, what is often forgotten is that these are still cities that people still have to live in and that there needs to be a focus on ensuring that their needs are catered to.
That is why our main feature in this report asserts that a Smart City is truly an ESG City. Building a modern city around Environmental and Social Guidelines will inherently make it a Smart City. By deploying technology, and by utilising data correctly, we will be able achieve the dual aim of being smart and sustainable.
This is a theme that pervades this year’s Smart City Report, and I hope that the biggest take away from it is that we should always use technology in a considered manner.
A Quantum Shift
The concepts of Smart Cities and Sustainability are often intertwined, as it is impossible to consider one without the other. By their very nature, smart cities involve the implementation of eco-friendly projects that improve the quality of life for residents and communities while still respecting the environment. By using information and communication technology to collect data, optimise activities, and improve the management of resources and assets, cities can be enabled to react and offer solutions to specific problems. Whether it’s recycling garbage to form compost, treating sewage water for construction or using it to maintain public spaces, there are many ways that smart technologies can be deployed in a city.
Eco-friendly or sustainable cities stand out for their ability to marry smart management, mobility, green housing and smart economies. Therefore, a smart city can claim that it is sustainable when its overall goal is to improve urban services and utilise technology to answer the economic, social and ecological challenges cities face, while still reducing costs.
Given this overlap, both Farah Naz, head of Innovation and ESG, Middle East and Africa, and Martin Angus, Digital Design lead – Middle East, both from AECOM Middle East, say that the real estate and construction industries must start looking at ESG as a way of thinking and doing business, rather than just as a product.
Speaking exclusively to Big Project ME for the Smart Cities Report, both Naz and Angus point out that technology is often seen as a driver for change, when it should be the other way around.
“I’ve been working with sustainability for 20 years and innovation for 10 years, and what I’ve realised is that, for me, a smart city is actually an ESG city, and that is sustainable. I know that there is currently a conversation happening around ESG – Environmental, Social and Governance – and I think as an industry, we’re boxing it up, because it’s very new for us. But if we take a step back, then we’re already doing a lot of things related to environmental sustainability, which relates to a city,” Naz says.
“When we talk about energy transition, nature-based solutions and all of these things, the social aspect is really interesting. When we talk about sustainability, social innovation or smart cities, it’s always about people. The social part is not just about the people, but also about creating the
Big Project ME speaks to Farah Naz and Martin Angus of AECOM Middle East, to learn why it is essential that ESG strategies become intertwined with the planning and development of smart cities
mechanisms for social innovation and social sustainability that comes together to celebrate people,” she adds.
“But, in order to make a city sustainable or viable, we need Governance. Everyone talks about regulations, but governance, I think, is not just about regulation of a city. It’s also about having governance about social entrepreneurship, having governance around how we enable digital tools and capabilities to give us more insights into a city.”
Together, Naz and Angus look at innovation at AECOM and how it can be applied externally to projects. By collaborating together, Naz believes that
they can utilise digital tools to enable better decision making and to create a feedback loop that will allow the consultancy’s teams to learn from the past and make better decisions in the future.
She adds that clients the GCC are starting to realise that they need to update their existing guidelines and regulations, and that digital tools need to be used to track these changes for future proofing.
“Looking at smart cities, it’s not only about people centric cities only, it’s about ESG Cities and right now, no one is talking about, but in a few years’ time, that’s all anybody will be talking about. Currently, we’re doing it in different ways, but it’s very
Shift in mindset
As data and technology continue to inform and change the way that society thinks and operates, both the public and business sectors are changing to keep up.
fragmented. We’re not actually coming together and saying that a smart city is an ESG city, but if we take a step back, the layers of information created are multidimensional, and sustainability is extremely multidimensional.”
Chiming in, Angus says that he believes that as digitalisation becomes more commonplace, a number of tools will begin to be married to ESG principles.
“What we’re going to see is more conversions. If you think about something as simple as phones and taxis, we first had phones and we had taxis. Then through conversions, you start to see something like Uber appear. So, we’re going to start seeing completely new systems emerging – things that just weren’t there before technology came along.
“We need to be able to act instantly, and to be able to get information to the right people at the right time. At this moment it doesn’t happen because we’re completely siloed, and you don’t get innovation if you’re completely siloed,” he asserts.
“Because there’s not a wealth of open information, we’re not seeing new start-ups, we’re not seeing new ideas. But we’ll start to see that coming online very quickly (if we share information).”
As data and technology continue to inform and change the way that society thinks and operates, both Angus and Naz state that this progression will lead to a shift in mindsets in both the public and business sectors. This will lead to more challenging questions being asked about how we design and build our cities they say.
Citing the rise of the electric vehicle and an increased focus on ride sharing as potential examples of how people’s mindsets are changing towards transportation, they say that city planners and developers will be forced to reconsider the very infrastructure that underpins our cities today.
