Greener Horizons: How sustainability can lead the smart cities revolution

Greener Horizons: How sustainability can lead the smart cities revolution

Thursday June 22, 2017


Smart cities combine new and emerging technologies with a vision of more efficient and, proponents claim, more sustainable urban environments. Sustainability is often seen as a by-product of smart city technology—instead of being the driving force behind smart cities.

Bullfrog Power, Canada’s leading green energy provider, brought together a panel of business leaders to discuss how to bring sustainability to the fore in the adoption of smart city technologies. The panel was moderated by Terry Young, Director of Property Management at KRP Properties, and included: Sarah Dehler, Sustainability Coordinator, Siemens Canada,; Pierre Fitzgerald, Principal Director for Public Services, Ericsson; and Candace Labelle, Managing Director, DXC Foundation.

The panelists’ contributions and learnings are summarized below.

The 3 Ps of smart, sustainable cities
Sarah Dehler, Siemens Canada

As Sustainability Coordinator at Siemens Canada, the Canadian arm of the multinational engineering and electronics company, Sarah Dehler is a proponent of integrating high performance buildings and digitization into smart cities. Below, she outlines a revised “3 Ps of sustainability” (typically summarized as “People, Planet and Profit”) for a compelling vision for a smart sustainable city:

Personal – Smart technologies must be able to meet the personal needs of the people living and working in “smart connected” buildings. By automating building elements such as room comfort settings, these technologies have the potential to improve quality of life and work efficiency.

Predictive – “As we’re evolving the infrastructure in our building environments, our system automation needs to move beyond ‘what happened and why’ to ‘what will happen’,” Dehler says. Predictive technology can enable buildings to integrate seamlessly within the broader context of the built environment and energy systems – for example, being able to predict power consumption demands and manage energy production, use and storage through microgrid technology.

Prosperous – For Dehler, the sustainability of a city refers to both its environmental impact as well as its ability to thrive economically and socially. In her view, smart cities are represented by urban environments with smaller footprints, lower resource consumption and prosperity for its citizens.

The data behind successful smart cities—and how to use it
Pierre Fitzgerald, Ericsson

As Principal Director for Public Services at Ericsson—a multinational networking and telecommunications company—Pierre Fitzgerald has the unique perspective of observing ICT data gathered from dozens of cities across the globe. From its findings, Ericsson publishes an annual Networked Society City Index, which measures the performance of 41 cities in terms of sustainable urban development and prosperity.

This year, Stockholm, London and Singapore ranked among the top cities tracked by the index—and Fitzgerald explains that the common denominator for success among all three cities was ICT development.

Despite this correlation, ICT can generate an overwhelming amount of data that can paralyze action, Fitzgerald says. “It is important to be selective with your data. Define your most valuable points of analytics for your organization—the data generated from your buildings that can be monetized and that offers value to your stakeholders and partners.”

Getting involved in smart city development
Candace Labelle, DXC Technology

DXC Technology is a business-to-business IT services and solutions company operating in more than 70 countries worldwide. Candace Labelle, Managing Director of the DXC Technology, offers insight for people in cities who have yet to transition to a smart city development plan, but are interested in championing the effort.

“In a connected city, infrastructure such as health care will be impacted by public decisions about how we implement smart city technology,” she says. “Whether you’re a citizen or an entrepreneur, you’re a stakeholder about how this new technology will impact our lives. We all have a responsibility to get engaged about how our cities are changing.”

And, according to Labelle, organizations can especially reap the benefits of ICT implementation. “Most businesses have a great opportunity to adopt smart technology in the infrastructures of their businesses. The ability to connect their data and share it with others can offer huge opportunities for both them and their clients.”

Up your sustainability game with like-minded people
Terry Young, KRP Properties

As the Director of Property Management at KRP Properties, Ottawa’s largest commercial park, Terry Young works with many partners and contractors in an environmental space—and seeks out sustainably-minded professionals when negotiating, managing and partnering with contracts.

“To use a sports analogy, ‘Surround yourself with better players to bring up your game,’” he says. “When you choose contractors, partners and clients that share your passion for sustainability, you’re compelled to elevate your efforts. The collective brainstorming and learnings that come from working with peers will drive you to be better.”

Additional learnings

During the discussion, each panel participant offered a piece of insight from their experiences with smart city development:

Sarah Dehler: “The financial investment for retrofitting existing buildings to a state where they are energy efficient and saving money has to be viewed as a long-term investment. Deep energy retrofits deliver monetary savings that repay the investment.”

Pierre Fitzgerald: “Recognize opportunities to implement smart city programs on a smaller scale. Neighbourhoods in Singapore, for example, are deploying projects on a smaller scale. Instead of looking at the big picture and tackling multiple stakeholders and partners, it can be easier to build up programs even at the neighbourhood scale. Small can be beautiful! Other success criteria would be to involve the citizens if you want to generate benefits from economic, environmental and social perspectives. And then a good communication program will keep the citizens and stakeholders engaged.”

Candace Labelle: “Companies should be on board with digital transformation. The process can be time-consuming and appear expensive in the short-term, and is going to involve change and thought leadership, but the long-term payoff is exceptional. The data generated by ICT can be used to make powerful decisions.”

Terry Young: “Don’t underestimate the impact of cost savings from building operating costs. If 25% of your operating costs come from electricity, even shaving a little bit of that expenditure can add up in the long run. And trying to make grand, sweeping changes isn’t always the most effective strategy. You don’t need to change the world. Take care of the pennies, and the dollars will take care of themselves.”