The development of so-called smart cities has become a priority for governments worldwide as the pace of urbanisation quickens. According to the United Nations, more than half of the world’s population now live in urban areas, and urbanisation is a major phenomenon in almost every country across the globe. ‘Smart’ is not simply about technology or better use of resources, but means integrated and efficient transport networks, efficient buildings, effective waste disposal and circular processing, as well as accessible and friendly public spaces.
This is a major challenge: many city planners operate on limited budgets and must satisfy multiple stakeholders. The emergence of smart cities requires single-minded support from policymakers to bring together industry, small businesses, banks, residents, architects and builders, aiming to encourage them to pool their ideas. Older cities must also deal with legacy structures and transport systems that need to be integrated efficiently. The European Commission has made smart cities a priority through its European Innovation Partnership on Smart Cities and Communities, devised to draw together diverse stakeholders to improve urban life through more sustainable integrated solutions. The initiative also aims to address city-specific challenges from different policy areas, such as energy, mobility and transport, IT and communications.
The Luxembourg Institute of Science and Technology (LIST) has been a participant in this pan-European initiative, and is involved in various projects in different areas of smart city development.
Governments around the world are increasingly requiring the property development and construction industries to act responsibly in the creation of new buildings: planning them thoughtfully, building them efficiently, and minimising maintenance costs and energy consumption. This is possible by using new technologies and materials, and should bring significant savings, representing a fundamental change in the way property and infrastructure are developed and managed.
Data is vital to this process. Information modelling techniques extract insights from raw data, which has become increasingly available as part of the internet of things, with online devices embedded in everyday objects, helping them gather and distribute data. This makes the construction process not only more predictable and efficient, but also safer, and increasingly these techniques are critical to companies in order to compete effectively. A recent survey in the UK of more than 900 construction and engineering companies found that around half are now using building information modelling on their projects.
LIST’s solutions bring together all the key players in the construction industry, including project managers, contractors and building firms. It is involved in the Bimeet project, which is designed to promote energy efficiency as part of building management, improve training and skills throughout the construction supply chain, and encourage the use of renewable energy options. With its SUCCESS project LIST has identified a number of possible improvements to the transport of construction freight in urban areas. After an extensive data collection across four European cities the project demonstrated that the adoption of different measures can lead to reductions of the negative externalities of the construction supply chain (congestion, noise, pollution etc.) of more than 50%. A number of open tools are available for local authorities, construction companies and transporters that want to try these solutions for themselves.
Sustaining quality of life in increasingly overcrowded cities is an ongoing challenge. In particular, it is difficult to keep cities moving in a way that is both efficient and does not damage the environment.
Many countries have established emission restriction zones in an effort to reduce pollution in big cities. For example, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development has approved an €11.8 million project to replace diesel buses with low-emission vehicles in the North Macedonia capital of Skopje, Europe’s most polluted city. Not all cities can invest high amounts of capital in new or renewed infrastructure though. For this reason, LIST is promoting through some of its projects the adoption of healthier and greener mobility habits and a more effective use of the existing equipment and infrastructure.
MUV is using co-creation, gamification and data as a lever to trigger and reward spontaneous behavioural change and to design human-centred instead of car-centred mobility policies. A pilot scheme will be launched in Dudelange in September. The MODALES project will analyse the impact of the way we drive and maintain our vehicles on the emission of pollutants from the brakes, powertrain and tyres. It will then deliver guidelines and tools for green driving, with the help of a driver assistance app that will advice drivers in real-time on how to reduce their polluting emissions. The SWAM project will help the Polygone company, active in waste management, to optimize its processes, by predicting with great accuracy the evolution over time of the fill level of bins and therefore reducing the number of trips that are necessary to collect the waste. Its Connecting project has been designed to create an operational tool for the application of life cycle assessment methodology to Luxembourg's disparate transport systems, enabling policymakers to judge their sustainability.
Life cycle assessment is a process to evaluate the environmental burdens associated with a product, process or activity, by identifying the energy and materials it consumes and the waste associated with this. It is designed to enable better identification and implementation of methods to achieve improvement in environmental impact.
Pollution is not the only issue related with mobility. With the advent of new technologies such as connected and automated vehicles, humankind is soon facing a true paradigm shift in mobility for the first time since the introduction of the first cars. Understanding the impact of these disruptions is a very challenging task that LIST is pursuing with two projects. 5G-MOBIX is looking at the way in which 5G connectivity will allow autonomous vehicles to travel seamlessly across national borders, while PASCAL, starting next June, will focus on the social acceptance of autonomous and semi-autonomous vehicles and will deliver a number of tools to predict and manage the changes they will bring to our lives.
Around three-quarters of Europe’s population lives in cities, according to EU agency Eurostat. Urban areas tend to be larger contributors to energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions, but are also critical to the generation of economic wealth and employment. Initiatives such as the Urban Agenda for the EU aims to transform the European energy system into the most sustainable in the world.
LIST’s focus has been on helping companies that produce, consume or distribute energy to manage and predict their consumption better, through three main projects, the Secure, CleanMobilEnergy and Bimeet initiatives. The Secure platform aims to help Luxembourg businesses explore options to use renewable energy to meet their needs, while CleanMobilEnergy is a smart energy management system designed to integrate multiple renewable energy sources, storage devices and electric vehicles, and to optimise energy consumption, enabling it to be managed more efficiently across districts, small cities or major metropolitan areas.
Air and water pollution frequently pose major health hazards for city dwellers, and can have an impact throughout the ecosystem. The LIST Observatory for Climate and Environment samples water and sediments using commercial equipment to ensure water quality is monitored and any problems promptly resolved. It operates a similar programme for air quality, involving research into the triggers for air pollution and examining how policymakers can set objectives for its reduction.
Industries of all kinds have recognised the benefits of involvement in these initiatives. LIST has developed partnerships with business ranging from car manufacturer Volvo, accounting, audit and consultancy firm PwC, and global steel group ArcelorMittal, in addition to a range of government and industry bodies. The need to make cities more attractive places in which to live and work is now a top priority for decision-makers, along with the role for technology to play.
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