“Do we need as many car parking spaces as before?” Angus asks. “Do we need to build so many carparks anymore? Will people even need to own cars? When those conversations come online as technology happens, we who work in the built environment will have to completely change how we look at answering those types of questions.”
Everyone talks about regulations, but governance, is not just about regulation. It’s also about social entrepreneurship, having governance around how we enable digital tools and capabilities to give us more insights into a city”
“There needs to be two shifts, essentially,” Naz says. “It’s not just the mindset, but also the business model, and it’s also about acceptance. Now, we’re not just talking about people centric cities. We’re talking about values and access to things and the speed of things. This will completely redefine how a child will experience a smart city in 10 years’ time, as compared to someone who grew up 10 years ago.”
This process will only accelerate, they point out, highlighting how the pandemic has had a significant impact on the way people work and live. This shift has been completely enabled by technology and the needs of people during the pandemic. Now that it has happened, there’s no going back, they assert.
“What we need to start doing is learn how smart technologies will affect everybody’s lives. That will then make people start looking at trends around us now. How do we start to understand what the future of work looks like –
that’s still getting worked out, if I’m completely honest,” Angus says.
“I don’t think there are any rules at the moment. There are some guidelines – but I think that will shift as we mature into living in digitally mature cities,” he adds.
A consequence of this will be that at the governance level, there will be a lot of change happening in the near future, Naz says.
“There’s a lot of things happening around the Metaverse, Smart Cities, Artificial Intelligence and all that, but at some point, there needs to be guidance and planning regulations from a government level, so as to manage and enhance the process. It’s not about constricting it, but to let it evolve in a way that there’s some level of governance about it,” she explains.
“I really think that these future, transformative cities and mindsets are a layering of these technologies and innovations. It’s a very multi-layered way of thinking about how the future
Guidance needed Governments need to implement clear guidelines and regulations around the use of technology and digital processes.
of life could be. The question is, do we wait for another pandemic to make another big shift? Or do we bring that shift to ourselves and move forward?”
In order to achieve this, Angus emphasises that the industry needs to come together and to stop working in silos. Technology has already significantly altered the way work is carried out and how people think about working, but he points that there needs to be more done to break down the walls between industries and sectors – even within companies.
Martin Angus asserts that the industry must break out of working in silos if it truly wants to harness the potential of construction technologies.
“There is a need to bring industries together and I find that super interesting. Lots of building designers are now completely focused on what’s happening in manufacturing, or what the filmmaking industry is doing, and they’re all trying to take technology from each other and work together to create more solutions that bring benefit, as opposed to that single project/single mindset,” he says.
“That’s just not going to work moving forward. People are moving from projects to programs, so that we can start to look at more efficient ways of working, and from that you’ll get more recyclable information.
“This is where you start to see people throwing up ideas of using past project learning, what an actual digital twin would start to do and so on.
“We don’t live in smart environments at the moment – we have some elements, but it’s not commonplace. We’re going to start looking at whether we’re actually designing our houses correctly, and we’ll see a quantum shift in design, which will come from having products that you can now put in your house that will deal with smart objects that are not actually built in-situ at the time of construction,” he concludes.
Moving into the Metaverse
Digital twins are revolutionising the construction industry globally.
The technology can provide the answer to construction’s sustainability issue; improve the way we build and operate capital projects; and help us weave the golden thread—maintain an accurate and up-to-date record of the data needed to maintain and operate an asset.
The potential is immense. A recent study suggests the digital twin market will be worth $48.2 billion by 2026. So, with the tech on the rise,
where does it hold the most promise?
The answer is in smart cities.
Of all the use cases and potential, cities have become early adopters and are reaping its rewards, including:
• Better quality of life for the city’s citizens
• Ability to make effective, data-driven decisions
• Reduced environmental output
• Improved asset performance and operation
With the global smart city market expected to reach $3.4 trillion by 2026— let’s take a deep dive into the role digital twins play in this growing phenomenon.
Nathan Doughty, CEO of ASite, explains why digital twins will be instrumental for the future of smart cities, and highlights how the technology is disrupting the way capital projects and infrastructure are being built
HOW CITIES ARE USING DIGITAL TWINS TO GET SMART
Digital twins are disrupting the way capital projects and infrastructure are planned, built, and operated.
A digital twin enables more effective asset design, project execution, and asset operations by integrating data and information throughout the asset lifecycle. As a data resource, it can improve the creation of a new asset and understanding of an existing asset.
For stakeholders across the supply chain involved in the operation of a city, this technology provides them access to more tools and information than traditional methods and techniques.
With these benefits at their fingertips, city planners are using virtual models to gain a competitive edge.
