Smart buildings as part of smart cities and societies

In order to reach clean and low-carbon future in cities, buildings need to become a proactive part of the urban environment. What this means is that they need to be highly efficient and allow for flexibility in their operations. All this requires new level of integration and smartness in the buildings themselves, and in their physical and digital connections with the rest of the urban environment.

Can I make my building smart with a mobile app?

Our smart phones already have all the necessary computing power needed to operate any smart home device. With them, it is possible to control, for example, lighting, heating and cooling, monitor your energy consumption, and detect leaks in water lines. All this can help you to manage and customize the conditions in your home and improve safety. However, a set of apps and gadgets do not equal to a smart building or ease of living. A smart building integrates all the building systems work seamlessly together in an optimal way and provides you your preferred living conditions without the need of apps. There are already examples of companies, who have entered the market by providing fully integrated service solutions. You can already buy desired indoor air conditions as a service, whilst enjoying cost and energy savings.

Will smart buildings result in smart cities?

Building-level integration and intelligence can enable significant building-level savings, while improving indoor conditions. However, the biggest benefits are found on the district or city-level, when two or more buildings are connected together with smart technologies. A simple example is connecting buildings with cooling needs, such as ice hockey rinks or server centers with buildings with heating needs, like swimming halls. These types of simple pairings have shown to bring energy savings of up to 40% with relatively simple technologies. On a district-scale, there are already projects in planning, where office and residential buildings are connected together through two-way district heating and cooling networks for even greater efficiencies.

What’s the demand-side management all about?

Buildings can store heating and cooling energy in their structures and systems, enabling them to operate without external supply of energy over short time periods without sacrificing their indoor conditions. When large enough heating or cooling masses are grouped and managed together, energy demand can be spread out more evenly, resulting in significantly lower peak demand. What this means for cities and energy companies is that once fully rolled out, demand side management can help to remove the need of some of the inefficient peak power plants. Ideally, this equals to lower emissions and lower cost throughout the value chain from the energy producer to the consumers.

Virtual power plants, today?

On electricity side there are already first commercial examples of large buildings operating in the electricity markets as virtual power plants. These types of examples are possible through a combination of integrated and automated building systems, combined with electricity storage and flexible loads inside the building. When such buildings are integrated to the grid, they can operate in the flexibility market. Likewise, aggregator business models, where geographically distributed smaller flexible loads combined together and connected to the flexibility market, are emerging.

What next?

Buildings can transform from consumers of resources, energy and services to active prosumers of all of these. This is where it all starts to make sense for the building owners, as there’s untapped revenue streams and savings that the new level of integration can bring. The examples are already many and the pace of change through roll-out of new business models is only accelerating.

If you want to read more about VTT’s vision regarding smart and sustainable cities, read our new white paper: Let’s turn your Smart City vision into reality.

Antti Ruuska VTT
Antti Ruuska
Business Development Manager, VTT
antti.ruuska(a)vtt.fi
Twitter: @antti_ruuska

 

Smart City development is inherently multi-technological and cross-disciplinary, and as an application-oriented research organisation VTT is an ideal partner. We work with the public sector and private companies as well as technology providers in research and innovation activities that expedites the development of smarter cities.  We can guide you from the early phases of vision-creation and concept development to practical implementations of smart outcomes.

Business out of data in urban environments

The role of local authorities and cities is undergoing a transformation, and it is becoming more common to regard them as service platforms. One enabler of such development is a transfer from closed to open systems, but also new modes of operation, such as the city as a platform thinking included in the Smart Tampere ecosystem, contribute to this.

It is possible to collect a lot of electronic data on the behaviour and needs of municipal residents. Using artificial intelligence (AI) or augmented reality (AR) tools, such data can be utilised in decision-making and the development of new services. With the help of refined data, the future service needs of municipal residents can be predicted, and services can be personified according to different life situations. When someone is moving, AI can automatically recommend him or her the best residential area and suitable day care centres with openings, or suggest the most sensible jobs etc. in accordance with the user’s personal interests. Cities know their residents increasingly well, and the data offers huge opportunities for different stakeholders to provide new services.

However, enterprises have been slower to seize the opportunities offered by open data than expected. The user data is dispersed between various public and private digital sources, and the creation of major data-based business would require integration of data from several sources. In other words, ground rules and bold initiatives for sharing data are also needed between operators. The creation of new data-based business activities requires examining services from the viewpoint of municipal residents instead of using the data sources as the starting point for service development. Turku with its ‘circular economy of data’ project and Forum Virium Helsinki, with user-oriented open innovation as its mode of operation, are excellent examples of trendsetters.

