Cities are getting smart pretty fast. In just the past few years, the UAE has introduced several smart initiatives to tackle many of the problems of urban life.
Dubai moved towards establishing itself as the smartest city, with 100 smart initiatives and 1,000 smart services to be completed by this year. Whether it’s making it easier for residents to find parking places, or giving smoke alarms to the households that are most likely to suffer fatal fires, big data technologies are beginning to transform the way cities work.
Dubai’s most recent introduction was the smart gates at airports that negate the need for personal encounters with passport control officers. The new face-recognition software clears travellers who present approved biometric electronic passports or identification to walk straight to the baggage claim area after deplaning.
Despite all the advancements, cities have just scratched the surface in using data to improve operations. Sougata Nandi, founder of 3e Advisory, says that the current trends in IoT for smart buildings are largely focused on security, surveillance and access control. These are easiest for developers to understand and adopt. However, he says: “MEP is still languishing as a back-office. While building management systems (BMS) have been around for decades, they are rarely utilised. Large-scale migration of BMS to the cloud is yet to become a reality. Installed chiller plant managers are rarely utilised, neither to operate chiller plants nor to achieve energy efficiency. Smart sensors detecting occupancy while quite popular, are yet to become standard norms in all buildings.”
Tony Owens, technical director for building services at Cundall, agrees with Nandi. He too says that the MEP sector has a lot of catching up to do with IoT systems. He says: “The IT world is fast and requires little capital compared to real estate; it is also less risky. The real estate sector is very slow and conservative.” Owens adds that embracing open data will be beneficial for governments.
As evident, there is still a long way for the MEP industry to jump into the “smart” bandwagon. Through cloud computing, data analytics and Big Data, builders and developers can benefit in terms of understanding the efficiency of their workforce as well as the effectiveness of their plan of action.