“Smart infrastructure” responds intelligently to changes in its environment, including user demands and other infrastructure, to achieve an improved performance. Smart infrastructure is a key to sustainable development.
India is expected to emerge as the world’s 3rd largest construction market by 2020, by adding 11.5 million homes every year. 1.5 million inhabitants are added to the cities every week. By the year 2050 it is estimated that more than two thirds of the population will be city dwellers.
Infrastructure is the backbone of a city’s economy. In the years to come, urban communities will face explosive growth, not only in population but also in geographical size and economic output. With cities already generating around 80% of the global gross domestic product, it becomes obvious that they will be the backbone for economic growth and prosperity in the future. Our goal is to help cities evolve, and to offer them strategies and tools to ensure that they will become social, cultural and economic hubs.
Around the world, cities are shaped by reflective forces such as population, technologies and infrastructure. Even today these forces collide causing urbanization and climate change to bring drastic changes in metropolitan areas. Cities need to pave the way for constant evolution, as digital technologies are becoming increasingly important and urban infrastructures and buildings require a more efficient and sustainable growth. Developed cities for instance need to focus on cutting carbon emissions, improving efficiency in infrastructure and buildings, stimulating a market shift towards cleaner vehicles and environmentally friendly public transportation.
In a world where infrastructure is truly smart, sensing technologies are embedded in infrastructure and the equipment it interacts with. These sensors are connected to a communication backbone which allows real-time data acquisition and analysis. The information gathered is analyzed, interpreted and delivered as reliable, robust and meaningful information to infrastructure providers, who can then make better-informed decisions about the structural health and maintenance of their assets.
The following are some of the smart solutions to improve the urban infrastructure:
- Smart Buildings: involves not only selecting the lighting, security, HVAC independently but one needs to consider the impact of their building on the electrical grid and the environment. Buildings therefore need to add intelligence from the design inception stage till the end of building lifecycle. Smart buildings use Information Technology to connect a variety of subsystems which operate independently so that these systems can share information to optimize total building performance.
- Energy management software often provides tools for reducing energy costs and consumption for buildings or communities. It includes a variety of energy related software applications which helps in utility tracking, real-time metering, building HVAC (heating, cooling and air-conditioning) and lighting control systems, carbon and sustainability reporting, and IT equipment management.
- Smart Lighting: is a lighting designed for energy efficiency. This includes high efficiency fixtures and LED fixtures, that helps in automated controls and adjustments based on conditions such as occupancy or daylight availability.
- Biometric RFID based access control is the process whereby movement in and out of the building is controlled through specific doors, elevators and even gates for specific people at specific times. This is needed when the areas are of high security where extra caution is required beyond intrusion detection. For example: Military installations, Oil and gas facilities, Hospitals, Prisons, Airports etc.
- Water pipeline maintenance: Providing the pipes with special coatings to improve the life of the existing pipes and fixing broken or cracked pipes sections.
- An RFID based tracking buried assets: it can map the drainage pathways and other underground equipment. Underground pipes carry vital services such as water, gas, electricity and communications. Digging the ground without the knowledge of where the buried assets lie would isolate a whole community from emergency services such as fire, police, ambulance as well as from water, gas etc. At present various methods are used to pinpoint the location of the buried assets. One of the best method is the tracking system using RFID technology. This technology can identify if there are any blockages and can monitor the water levels.
- Smart system can monitor, measure, analyze, communicate and act, based on information captured from sensors. It uses a feedback loop of data, which provides evidence for informed decision-making. Various levels of smart systems exist and these are:
- Collection, usage and performance data to help future designers to produce the next, more efficient version.
- Collecting and processing data and presenting information to help a human operator to take decisions. For example, traffic systems and sensors which helps in detecting the traffic congestion of a place and help in informing drivers about the present condition of that place.
- Use collected data to act without human intervention. There are examples of each level of smartness already operating, but the same principles can be applied far more widely across interconnected and complex infrastructures.
In a sensing environment, infrastructure can respond in real time to users’ needs. Better information leads to an enhanced understanding of the behavior of infrastructure. The impact of this will lead to transformations in the approaches to design and construction. This will lead to greater efficiency in design and performance, a low-carbon society and a sustainable urban planning and management for the society.
Stern, N. (2016, May 10). Smart infrastructure is the key to sustainable development. Retrieved May 24, 2017, from https://www.theguardian.com/public-leaders-network/2016/may/10/smart-infrastructure-sustainable-development-low-carbon-transport
Lohr, S. (2009, April 29). Bringing Efficiency to the Infrastructure. Retrieved May 24, 2017, from https://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/30/business/energy-environment/30smart.html
Bhupal, K. R. (2017, February 03). India in 10 years: Towards smart and sustainable infrastructure. Retrieved May 24, 2017, from https://www.livemint.com/Politics/PF8roQYRJI9bWjOloiwV9M/India-in-10-years-Towards-smart-and-sustainable-infrastruct.html