Climate change will be among KPIs for smart cities by 2020, says...

Climate change will be among KPIs for smart cities by 2020, says Gartner

Climate change will be among KPIs for smart cities by 2020, says Gartner
Climate change will be among KPIs for smart cities by 2020, says Gartner

Analysts at Gartner have predicted that half of all smart city objectives will include climate change, resilience and sustainability by 2020.

Speaking to an audience at the Gartner Symposium/ITXpo in Barcelona this week, Bettina Tratz-Ryan, research vice president at Gartner, outlined Gartner’s thinking. She discussed how the Internet of Things (IoT) and data analytics will accelerate the development of smart cities.

Ms. Tratz-Ryan indicated that as smart cities develop, cities are defining new objectives and measurable outcomes that meet the targets agreed upon at the COP 21 in Paris to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

IoT to fight climate change

“With the Horizon 2020 goals of energy efficiency, carbon emission reductions and renewable energy in mind, many cities in Europe have launched energy sustainability, resource management, social inclusion and community prosperity initiatives,” Tratz-Ryan said in a statement by Gartner.

The statement points out that a number of major cities (Singapore, Gothenburg, Bristol) have adopted schemes to improve traffic and mobility, while Tratz-Ryan noted the increase in ride sharing, as well as improved infrastructure for electric vehicles and congestion charges on combustion engines as examples of cities pushing to tackle climate change.

Central to the advancement and execution of clime change goals, Gartner says, is sensors. The company predicts that next year there will be 380 million connected things in use in cities to deliver sustainability and climate change goals, rising to 1.39 billion things by 2020. Supposedly smart commercial buildings and transportation will the main contributors to this, representing 58 percent of the all IoT installed.

In buildings “Implementing an integrated business management system (BMS) for lighting and heating and cooling can reduce energy consumption by 50 percent,” claimed Tratz-Ryan. “This is a significant contribution to the commitments of cities to reduce their footprint of GHG.”

“Cities will become the environmental centers of excellence for new technology development, offering a stress test environment for the industry,” said Tratz-Ryan. “The advantages for cities will be profound. They will not only meet their mandated targets of the Horizon 2020 goals, but also develop greener and more inclusive city conditions that citizens can acknowledge as KPIs.”

Reasons to be doubtful?

IoB spoke to Clive Longbottom, analyst at Quocirca, for some expert opinion on these predictions. Longbottom was somewhat sceptical in his emailed comments, citing the power of money as an important factor in the development of smart cities.

“All of these things are a fine balancing act between various variables that the designers and founders of a smart city have to consider,” he told IoB. “The biggest of these variables is cost – while it is theoretically possible to create a zero-carbon city, the costs of doing so and of maintaining it would be prohibitive.  As such, some compromises have to be taken.”

Longbottom also referenced the geopolitical factors at play here, notably the Trump factor.

“If Trump does backtrack on the US commitments to changes to try and deal with climate change…then what will this mean to smart cities elsewhere?” he said. “If they do everything they can while the US is building new cities where smog rules and the costs of housing, workers, factories and regulation are very low, can the countries looking to smart cities afford to be so practically pure in their approach?”

“If Trump’s decisions mean that China backtracks, taking India, Brazil and other growth economies with it, then sustainability starts to plummet down the priority list of not only smart cities, but every single organization on the planet – it is the only way that they can remain competitive.”

Longbottom has a point, though he does acknowledge that the sustainability message has some weight.

“What I expect to see is an increase in the amount of greenwash that is seen,” he continued. “If the amount of energy used by a smart city can be lowered for cost reasons (for example, using natural lighting where possible and using LED lights everywhere else), it hits the main variable of cost. That LED lights, being low voltage, can be powered by cheap means (stored or direct solar power, for example) lowers the need for expensive distributed grid power.”

Ultimately, however, Longbottom argues that “If the cost of putting in place such a system to save energy exceeded the lifetime savings, it wouldn’t get done – even if it did avoid those emissions and so meet the Paris agreements.”