Use of open data from various sources in applications and services

Open data can be used in different service contexts. Most examples of such applications can be found in financial and taxation services, such as Budjettipeli budget game, with the help of which you can test different models for sharing the financing burden of welfare services between public communities and private citizens. It is based on the data resources of Statistics Finland, the National Institute for Health and Welfare and the Finnish Centre for Pensions. A lot of examples can also be found in map applications, such as the online and mobile service Aaltopoiju, which offers boaters and free-time seafarers exact observation and forecast data on different weather phenomena, such as water level and wave height. Aaltopoiju uses the open data material produced by the meteorological institutes of Finland, Estonia, Sweden and Germany.

The success factors of a business process based on open data

With a view to making business, it is important that applications based on open data have easy-to-use user and customer interfaces. The integration of data and information systems plays a key role in how utilizable the data is. Technological solutions must support the usability of the application. In addition, securing the information security of individuals is a prerequisite for creating profitable business out of open data. When collecting and using personal data of municipal residents, the delicate nature of such data must be taken into account in every stage of the data process.

Below, as an example, we have listed data initiatives related to parking and traffic, including light traffic, that are being planned, in progress or in their final stages in various cities. In the services of Helsinki Region Transport (HRT), the current issues include starting the operation of Länsimetro and the relevant changes, whereas in Tampere the construction of a tramline reforms the transport structure in the Pirkanmaa area and business activities related to that. Identifying the critical missing pieces in services from the point of view of those moving in city areas can serve as a basis when planning new data initiatives. This enables more efficient creation of new, data-based business operations.

tampere_smartcity  

Customer-oriented and comprehensive service solutions

In urban environments, services utilising open data must be based on the customers’ needs, and not only on the needs of individual data-based services. There is already a lot of data available from various sources, but identifying the critical missing data and its open provision may create new value-creation opportunities. Accumulation of data in the various phases of the use of services and business process may create new opportunities, when we learn to refine them to usable form. Therefore, the roles required for the analysis and utilisation of data (e.g. technical implementation and final use) and the operators in a comprehensive ecosystem must be identified to enable value-creation for the final user. It is also important to collect feedback on the use of applications to develop the services.


Antti Ruuska
Business Development Manager, VTT
antti.ruuska(a)vtt.fi
Twitter: @antti_ruuska

Salla Paajanen
Research Scientist, VTT
salla.paajanen(a)vtt.fi
@PaajanenSalla

Katri Valkokari
Research Manager, VTT
katri.valkokari(a)vtt.fi
@valkatti

Antti Knuuti
Key Account Manager, VTT
antti.knuuti(a)vtt.fi

If you want to read more about VTT’s vision regarding smart and sustainable cities, read our new white paper: Let’s turn your Smart City vision into reality. Smart City development is inherently multi-technological and cross-disciplinary, and as an application-oriented research organisation VTT is an ideal partner. We work with the public sector and private companies as well as technology providers in research and innovation activities that expedites the development of smarter cities.  We can guide you from the early phases of vision-creation and concept development to practical implementations of smart outcomes.

Smart Cities and Mobility – The Times They Are A-Changin’

“Come gather ‘round people wherever you roam and admit that the waters around you have grown, and accept it that soon you’ll be drenched to the bone. If your time to you is worth savin’, then you better start swimmin’ or you’ll sink like a stone for the times they are a-changin’.”

If you’re active in today’s city transport sector, it’s time to gather round because Bob Dylan’s words are as relevant now as they were of 50 years ago. Digitalization and the rise of transformative mobility services like the Ubers and the Hyperloops, combined with dramatic shifts in consumer habits and lifestyle and the urgent need to combat climate change, have become the springboard for emerging businesses. But for many it will be sink or swim!

Smarter means of mobility

Public transport is the core of a functioning city transport system. While in congested areas it’s often just a matter of providing sufficient capacity, in less densely populated areas and at off-peak hours, traditional public transport services face challenges in balancing service levels and costs. For this, many forward-looking mobility and transport provides are coming up with new types of customer-centric, needs-based mobility services that increase system flexibility while providing citizens with comfortable alternatives to private car use.

As the times are changing, so are user habits. The different services, ranging from, for example, on-demand transport and ride-hailing to shared taxis and peer-to-peer car sharing or dockless bikes, suit different people (e.g. individuals vs. families), different occasions (e.g. commute vs. leisure) and different locations (e.g. sub-urban vs. downtown). Citizen-centricity and finding the right fit is the key to smart mobility services.

