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Smarter cities need intelligent infrastructure

At its heart, a smart city needs smart infrastructure to manage critical services such as power, water and heat, as well as in the automation of the factories and buildings we work in, says ABB managing director for South East Asia, Johan de Villiers.

Today, we see so many cities around the world and in this region, that are challenged to accommodate ever increasing populations and incomes, while also striving to be more sustainable, competitive and liveable.

It has been shown that some 50 percent of the global population lives in cities today, and this number will continue to grow. But how can cities continue to expand in a sustainable and energy efficient way? They need to become smarter.

At its heart, a smart city needs smart infrastructure to manage critical services such as power, water and heat, as well as in the automation of the factories and buildings we work in. Electricity is all around us and demand for it is growing fast due to rapid social development, but also because modern citizens increasingly depend on it to power their digital lives.

The power grids that make all this possible are some of the largest machines ever constructed and at night, these massive networks are even visible from space. But today’s power systems were designed in a different age, for large-scale fossil fuel, nuclear and hydropower generation to supply electricity over long-established transmission and distribution systems.

The grid as we know it can’t support the increasing demands placed on it and the entire electricity model is undergoing changes on a scale that we have never seen before. One key example would be the rise of renewable energy, whether it’s from wind, water or the sun.

But there are challenges involved in connecting renewable energy into existing systems, and the storage of such energy remains limited for the moment. Renewable energy, small-scale power generation and a variety of other factors are converging to shape an intelligent grid of the future. What is needed is an energy system with greater flexibility at all levels—from production to consumption.

A power grid where large-scale and small-scale electricity production can complement and communicate with each other, while underpinning traditional economies as well as new demands from the digital, circular and blue economies. These paradigm shifts are placing new demands and ways of thinking in how we use energy and an important solution for this is a concept known as “smart grids”.

Over decades, ABB has developed many new technologies, envisioning new ways that cities can be more energy efficient to power sustainable growth.

Technologies that help buildings stay cool (or warm) with less energy consumption, technologies that ensure the utmost reliability in datacenters, technologies that help ships to consume less energy when docked, and technologies that move us—in buses, trains and cars—with lower environmental impact.

This month, ABB and Eco-Business are convening the inaugural Smarter Cities Roundtable to discuss ways in which technology can deliver sustainability. It is our hope that by stimulating and deepining the conversation, we can work with multi-stakeholders here to help Singapore became smarter, and to continue to grow, sustainably.

Johan de Villiers is Managing Director for ABB South East Asia.

This article was originally published in the Eco-Business magazine.

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