Smart City – where are we in 2022?


By Suwannee Singluedej, President & CEO, Siemens Limited.


Many envision a smart city similar to what we saw in Sci-fi movies with flying vehicles transporting people from door to door or a doctor that is literally a machine inside every residence.


We have long heard about cities becoming ‘smart’. How smartness for a city is defined today and how close we are to realize such vision? Where are we with ‘Smart City’ in 2022? Although the modern vision of a smart city is still far from what portrayed in movies, advances in artificial intelligence (AI), 5G, cloud technology, big data and the internet of things (IoT), are gradually aligning reality with user expectations.


To give an example of smart city today, Dubai’s Expo 2020* campus is arguably the world’s best example of a purpose-built, connected urban environment.


(*Despite being held from 1 October 2021 – 31 March 2022, the event will keep the name ““Expo 2020 Dubai”)


With over 130 connected buildings, on an area twice the size of Monaco, Expo 2020 is using technologies to make it the most digitalized, sustainable, and secure international fair in the 170-year history of world exhibitions.

How Smart is Expo 2020 Dubai?


Expo 2020’s theme is “connecting minds and creating the future. It is powered by AI, has separate platforms to manage energy. Smart buildings and security are connected and work together to create synergy and efficiency. It allows building managers to control functions such as cooling, air quality, access and fire alarms – in real time using an app.


Expo 2020 draws information from 210,000 data points, 5,500 doors and over 15,000 cameras to optimize operations, reduce emissions, enhance visitors’ comfort and security – all at once, seamlessly. In addition, it saves energy, balances the peaks and troughs of renewable power and optimizes battery storage and e-mobility charging.


The smartness of Expo 2020 hinges on MindSphere, Siemens’ cloud-based operating system, in which data generated by elevators, air-conditioners, lights and other hardware are linked and brought into relation with each other to obtain new insights and reshape urban living. Security is embedded in the foundation of MindSphere by design.


Expo 2020 has realized all smart cities’ potential: Smartification that will transform city administration, transportation, health and public safety – a process some analysts expect to generate global economic benefits of $20 trillion through 2026.

That’s why investments to make cities smarter are predicted to more than double from $100 billion in 2021 to $250 billion in 2030. Much will be by the private sector – in smart buildings and microgrids – as well as by government. Everyone will benefit as technology makes fast-growing cities more resilient.


Transition from Expo 2020 Dubai to a real city


After the close of Expo 2020 at the end of March, the area will live on as a future city under the name “District 2020”, a project of Dubai government.


By repurposing and transitioning over 80 percent of the built environment into an integrated urban community for individuals, businesses, and visitors, District 2020 will retain Expo 2020’s LEED certified and CEEQUAL certified built assets. It will become a smart, human-centric, and sustainable mixed-use community that combine offices, collaborative workspaces, residential communities, tranquil green spaces, social and cultural attractions such as children’s science center, The Dubai Exhibition Center, and a host of business and leisure amenities. At full capacity, District 2020 will be able to accommodate 145,000 people.

Siemens will play a key role in the transition of the Expo 2020 site into District 2020 and will also be an anchor tenant, moving its global headquarters for airports, cargo, and port logistics from Munich to District 2020. Approximately 1,000 Siemens employees are expected to work from the two buildings which will inherit the building technologies installed for Expo 2020 such as smart sensors and the IoT platform that creates ‘sensory systems’ throughout the building that provide real-time data and analytics into how the building is being used while providing location services for people and assets.


Takeaways from Expo 2020 Dubai to Smart City in Thailand


The pandemic has posed significant challenges to cities worldwide causing sudden changes in how people live, work, and socialize. In addition, climate change has become an urgent agenda that cities, producing more than 60% of greenhouse gas emissions. These two challenges drive cities administrators around the world to think about the future of their own cities. Thailand and its cities are no exception.


With Tourism and foreign direct investment as some of the key drivers for the country’s economic growth, human-centric urban infrastructure such as transportation, power, water, and communications networks are fundamentally important to attract people at investment.


There are a few key takeaways from real Smart City implementation at Expo 2020 that we can learn and adapt for Thailand:


• A city is not a city without people living in it. Therefore, successful Smart City design will need to be human-centered.


• Technologies play a critical role but at a different degree from technology to technology, and from city to city. There is no one size fits all solution. A proper combination of appropriate technologies, flexible deployment that is customized to fit local use will make city smart and operatable.


• Cities will evolve as people’s lifestyles and technologies change. As a result, keeping city smart, making use of real data from city that acts as a living lab, is a virtuous circle. Adaptable, scalable, and continuous development of critical infrastructure will be key.


• Sustainability is priority for cities. To battle against climate change, we need our cities to be successful in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Adoption emerging technologies such as AI, IoT, Blockchain, Big Data will be essential to achieve ambitious sustainability goals.


With cities reopen to welcome visitors after international travel and activities gradually resume, there is no time to waste. City infrastructure is becoming top criteria for consideration whether it be for leisure of business travelling or investment destination. We can speed up the implementation of Smart City by learning from best practices and create solutions that fit to our own culture and way of living – build future cities that are comfortable and safe, adaptable, resilient, and sustainable for both Thai and all its visitors.