The objectives of smart mobility include improving liability, sustainability, safety, equity, and ensuring economic growth while reducing the over-reliance on fossil fuels. But it’s not always as simple as it sounds. Consider dockless bikes, for example: while they certainly provide an additional opportunity for citizens to choose a healthy mode choice, the overall cost and (in)convenience for the public space remains less clear.

Waving goodbye to polluters

Railways, trams and metros are often the most efficient and reliable way of moving large groups of people around congested cities. However, they can only go where the tracks are laid, which still leaves the issue of first and last mile connections and other more flexible trips to be solved. With both populations and logistics needs growing, reducing the amount of vehicles – or even staying at current levels – is a major challenge.

The development and adoption rate of electric and hybrid vehicles for both public and private transport has been growing rapidly. But these still require adequate price points as well as capacity and coverage of charging stations. Therefore, it’s crucial to ensure that those vehicles already on the road (or in the air or waterways) produce as little harmful emissions as possible through technology upgrades and cleaner renewable energy alternatives – solar, wind, hydroelectricity and sustainably produced biofuels.

Collaboration vs. competition

In many cities, the public transport system is already in transition as industry players search for commercial opportunities and competitive business models while addressing basic service level needs at sustainable costs. While services such as car and ride sharing can help match demand and supply, connecting them into the city’s mobility matrix requires not just innovative thinking but new tools, business models and forms of collaboration between public and private operators. It is in the interest of all related parties to mitigate risks and distribute benefits by collaborating transparently in the race towards new value.

The impacts of smart mobility

Designing for the future is hard. Digitalization and the ubiquity of smart phones, for example, have brought opportunities and impacts unimaginable just a couple of decades ago. Looking forward, automated driving may be one disruptor that completely changes the balance of transportation. It can tip the scales in making on-demand services far more cost-efficient than they are today and at the same time make commuting in traffic more acceptable by allowing the time to be used more productively, whether for work or pleasure.

While it’s not yet clear who the future big winners and losers will be but if you’re in to win, it’s definitely time to start swimming.

If you want to read more about VTT’s vision regarding smart and sustainable cities, read our new white paper: Let’s turn your Smart City vision into reality.

Antti Ruuska VTT
Antti Ruuska
Business Development Manager, VTT
antti.ruuska(a)vtt.fi
Twitter: @antti_ruuska

 

Juho Kostiainen
Research Scientist, VTT
juho.kostiainen(a)vtt.fi

Smart City development is inherently multi-technological and cross-disciplinary, and as an application-oriented research organisation VTT is an ideal partner. We work with the public sector and private companies as well as technology providers in research and innovation activities that expedites the development of smarter cities.  We can guide you from the early phases of vision-creation and concept development to practical implementations of smart outcomes.

Mitä energiamurros tarkoittaa kaupungeissa?

 

Globaalin energiamurroksen taustalla vaikuttavia tekijöitä on useita, mutta kaupunkitasolla asia voidaan yksinkertaistaa. Kaupungit kuluttavat valtaosan maailman energiasta ja tuottavat yli kaksi kolmannesta kasvihuonepäästöistä. Samanaikaisesti kaupungeissa on esimerkiksi ilmanlaatuun liittyviä ongelmia, joihin on löydettävä pikaisia ratkaisuja. Edelläkävijäkaupungit ovat jo sitoutuneet päästövähennyksiin joko vapaaehtoisesti tai säätelyn kautta. Useat kaupungit pyrkivät jopa päästöttömyyteen seuraavan vuosikymmenen kuluessa. Käytännössä puhtaat, vähähiiliset energiamuodot ovat tässä avainasemassa.

Miten puhtaaseen ja vähähiiliseen tulevaisuuteen päästään?

Kaupungeilla on käytössään monia teknologisia keinoja, joiden avulla ne voivat siirtyä kohti puhdasta, vähähiilistä energiaa. Polttoaineiden käytön vähentäminen ja uusiutuvien energiamuotojen osuuden lisääminen ovat näistä ilmeisimmät. Myös olemassa olevan infrastruktuurin ja järjestelmien tehokkuutta lisäämällä tai esimerkiksi hyödyntämällä hukkalämpöä tai kaukolämmön ja -jäähdytyksen välisiä synergioita voidaan saada merkittäviä hyötyjä.

Toinen suuri tekijä yhtälössä on kysyntä. Energian kulutusta voidaan merkittävästi pienentää parantamalla rakennusten energiatehokkuutta ja esimerkiksi älykkään energianhallinnan ja varastojen avulla huipputehon tarvetta voidaan vähentää ja siirtää huipputuntien ulkopuolelle.

