Reflections from Smart City Expo 2023

insights — Nov 10, 2023

The First Q Network is a group of over 3,000 MEP engineers from all over Europe. Our Smart Buildings working group gathered in Barcelona this week for the Smart City Expo.  Eleven countries spanning from Spain to Finland came together, creating an extraordinary assembly, to share their experiences and future projects on smart buildings.

As a collective, our profound reflections from this week's event underscore the following key takeaways:

1. Attention to smart buildings is growing in the market mainly due to a carbon footprint reduction and legal obligations as drivers. Though the regional differences in demand for smart buildings are large, demand for smart-enabled buildings is increasing. It is believed that the real driver for real estate developers for smart buildings will be the decrease of the portfolio value of building stock.  As the financial situation will improve, older buildings will come to the market to be retrofitted to smart buildings which are more futureproof in terms of climate change and user experience.

2. Lack of standards, norms and added value on smart buildings affect real estate developers to invest very slowly in 'smart'. However certification standards like WiredScore, SmartScore and Smart Building Collective Certification are becoming very good recognised international frameworks with clear convincing use cases to prove the long term added value of making buildings smart.

3. Electrification and digitization will change cities just as they turned buildings into smart buildings. Smart grids enable buildings to exchange heat and electrical energy between them. Using AI on top of these will be the next (r)evolution optimizing carbon footprint on a site or city level.

Takeaways from the Smart City Expo

1. Focus on Sustainability. The Smart City Expo highlighted a growing trend towards sustainability in urban development. For instance, there were numerous exhibits featuring smart energy grids, building integrated PV panels in all colors, solar-powered streetlights, and electric vehicle charging infrastructure. 

2. Data-Driven Decision Making. With the advent of IoT devices and sensor technology, cities can collect vast amounts of data on various aspects such as traffic patterns, air quality, waste management, and more. Camera's are the city sensors for noise, pollution, traffic accidents and even act as weather stations. This data can be leveraged to make informed decisions and optimize city and building operations.

3. Artificial Intelligence for Smart City Optimization. AI is a prevalent theme at the expo, demonstrating how it can be harnessed to optimize various aspects of urban life. From traffic management and energy consumption to waste management and public safety,

4. e-Mobility as a Service. The expo highlighted the increasing popularity of Mobility as a Service, where various transportation options are integrated into a single platform. Ride-sharing, bike-sharing, scooter-sharing, and public transit, present a holistic approach to urban mobility. Smart grids will reduce the carbon footprint of e-mobility by routing renewable energy in an intelligent way to charging stations for bikes, vehicles and public buses.

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