How? As digital twins replicate buildings, systems, and operations, a federation of connected digital twin models can be created that transcends sectors. Everything that comprises a city—transport, pavement, building, energy, water, and telecommunications— can be monitored within the digital twin.
Here, the tech can anticipate problems, simulate scenarios, and make decisions with remarkable foresight, providing a digital snapshot for future works. This creates invaluable information that helps city planners understand how a city operates or could operate—depending on whether the digital twin is used before the city is built or retroactively.
City planners, construction stakeholders, and operation and asset managers can use these insights to improve energy consumption, environmental conditions, public safety, waste management, security monitoring, mobility improvements, and infrastructure management.
With benefits like this, it’s not surprising that digital twins are big business. According to ABI Research, by 2025, approximately 500 cities worldwide will be using some form of urban twin.
CREATING METAVERSES IN THE MIDDLE EAST
The Middle East has long been a global hub for the latest technological advancements. It’s no surprise smart cities and digital twins are rising rapidly in the region.
includes a “dynamic digital twin,” which will be a mixed-reality twin with “live cognitive virtual twins.”
The goal of this metaverse? To allow future residents to experience how life will operate at this “crossroads of worlds.” The project is seen as a revolution in urban living and is set to become a blueprint for how people and the planet can co-exist harmoniously.
Similarly, in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Dubai Municipality recently revealed plans to create a version of the city in the metaverse.
GETTING FUTUREREADY WITH DATA
Digital twins can vastly reduce errors and improve a city’s planning, building, and operation. However, while it’s clear smart cities, enabled by digital twins, can revolutionise how cities are created, data security and sharing of data and information remain challenging.
For digital twins in cities to realise their potential, the global AECO sector needs to adopt an interoperable, integrated, and inclusive approach to construction. One way is by developing an open, integrated global platform that users across regions can easily interpret. Such a platform would allow information to be easily shared and ensure it remains secure.
In fact, the tech is being advanced even further throughout the Gulf with the introduction of the “metaverse”—an embodied 3D virtual-reality experience.
For example, let’s look at NEOM—a planned $500 billion high-tech city on the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s northwest coast and the flagship project of the KSA’s Vision 2030.
Included in their ambitious plans for “The Line”—a 170km belt of hyper-connected future communities without cars and roads and built around nature spanning the length of NEOM—is a metaverse. And at the heart of this metaverse are digital twins.
Digital twins will be used to create this new space—combining with physical architecture, hyperconnected technologies, and AI. The project states one of the core features
Since 2001, Asite has been at the forefront of innovation in the AEC sector. We recognise the potential of digital twins to not only transform and improve our industry but also transform and improve our lives.
Asite’s mission is to ensure that, as an industry, we can send and receive, capture, share, and collaborate on all the data we are collecting to derive actionable insights and thrive in this new digital-led world.
Asite’s platform supports the collaborative nature of digital twins and provides stakeholders with the tools they need to collaborate and share information in a secure online environment. With the right tools and software, we can deliver on digital twins and enact real and innovative change. Want to discover how Asite can help you embrace and thrive in this new digital world? Learn more at asite.com.
For digital twins in cities to realise their potential, the global AECO sector needs to adopt an interoperable, integrated, and inclusive approach to construction. One way is by developing an open, integrated global platform that users across regions can easily interpret”
Ayana Holding is a Dubaibased conglomerate with considerable expertise in real estate investment and development, architectural design and master planning, interior design, fit out and furnishings. Operating within the real estate ecosystem to provide end-toend industry-centric solutions for governments and real estate developers around the globe, the company –and its subsidiaries – has garnered a reputation for innovation and disruption across the industries it operates in.
With offices in the UK, US and Saudi Arabia, Ayana Holding’s operations focus on construction, architectural design and planning, IT infrastructure development, real estate sales and more. With robust financial, operational and
strategic experience, the company has developed the resources, global capacity and know-how to transcend borders and disrupt industries, placing it to the forefront of innovation in its industries.
Since the start of 2022, the company has seen strong positive momentum for construction, design, and material sourcing, and is currently involved on a number of KSA-based projects. Additionally, the group’s focus has latterly pivoted towards developers, and it has been busy bidding for projects in Central London and Kazakhstan, so as to form partnerships and develop master-cities and projects, says Abdulla Bin Lahej, the chairman and founding partner of Ayana Holding.
With more than 21 years of experience in the real estate sector, Lahej is a keen advocate for intelligent master planning. He speaks to Big Project ME about how digitalisation is shaping the future of Dubai’s real estate landscape in an exclusive interview.
What are your thoughts on the evolving nature of Dubai’s real estate and construction sector?
Digitalisation across all industries is becoming one of the critical aspects for achieving success and a competitive edge in the current scenario.