Mitä seuraavaksi?

Muutos kohti puhdasta ja vähähiilistä tulevaisuutta on jo käynnissä, ja sen vauhti on kiihtymässä. Nyt on oikea hetki tehdä strategiset päätökset ja ottaa ensimmäiset käytännön askeleet. Fiksuimmat ja nopeimmat toimijat ratkaisevat, millaiseksi tulevaisuuden energia-ala muovautuu kaupungeissa. Muiden tehtäväksi jää yrittää mukautua tähän tulevaisuuteen. Energiamarkkinoiden edelläkävijät etsivät aktiivisesti innovatiivisia tapoja maksimoida olemassa olevan infrastruktuurinsa käyttö osana tulevaisuuden energialiiketoimintaa ja pilotoivat samanaikaisesti uusia liiketoimintamalleja. Vitkastelijoiden osalta vaarana ei ole pelkästään omaisuuden kiihtyvä arvon aleneminen ja lopulta hukkaomaisuudeksi päätyminen, vaan he voivat myös menettää tulevaisuuden tarjoamat liiketoimintamahdollisuudet.

Voisitko antaa esimerkin?

Uusien kaupunkialueiden suunnittelu ja olemassa olevien uudelleensuunnittelu avaa konkreettisen ikkunan tulevaisuuteen. Näillä alueilla tulevaisuudessa asuvat kaupunkilaiset käyttävät arjessaan puhdasta ja vähähiilistä energiaa, joka tuotetaan älykkäällä ja joustavalla tavalla useista eri lähteistä.  Tulevaisuuden energiaverkko on kokonaisvaltainen, hajautettu järjestelmä, joka koostuu energiatehokkaista rakennuksista ja hyödyntää moninaisia paikallisia uusiutuvan energian lähteitä ja varastoja. Älykäs energiahallinta puolestaan mahdollistaa aktiivisen kysyntä- ja tarjontamallin hyödyntämisen.

Jo nyt on olemassa hienoja esimerkkejä hankkeista, joissa tulevaisuuden energiajärjestelmien mallintamisen ja simuloinnin ja avulla on voitu testata tulevaisuuden liiketoimintamallien kannattavuutta ja niiden yhteistoimintaa olemassa olevien järjestelmien kanssa. Ainakin se on selvää, että kaupunkien energiainfran rakentaminen tavalliseen tapaan ei ole enää järkevää, vaan tulevaisuuden muutospaineet täytyy pystyä huomioimaan jo tämän päivän investoinneissa.


Lue lisää VTT:n älykkäiden ja kestävien kaupunkien visiosta tuoreesta white paper ‑kannanotostamme: Let’s turn your Smart City vision into reality.

Antti Ruuska VTT
Antti Ruuska
Business Development Manager, VTT
antti.ruuska(a)vtt.fi
Twitter: @antti_ruuska

 

Smart City -vision kehittäminen vaatii luonnostaan eri teknologioiden ja tieteenalojen yhdistämistä. Käytännön sovelluksiin tähtäävänä tutkimusorganisaationa VTT on siihen paras mahdollinen kumppani. Teemme sekä julkisen ja yksityisen sektorin yritysten että teknologian tuottajien kanssa tutkimus- ja innovaatioyhteistyötä, jonka avulla voi nopeuttaa Smart City -kehitystä.  Meiltä saa opastusta vision luomisen ja konseptin kehittämisen alkuvaiheista aina älykkäiden ratkaisujen käytännön toteutuksiin asti.

Energy transition in cities -what’s it all about?

While the ongoing energy transition is driven by a multitude of factors on global scale, the issue can be simplified on city level. Cities consume vast share of global energy and produce over two thirds of the greenhouse gas emissions. At the same time, there is an urgent need to solve urban issues, such as those related to air quality. The forerunning cities are already committed to emission reductions, be it voluntarily or through regulation. Many are even aiming to become emission-free within the next decade or so. Effectively, this means that the main driver for energy transition in cities is the need to move towards clean, low-carbon energy.

How to get there?

The technological means to move towards clean, low-carbon energy in cities are many. Moving away from fossil fuels and increasing the share of renewable energy are the big targets. At the same time, efficiency of existing infrastructure and systems can improved. Examples of this include utilization of waste heat and for example, utilising synergies between district heating and cooling networks.

The other big factor in the equation is the demand side, where energy use can be reduced through better energy efficiency in buildings. Furthermore, smart energy management can help to shift and reduce peak loads.

