Throughout the years, many films have presented a variety of futuristic visions for the cities of the future. While we have yet to see flying cars or skyscrapers rising above the clouds, we are on the right track toward creating modern, technologically advanced and integrated urban environments. Renata Nowakowska, innovation manager at Skanska, one of the partners of Cybercom Polska, talks about the new era of cities 2.0.
What do smart cities look like, and how do they differ from ordinary cities?
The literature has no single complete definition for the term. To put it simply, smart cities use modern information and communication technologies, such as for economic issues, mobility, widespread access to information about the city, its infrastructure and development plans – all in order to improve the living standards of the residents. Is this utopia or reality? Although we already take advantage of the opportunities offered by modern technologies, we are not yet living in smart cities. However we are implementing some elements of the concept, ones which, in addition to being innovative, are also based on creating more sustainable cities, especially in terms of the energy economy, with the idea of using renewable sources and implementing systems to reduce energy and water consumption. Smart cities are also safe, accessible to everyone, regardless of their level of physical ability, with the intention of achieving active cooperation between the residents and the representatives of the municipal authorities.
Why do companies invest in smart cities?
The essential ingredients for creating smart cities are the people and the space. That is why development and construction companies pay ever more attention to the idea of smart cities and implementing projects that should meet both the present and future needs of society and the environment. Some companies go even further and offer innovative solutions from the increasingly popular PropTech area, e.g. operating systems and mobile applications that control and adapt our flats and workplaces, and which are becoming standard for integrating people and infrastructure in smart cities. An example of such a PropTech solution is our system, Connected by Skanska, which we implemented this year in our new Skanska headquarters in the Spark office building in Warsaw. Connected by Skanska is one of the most innovative PropTech solutions, and one of the first to go beyond the building itself and thus begin to implement the idea of smart cities.
What makes this project so special?
Thanks to the tools we used, the system responds to our needs in terms of communication between people and their immediate environment. Additionally, as an open platform, it can be continuously modified and improved with new functionalities. One example of the smart functionalities offered by Connected by Skanska is Activity Based Parking – a special system that recognizes car licence plates and then uses this to allocate parking spaces to employees and guests, who are allowed in without having to first leave the car or use plastic ID cards. This solution can be used in the future, not only for office buildings, but also for housing estates or municipal parking zones. The daily search for a free parking space may not be so difficult any more, as the system will find one for us and direct us there. Connected by Skanska also ensures building access management, as well as protection of personal and analytical data. Every employee can use the virtual reception desk to invite a guest, who, if found in the system, will be admitted to the building and given access to the floor specified in the invitation. In addition, the system also gives us the ability to control the temperature, interior lighting and book conference rooms via a smartphone.
How do smart cities fit in with the principles of sustainable development?
The idea of smart cities also encompasses those of sustainable cities and sustainable construction. In addition to the issues of new technologies and innovative solutions, an increasing number of developers are paying more attention to creating buildings that integrate with the city, i.e. incorporating them properly into the existing urban tissue, to ensure a positive impact on the area and respond to the needs of present and future users. One example of such a project is the previously mentioned smart office building – Spark. Thanks to local consultations the building provides a space publicly available to all users, with areas of vegetation, benches, electrical sockets, access to Wi-Fi, bicycle repair stations, a dedicated external elevator for cyclists and bicycle racks, as well as a parking lot with the possibility of recharging electric vehicles. All these elements make Spark a place that integrates not only the regular users but also visitors, all in line with the “smart” concept.
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