The population of the world’s urban areas is increasing by 200,000 people per day, all of whom need affordable housing, transportation, utility infrastructure, and so on.
The industries within the real estate ecosystem have vast potential and by introducing innovative technologies and new construction and building techniques, it will be easier to streamline project management
Abdulla Bin Lahej, the chairman and co-founder of Ayana Holding, speaks to Big Project ME about how digitalisation is changing the real estate landscape and why intelligent master planning matters
and procedures, as well as enhance the quality and safety of buildings.
Given Dubai’s plans to continue developing as a real estate investment center, what needs to change or improve in the way developers create their projects and masterplans in the emirate?
Dubai is clear about its objective of building sustainable urban development, under the Dubai 2040 Urban Master Plan. The plan has a strategic structural layout, integrating all urban development master plans in the emirate and aligning them with Dubai’s strategic economic priorities and the needs of the future.
To align with its objectives, developers across the emirate should create masterplans focused on humans and nurturing a strong sense of connection; as well as leveraging technology and data to make cities smarter, resilient, and most importantly, sustainable.
Green planning and spaces for social interaction within master communities should be of utmost importance. A city must be designed in such a way that it can provide access to basic amenities and healthcare services within a 15-minute drive, along with more walking and cycling spaces.
In addition, to be able to leverage data to optimise energy consumption is a key demand from potential buyers now.
How have consumer/ investor demands changed over the last few years?
The real estate sector in the UAE has displayed a strong sense of resilience, even during the turbulent times of COVID-19 as end users and investors were looking for safe bets to park their funds. However, consumer demands have undergone a radical shift in the last couple of years.
The new set of preferences from consumers or investors include efficient home layouts, extremely high demand for spacious homes that can fit the new
Seamless integration Intelligent Master Planning is the process of enabling the seamless integration of new technologies, says Abdulla Bin Lahej.
normal of work from home or study from home, wellness and fitness at home, and so on. Additionally, customers and investors now expect developers to ensure ‘safety’ in everything. For example, security amenities, healthcare amenities and usage of smart technology are all basic requirements. Apart from the most obvious driver of change, i.e.: COVID-19; urbanisation is the biggest change driver in the real estate business. The World Bank has affirmed that by 2050, nearly seven of 10 people in the world will live in cities. Low mortgage rates and the decline in the rental property market are some of the other drivers of the changes being witnessed in the real estate market.
What does Intelligent Master Planning mean and how are those principles being put into place on projects in this region?
According to me, Intelligent Master Planning is the process of crafting an experience and enabling the seamless integration of new technologies to realise the visions and aspirations of potential buyers and help meet societal challenges.
Green planning Green planning and social interaction within master communities should be of the utmost importance.
NEOM in Saudi Arabia is a great example of the key elements of an intelligent master plan that are being incorporated while building the city. This smart city is a direct response to some of the most pressing challenges
such as legacy infrastructure, pollution, traffic, and human congestion. All urban developments will be powered by 100% clean energy, providing pollution-free, healthier, and more sustainable environments for residents.
How can developers merge technology and innovation into their masterplans to create intuitive and intelligent communities and spaces? What technologies are being explored?
Developers today have the opportunity to deliver experiences that matter through masterplan communities rather than focusing on just aesthetics. In the UAE, designers and architects are leveraging technologies to connect and improve infrastructure, efficiency, convenience, and quality of life for residents and visitors alike. Innovative thinking, fuelled by design and technological advancements has been extremely pertinent when it comes to the transformation of the built environment.
Building Information Modelling and Computer-Aided Design is really beneficial in constructing the structural plans in the digital world. Artificial Intelligence and Virtual Reality have many benefits such as highly engaging and vividly realistic virtual property tours. AI can help lower the costs by
turning massive data into understandable figures and assist buyers in making informed purchasing decisions. Overall implementation of these technological reforms can revolutionise the industry even further and can provide homebuyers with a comfortable and modern living experience.
What are some of the projects Ayana Holding that is working on that showcase this concept of intelligent master planning?
Recently, we have been in talks with Kazakh Invest National Company for the construction of a multifunctional residential and commercial complex, The Grand Mosque Residences, in Astana, the capital city of Kazakhstan along with Nad Al Shiba Holding.
The total cost of the project will be US$2 billion. Ayana Holding and Nad Al Shiba Holding will be the lead developers of this project and manage the design, development, and construction of the multifunctional, commercial and residential complexes. This includes crafting a master plan, the architectural design and the infrastructure planning. The complex will feature residential apartments, commercial space for restaurants, shopping centres and retail showrooms, boutique hotels, as well as office space for organisations to rent.
The Kazakh Invest National Company is on board to support
Experiences that matter Developers have the opportunity to deliver master plan communities that focus on more than just aesthetics.
on-ground operations and liaise with the Kazakhstan government for approvals and land allocation.