What should we do next?

The change towards clean and low-carbon future is already happening and the pace of change is only accelerating. The time for strategic planning and first actions is now. It is those who move early, who will be shaping the future energy business in cities. The rest will be playing catch-up. The forerunning energy market players are actively seeking innovative ways to maximise the use of their existing infrastructure as part of the future energy business, while piloting new business models. The laggards will not only risk escalating the value-loss of assets and ending up with stranded assets, but they will also lose out on the new business opportunities that the future brings.

Give me an example, please!

The design of new city districts and re-development of existing ones opens up a concrete window to the future. Citizens, who live in those districts in the next decades, will be powering their everyday activities with the clean, low-carbon energy that benefits from smart energy generation, and distributed, resilient and flexible energy systems. The holistic energy systems that comprise of low-energy buildings, multiple sources of local renewables and storages form distributed energy networks that utilize active supply-and-demand side through smart energy management. We’ve already witnessed great outcomes when advanced modelling and simulation or energy systems has been combined with exploration of new business. The last thing we want to be doing is to build the same infrastructure that we’ve always built, even though we know the changes that lie ahead.

If you want to read more about VTT’s vision regarding smart and sustainable cities, read our new white paper: Let’s turn your Smart City vision into reality.

Antti Ruuska VTT
Antti Ruuska
Business Development Manager, VTT
antti.ruuska(a)vtt.fi
Twitter: @antti_ruuska

 

Smart City development is inherently multi-technological and cross-disciplinary, and as an application-oriented research organisation VTT is an ideal partner. We work with the public sector and private companies as well as technology providers in research and innovation activities that expedites the development of smarter cities.  We can guide you from the early phases of vision-creation and concept development to practical implementations of smart outcomes.

What is a Smart City? You decide.

How far along are you in turning your city into a smart one? The term ‘Smart City’ was coined some 25 years ago and has evolved since then. The concept no longer refers to technologies only. Today, cities need to strive to become sustainable rather than just smart. Furthermore, they need to offer easy living and well-being for their citizens, and a fertile environment for businesses to thrive while also ensuring resilient and efficient operations. However, the exact definition of what it means to be smart, should be left for the cities and their citizens to decide.

Such definitions are formed in practice through some key elements. A holistically smart vision and sustainable goals set the direction towards the preferred future of the city. The goals will need to be further developed into concrete objectives, so that progress and success can be measured over time. Once these elements are in place, a sustainable future can be pursued in a smart way. Urban co-creation and new citizen-centric urban design processes are required in city planning to ensure that the Smart City strategy is aligned with the goals of the different stakeholders in the urban ecosystem. Welcome to Smart City 2.0.

The triple bottom line of people, planet and profits

The driving force behind any Smart City should be the building of a better society: an inclusive community with a healthy living environment that is safe, secure, and resilient. The cities should equal provide opportunities for all; through access to services, energy, housing, mobility and more. At the same time, the urban challenges of congestion, funding of basic services, provision of housing and maintaining the condition of infrastructure need to be tackled. Urbanisation and the growth of cities also mean that the cities exert an increasing amount of pressure on natural resources and the climate.

Extending the triple bottom line

Smartness is also about bringing the city’s goals into governance and involving the community in the change. At the same time, every Smart City project, be it small or large, should focus on replicability and scalability of the solutions for maximum impact. Smart Cities come to life through concrete actions, when new innovative solutions are realised in the urban environment. In order to constantly steer the development towards the desired future, the impacts and success of individual projects need to be monitored.

Investing in the city’s sustainable and smart future pays off. While no universal definition for Smart Cities exists, each city should define smartness in their own terms while taking care of the extended triple bottom line. Processes and indicator sets for this work are readily available, so the development doesn’t need to start from zero. Once the city’s key performance indicators, or KPIs, are defined, these can be integrated with the city’s decision-support tools to ensure that the economic, environmental and social sustainability targets are achieved and used in decision-making.

If you want to read more about VTT’s vision regarding smart and sustainable cities, read our new white paper: Let’s turn your Smart City vision into reality.

Antti Ruuska VTT
Antti Ruuska
Business Development Manager, VTT
antti.ruuska(a)vtt.fi
Twitter: @antti_ruuska

 

Smart City development is inherently multi-technological and cross-disciplinary, and as an application-oriented research organisation VTT is an ideal partner. We work with the public sector and private companies as well as technology providers in research and innovation activities that expedites the development of smarter cities.  We can guide you from the early phases of vision-creation and concept development to practical implementations of smart outcomes.