There are several definitions of smart cities. Prabhu Ramachandran, founder and CEO of Facilio Inc., breaks the definition in simple terms. He says that cities are comprised of buildings. He says: “It is imperative to include buildings, both existing and new, in any smart city dialogue. For a Smart City to be realized and truly effective, buildings need to be connected, intelligent, and self-correcting. A smart city is basically a collection of data of all its components, which can then be analysed to run a city more efficiently."
Ramachandran says that in order to operate and connect a network of smart devices, from smart meters to smart HVAC systems to smart BMS, a city network requires the power of advanced software technology such as IoT, and MEP is crucial in driving this convergence.
The old and new
“Technological advancements like IoT are making it possible to create a new breed of smart buildings, which in turn will enable the development of smarter cities. However, a city is comprised of its old/existing infrastructure, as well as new builds,” says Ramachandran. He says that existing infrastructure can also transition to an intelligent building model using a software-led approach. The MEP sector can play a vital role in helping realise a holistic smart city vision by enabling both existing and new buildings to become a part of the smart drive.
“Buildings”, Ramachandran says, “need efficiency in ‘real-time’ and there’s massive potential for IoT to drive this. If we look at the built environment today, from elevators and security, to maintenance, energy consumption, and more, a lot of existing facilities and buildings continue to be managed by a diverse set of legacy systems, with multiple data sets, across varied equipment. These highly automated, sensor driven and hardware-centric building management systems operate in silos, offer no real-time intelligence and insights, lower the collective efficiency of buildings and worsen their impact on the environment.”
The MEP industry can harness the power of software like IoT to unify all automation on a single platform and integrate with their legacy systems to make existing buildings smarter and more intelligent. This can help buildings communicate better with each other and across systems, and most importantly, with a central city command or authority, says Ramachandran.
He adds that the value of such IoT solutions for managing buildings extends beyond integration and unification. He says: “It is the access to a live stream of real-time data and insights that is invaluable, enabling the creation of timely tickets, reducing possibilities of error and delays, improving workforce productivity, and allowing for proactive planned maintenance. Further, software like IoT also wins with its ability to integrate with existing systems both on the upper side (fire panels, BMS, automation, sensors, etc.) as well as the on lower side (smart city app for monitoring of energy or civil defense system monitoring for fires).
The sustainability angle
Sustainability is a key goal of a smart city, agrees Ramachandran. “AI and IoT software driven systems help smart buildings achieve everyday sustainability on autopilot. This happens with the help of real-time, actionable intelligence and notifications, which allow MEP [professionals] to track energy consumption and equipment malfunction from their mobile phones, as well as create work orders and assign them to relative teams, all with the touch of a button.
“MEP [professionals] today stand at a critical juncture – the intersection of sustainability, efficiency and occupant comfort – which requires them to don several hats at one time. By leveraging the power of technologies like IoT, MEP [professionals] can help buildings to run on autopilot, become self-correcting, and leapfrog to advanced efficiency and sustainability benchmarks.”