What are Ayana Holdings plans for the future?
Our aim is to build companies that provide end-to-end centric solutions and focus on building a network of powerful companies on a global level. We have robust Master Planning and Design, Interior Design, Capital Investment, Marketing, Entertainment Concept, Building Materials, FF&E Procurement, Project Management and Turnkey Fit-out, IT Solutions, Destination Marketing, and Real Estate businesses under our umbrella. With these companies, we aim to provide sustainable development and continue to expand our wings across the globe.
With our financial, operational, and strategic experience, and a wide-ranging network, we have the resources, global capacity, and know-how to transcend borders and boundaries, resulting in high-growth businesses that disrupt industries and have a meaningful impact.
The real estate market in Dubai looks very promising for the upcoming few years. New supply will be continually introduced to the market, and it is anticipated that property prices will increase by 20% to 25% per year. With Dubai being positioned as an investor friendly market, we expect an influx of foreign investors and HNWIs.
25% Property prices in Dubai are predicted to increase by 20% - 25% per year
$2bn Value of the Grand Mosque Residences in Astana
One of the world’s great thinkers and shapers of the modern age, Albert Einstein, is quoted as saying, “It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer”. In the world of smart cities, there is a temptation to reach for quick, easy solutions – but this is the wrong approach.
As designers, engineers, inventors, and makers, we are taught as part of our fundamental training to explore issues from all sides and consider various options before reaching a proposed solution. Even then, we are often not satisfied that we have found the perfect solution.
Some of the most ingenious solutions in history have developed through a slow evolution of ideas, refined over time and through various people’s inputs; ultimately emerging as a precise, highly specific, and beautiful solution. A great example is Japan – where over centuries of isolation from the wider Asian region, the Japanese created a unique cultural identity and economy –full of highly intelligent people creating smart solutions to the world’s problems. One of my favourites is the Japanese toothpick. It incorporates a seemingly simple yet elegant solution to the public hygiene issue of putting a used toothpick onto a restaurant dining table.
In the construction industry, however, as we all know, time is money – and sometimes this process of sitting patiently with problems and exploring various solutions to find the most elegant one can be unfeasible. As construction and design professionals, we evolve to work more and more on instinct as our careers progress. The risk of this is that we can miss the chance to reflect and adapt over time as new challenges, technologies and ideas emerge. Smart Cities thinking can solve this modern-day challenge of speed – however, it requires a shift in mindset. Specifically, it requires a new way of investing, developing, delivering and ultimately operating cities and their urban infrastructure and communities.
We can learn some lessons for Smart Cities by examining recent advancements in Building Information Management (BIM) systems. BIM, compared to traditional methods of design and project management, such as CAD, requires more investment up front – but the pay-off throughout the project is greater than without BIM. The same can be said for smart technology in buildings (which Facilities Managers have been utilising for many years). In Smart Cities, however, the scale is much bigger. Like investing in a license for BIM software to save time and cost through design, or a smart energy management system for a building to save operating costs, Smart Cities infrastructure and management investment needs to be considered up front for the benefits to be realised.
The numbers don’t lie. Smart Cities all start with data – and building in the systems for collection, monitoring, reporting and then application of this data in the early planning and design phases. Data collected from urban sensors, through ubiquitous Internet of Things (IoT) technology, embedded into city services can be used for digital twin-enabled city management applications. Mobile phone data and 5G sensors for instance can improve the efficiency of road networks and public transport operations by providing precise, real-time data on flows of people and vehicles. Integrating air quality monitoring systems with other public
Sameer Daoud, Managing Director Infrastructure, KEO International Consultants says that when it comes to designing and building smart cities, it’s often worth being patient so as to reap the benefits
utility infrastructure (e.g. traffic lights) can allow insights into pollution risks, which can then be used to support both traffic management and public health management and communications. Smart parking management systems can reduce traffic, improve productivity. The list of use cases of Smart City and Digital Twin systems is as diverse as the potential data inputs to the systems.
Utilising BIM in design and development projects and ultimately integrating models into fully digital urban planning and management systems – Digital Twins – creates highly accurate asset databases with benefits for city planners, utility operators and developers and contractors alike. We only have to look at the challenges faced when attempting to build in older cities across the world where underground assets are poorly or sometimes not documented at all, leading to huge delays and costs in construction projects, to understand the huge long-term benefits of building a digital twin at the same time as a project is being delivered.
DELIVERING TRANSFORMATIONAL GROWTH
Saudi Arabia, under Vision 2030, is undertaking a major transformation –
KEO is investing in new tools and capabilities that facilitate informed decisions using technology, says Sameer Daoud.
Details in the data
Smart cities start with data, as the information collected can help with urban planning and infrastructure development.
and it is happening fast. As part of this transformation, in February of this year, the Kingdom adopted its new Smart Cities Strategy. This aims to enhance economic prosperity, environmental sustainability, and adequate government supervision, and is based on three pillars: improving the quality of life of citizens, excellence in providing services and financial sustainability.
The Kingdom’s application of smart cities tools and concepts is inherently
linked to its ambitions to strengthen the economy, improve conditions for its citizens, and continue to prosper as a nation – and ultimately establish a legacy for the future. All of this will take time – but the Kingdom and its leaders have strong ambitions to fast-track these changes. Therefore, making fast decisions, informed by data and evidence, while being able to adapt quickly to test new ideas, will be fundamental to achieving this massive scale of growth and investment.
Realising KSA’s grand plans, at pace, requires intuitive tools to collect big data (leveraging ubiquitous networked technology) to test ideas quickly and easily, reject the ideas that don’t work, and choose the right ideas to allow projects to move forward at pace.
At KEO, we are investing in new tools and capabilities that facilitate informed decisions using technology platforms which enable decisionmakers and the community alike to engage in neighbourhood, street level and user experience decisions.
We have recently partnered with international urban planning technology platform, Giraffe, to build our capability to quickly develop master planning and design ideas and communicate these to clients and stakeholders with ease. This saves time on drawing production, is a more user-friendly form of communication, and links multiple data sets to streamline analysis and improve design coordination.
The design and construction sector offers opportunities to invest early as part of the design and delivery phase of urban development, to avoid the need to retrofit later and start to reap the benefits as soon as possible. This investment will be needed for new types of infrastructure required to capture big data.
However, it will also require investment in new data integration platforms and digital design processes. This may challenge and disrupt traditional ways of working in the construction sector - ultimately however the rewards for those who choose to invest in smart cities solutions are vast.
Back from the Brink
Climate change is one of the most significant global threats, with temperatures projected to rise 1.5 degrees Celsius in the next two decades, according to a report by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. This will cause more extreme weather such as heatwaves, droughts, wildfires, and floods. We are almost at a tipping point, where consequences could be catastrophic and there may be no turning back.
The urgency to act is particularly tangible in this region, which has very strong exposure to the effects of climate change, with studies indicating a persistent rise in temperature across the region, particularly in the summer. In response, regional governments have placed sustainability at the forefront of policy,
with several regulations and initiatives in place to help reach net zero aims. The UAE, for example, has a Net Zero 2050 strategic initiative in place, and Saudi Arabia has implemented the Saudi Green Initiative, both of which have ambitious targets to set the course for net zero.
The construction industry remains a major contributor to global CO2 emissions, with as much as 70% of global annual emissions relating to and the comprehensive lifecycle - materials manufacturing, transportation, power generation and more - of buildings.
Thus, addressing emissions in the sector is crucial in the race for sustainability.
SMART CITIES WILL FURTHER THE NET ZERO AGENDA
There’s a strong focus on smart cities in the Middle East, which goes
Katarina Uherova Hasbani, partner and global director of Strategy and Advisory at AESG, outlines how innovating in sustainability and smart cities in the Middle East can help fight the climate change battle
hand in hand with supporting the sustainability agenda. The region is spearheading innovative new ways to design and build cities that focus on both smart and sustainable living.
As we reinvent the way we live and build, we need building facades that can generate power for solar, pavement materials that transform kinetic energy into electricity and water absorptive materials that can contribute to the water treatment cycle. We need connective technologies that allow us to track the behaviour of physical assets live and empower users in a way that leads to better sustainability and carbon performance. And the drive for smart, sustainable cities will help to make these a reality.
It’s clear that smart cities will support both better living conditions and a more sustainable way of life, but there are barriers which need to be addressed. Let’s explore the three main challenges – and some potential solutions:
OVERCOMING MATERIAL CONSTRAINTS
The materials we need for building smart cities with integrated sustainability credentials are still brand new, with some fresh from the testing labs. Not only that, but the materials are also not yet available in the Middle East market.
This challenge can be addressed with collaborations across the value chain, where developers, architects, construction companies and material suppliers continuously update the technical specifications and requirements of the new types of materials needed. We also need to create opportunities to test new solutions, via private or public sector innovation centres and
laboratories, where large companies from the region can experiment and learn from innovative start-ups.
ADDRESSING COST CONCERNS
The high cost of the materials and associated construction of smart cities that are aligned to sustainable and net zero requirements also poses an issue. More sophisticated designs come naturally at a higher cost – though this isn’t always as high as expected. We have found that there are lower carbon material alternatives available in the market in the UAE without a cost mark-up. Additionally, 20-30% carbon reductions in the carbon footprint of newly designed assets can be achieved with a 5-10% increase in the initial capital expenditure.
A solution to this challenge could be creating economies of scale that will enable the unit price to be reduced. For this, we need the region’s large developers to adopt low carbon and sustainable construction practices as this will create
Smart cities will help people reinvent the way they live, work and play thanks to a focus on both smart and sustainable living.
the right market dynamic – and it is encouraging to see some of the big names in the region already committing to this.
Adoption of digital and sustainable solutions means that the workforce has to be able to adapt to new processes and ways of working, says Hasbani.
The UAE has a netzero 2050 strategic initiative in place
The capacity of the workforce in the region to adopt and scale the new digital and sustainable solutions is also a concern. This is not only about understanding the technical and engineering side of new technologies, but also about designing and introducing new processes and ways of working. For example, all aspects of passive design that may result in better sustainability and net zero performance need to be considered by design teams at the early stages of the project and then respected during development.
To overcome this barrier, we need to deliver capacity building and upskilling programmes at all levels – from executive to middle management to workforce in the field. Both the private sector and the government need to take responsibility for this. The government should offer the minimum level of education requirements and the private sector must continue this education across its workforce by continuous training on the job.
A SMART, SUSTAINABLE FUTURE
With time running out in the climate change battle, all sectors must work together to ensure a brighter, safer future. Bringing the Middle’s East’s vision of smart, sustainable cities to life will take commitment from and cooperation between both the public and private sectors. This will not only enhance the health, wellbeing and happiness of citizens and residents, but will support the region’s aim of combatting climate change and pursuing its net zero aims. This article first appeared on
Empowering the smart cities of tomorrow with drones
Rabih Bou Rached, Founder and CEO of FEDS Dronepowered Solutions, details how drones will play a crucial role in gathering data for smart cities to utilise
Asmart city is one that is well-connected.
Instead of keeping important data in separate locations
(like filing cabinets, computers, teams, or even buildings), a smart city brings it all together so that officials can make informed decisions that benefit the city as a whole.
Similar to any ‘smart’ device or system, its effectiveness is dependent on a steady stream of high-quality data. But how do you gather data that can empower the cities of tomorrow?
Data is the backbone of a smart city, and unmanned systems are being tested and deployed in smart cities all over the world to quickly collect, aggregate, analyse, and deliver such data. With this information, apps can be made to improve efficiency, get people involved, and make neighbourhoods stronger.
WHAT ROLE DO DRONES PLAY?
When you consider a city, it is vast and complex. Gathering data from each of its facets is extremely an extremely
challenging endeavour unless you can fly. Helicopters are slower, more dangerous and contribute to the city’s overall carbon footprint. Drones, on the other hand, are small and nimble, allowing them to fly around and collect data with their powerful sensors. But perhaps the best aspect of drones is that they are autonomous.
Not all drones are suitable for commercial usage; the powerful payloads or sensors that they can be equipped with are crucial to accurate data capturing. Among our drone fleet, you will find that it is mostly stocked with DJI Enterprise drones. These drones have proven themselves to be reliable, resilient, and safe.
But apart from collecting data, drones can also be used more actively in Logistics or Public Safety & Security. There is no limit to the ways in which drones could be utilised to facilitate either the current process of smart city evolution or the future construction of smart cities. But here are a few key ways in which drones are currently being used in smart cities.
INFRASTRUCTURE AND PLANNING
Drones can be easily launched to gather information in locations where traditional methods are difficult or dangerous, from monitoring the development of new buildings to inspecting aging infrastructure. Real-time data on construction sites and development projects advances cost-cutting goals shared by the private and public sectors. Drones will also aid in the transition to a 5G network by assisting in network construction and detecting dead spots. As a result, a 5G network will allow thousands of drones to operate concurrently, provide faster connection speeds, and allow drones to fly over greater distances unaffected by network changes.
Under the current regulatory framework, using drones for planning, construction, and inspection is legal in UAE, as long as the necessary permits and you have qualified pilots following the guidelines set by regulatory bodies. In this domain, the flexible and robust drones reign supreme. Drones with the ability to fly with multiple sensors make them versatile tools to collect accurate data.
PUBLIC SAFETY AND SECURITY
Sharing information is critical for protecting citizens, from the mundane (such as traffic congestion) to the extreme (like natural disaster response). Drones, which can be deployed quickly, can help with traffic management, parking, crowd monitoring and control, weather assessments, security, and emergency response. Drones can provide city planners and municipal governments with much richer and more useful data than stationary sensors. People’s lives will be easier and government services will be better if information can be gathered in a more flexible, cost-effective, and timely way.
Drones are being used by law enforcement and fire departments worldwide to improve response time, increase resource efficiency, and save lives. Drones are also being used to monitor high-occupancy vehicle traffic on some highways. Firefighters are using drones to accurately evaluate the fire, locate hazards, and identify victims. While first responders can dispatch drones ahead of the team to reach the site and establish
situational awareness. This factor is significant when even a second lost puts a lot in jeopardy. Especially when you take into consideration advances like the DJI Dock, which allows drones to take off and land on their own, you now have a system that requires very little human input to operate. This cuts the response time even more and lets city officials go to even the most remote places.
Drones in smart cities can meet the urgent need for quick and efficient delivery. With e-commerce at an all-time high, cost and time-efficient product delivery is becoming increasingly important for
Versatile tools Drones with the ability to fly with multiple sensors will make them versatile tools to collect accurate data.
retailers and consumers. Aside from consumer goods, drones can transport medical supplies quickly. Drones can send precise GPS information about where a package is so that it can be tracked. They can also help ease traffic in cities and cut down on gas emissions.
Some cities are piloting drone deliveries. Recently, the FAA (Federal Aviation Authority, USA) just granted the first full approval to UPS to operate Matternet drones at large. Once we have the infrastructure in place, drones can take over the role of goods delivery. In Dubai, we have something similar with the Dubai Sky Dome initiative, which looks to empower autonomous BVLOS (Beyond Visual Line of Sight) operations.
Countries like the UAE, India, New Zealand, Singapore, and more are using drones to bring their smart city visions to life.
Drones are faster, more efficient, they provide better data, they are safer, they are cost-effective, and best of all, they are sustainable. They are here to stay, and they are the way of the future.
Emergency response Drones can be used by law enforcement, fire departments and emergency services to improve response times and save lives.
Drones will be instrumental in the future of urban development and the rise of ‘smart’ cities. They are a responsive, flexible, and cost-effective tool for cities to connect with citizens, respond to emergencies, and take advantage of opportunities, whether that be in the form of collecting information, traffic monitoring, or emergency response.
TopCon solutions strengthen Marathon Oil’s operations
The technology solutions provider showcases the technology used to optimise operations and performance
For any oil and gas company, laser scanning and as-built modelling of piping systems are two crucial operations, because these provide accurate data to make projects more productive. The main benefits from such operations are boosting informed decision-making based on very detailed data and reducing costs,
which saves time by eliminating rework. This allows companies to focus and direct their time and resources towards additional operations where needed.
Marathon Oil is a Houston-based company engaged in oil and gas development and production in Equatorial Guinea (EG).
The company is the operator under a production sharing contract of the Alba Unit comprised of Alba field and Block D, both of which are offshore EG. It also owns an ~52% interest in Alba Plant LLC, accounted for as an equity method investment, which operates an onshore LPG processing plant located on Bioko Island.
To support Marathon Oil’s operations in Equatorial Guinea, Marathon EG Production Limited (MEGPL) carries out general site scan and as-built modelling of the existing piping system in the Alba field.
Accurate modelling of pipes is important to keep record of MEGPL’s facilities and optimise its operations. Obtaining accurate measurements by using conventional measurement methods can be challenging.
This is largely due to the use of tools in constricted and/or high elevated areas, which is technically difficult and time consuming. There are also additional constraints at offshore sites, where bad weather conditions only allow a short window for data collection.
Conventional methods can also result in inconsistencies in data. As a result, there can be the need for rework of piping fabrication caused by inaccurate piping spool dimensions and positions.
However, by choosing the Topcon GTL-1000 to help scan their pipelines and semiautomatically generate the 3D model in Edgewise, they now have better control and reduce the cost of current and future projects.
“The GTL-1000 is a flagship product from Topcon that has been simplifying workflows for surveying, engineering, tunnelling and mining applications. Data collection has evolved over the years, and we are keen to provide the latest end-toend solutions that aligns with the goals of the Oil & Gas industry.
“This includes streamlining processes and improving the usage of mass data that will help companies manage their assets well, reduce renovation time and make more sustainable decisions,” said Talal Hanna, Business Development Manager, Topcon Positioning Asia.
The solutions used by MEGPL
The GTL-1000 performs accurate 3D Scanning for Asbuilt and layout. It eliminates the need to use a Total Station and Laser Scanner separately, reducing the time and manpower required for data collection. The instrument is ideal for a wide range of applications and also supports survey-based accurate registrations like resection and occupation backsight. This eliminates the challenges of Cloud-to-Cloud registration.
The GTL-1000 also improves the overall efficiency during field data collection and saves modelling time by combining the scanned data with Edgewise software.
Edgewise is an as-built modelling software from Topcon’s ClearEdge 3D Suite, which uses advanced computer vision algorithms to automate time-consuming manual modelling processes. Edgewise utilises automatic and semiautomatic extraction tools and reduces the modelling time up to 75%. In other words, it saves time and makes the Scan-toBIM workflow much more efficient. Edgewise also offers advanced Quality Assurance tools, which ensures accurate models are delivered to clients.