Digital cities - how we can take advantage of technologies such as what SIEMENS offers

Geofumadas interview in Singapore with Eric Chong, President and CEO, Siemens Ltd.

How does Siemens make it easier for the world to have smarter cities? What are your main offerings that allow this?

Cities face challenges due to the changes brought about by megatrends of urbanization, climate change, globalization and demography. In all their complexity, they generate large volumes of data that the fifth mega-trend of digitization can use to obtain information and optimize the systems that support urban infrastructure. 

At Siemens, we leveraged MindSphere, our cloud-based open IoT operating system, to enable this 'smart city'. Mindsphere is rated the "Best in Class" platform for IoT by PAC. With its Open Platform-as-a-Service capability, it helps experts co-create a smart city solution. Through its MindConnect capabilities, it enables the secure connection of Siemens and third-party products and equipment to capture real-time data for big data analysis that enables various Smart Cities applications. The data collected from the city as a whole can also become ideas for city planners and policy makers to outline the future development of the smart city. With the continued development of artificial intelligence and data analytics, the process of converting data into insight and generating new ideas for smart city applications that can help address the urban challenges posed by mega-trends and maximize the potential of smart city.

 Are cities getting smarter at the desired pace? How do you see progress? How can companies like Siemens help accelerate the pace?

The world is becoming more aware of the development of smart cities. Stakeholders like the government, infrastructure providers, industry leaders, are proactively acting to drive change. In Hong Kong, the government launched the excellent Smart City Blueprint in 2017, which set the vision for the development of our Smart City with Blueprint 2.0 on the way. In addition to setting clear guidelines for the industry, the government also offers financial incentives such as financing and tax cuts to support the development and diffusion of innovations on this rapidly growing topic. More importantly, it is taking the lead with smart city initiatives like Energizing Kowloon East, where proof-of-concepts is being conducted. We are very pleased to contribute our experience in such PoCs, for example:

  • Kerbside Upload / Download Monitoring System - Innovation to optimize valuable gutter-side space and help users access the available upload / download bay with AI.
  • Energy Efficiency Data System - Installing smart home electricity sensors for real-time electricity consumption data so users can track consumption patterns with mobile apps to improve electricity consumption habits.

In addition to bringing our global expertise, we believe we can also help build a thriving ecosystem of innovation. For this purpose, we invested in the Smart City Digital Hub at the Science Park to provide a platform for startups, technology experts, and infrastructure providers to build their digital portfolio and develop smart city applications.

 Our efforts in Hong Kong echo our efforts elsewhere to help cities become smarter. For example, in Great Britain, we are working with London on the construction of an 'Arc of Opportunity'. It is a smart city model driven by the private sector in the region and in collaboration with Greater London Authority, where a series of smart city initiatives are being carried out focusing on energy, transport and buildings.

 In Vienna, Austria, we are working with the city of Aspern on a live Smart Cities Demonstration Laboratory testing designs and systems for smart cities, focusing on energy efficiency and smart infrastructures and developing solutions for renewable energy, grid control low voltage, energy storage and intelligent control of distribution networks.

What made you think of establishing a digital smart city center?

 Our vision for the Smart City Digital Center is to accelerate smart city development through collaboration and talent development. Developed by MindSphere, Siemens' cloud-based IoT operating system, the center is designed as an open laboratory that enables R&D in buildings, energy and mobility. By improving IoT connectivity, our digital hub aims to help stakeholders identify our city's weaknesses and support companies to expand their businesses with digitization.

 We hope that the center fosters future talent in Hong Kong to support the growth potential of the smart city. For this reason, the center started the Mindsphere Academy to provide training and collaborate with the Vocational Training Council to help meet the needs of the workforce and encourage participants in this industry.

  What are the main functions of this center?

 Our Smart City Digital Center aims to co-create a smart city innovation ecosystem in collaboration with local partners such as infrastructure providers, educational institutes, and startups. The center aims to act as a connector to share knowledge about advanced IoT technologies, encourage sectors to open data for smart city applications, generate information for a holistic view of city infrastructure, and explore smart city applications. The ultimate goal is to build a smart city in Hong Kong and improve the livability and efficiency of our city.

 In which region do you see the most progress in digitization?

 We see progress in the construction, energy and mobility sectors that most benefit from digitization.

 Buildings are the main energy consumers in the city, consuming 90% of the electricity in Hong Kong. There is great potential to improve the building's energy efficiency, reduce its impact on the environment, and intelligently manage interior space through increasingly AI-powered intelligent technology. For example, our «AI Chiller» management system provides 24x7 condition monitoring of the chiller plant, which instantly offers recommendations to the building facilities team to optimize their operations on a continuous basis. Another example is "buildings that can talk" that seamlessly communicate with the energy system to create an ecosystem that responds to the needs of buildings and their occupants while ensuring that the city's valuable energy resources are used efficient and dynamic way.

 In a densely populated city like Hong Kong, there is great potential to scale up smart mobility innovations to enable a seamless travel experience for its residents. Innovations in V2X (vehicle-ax) enable constant communication between vehicles and infrastructure supporting applications such as intelligent control solutions to manage complex traffic situations at urban intersections. Such technologies when implemented at scale are also key to enabling the safe and reliable operation of autonomous vehicles throughout the city.

 Tell us about the collaboration between Bentley Systems and Siemens: How is this collaboration helping the infrastructure sector?

 Siemens and Bentley Systems have a history of supplementing their respective portfolios through each other's technology license to provide solutions in the field of digital factories. The alliance advanced further in 2016 to achieve new growth opportunities in the industry and infrastructure through the integration of complementary digital engineering models with joint investment initiatives. Focusing on digital twins and leveraging MindSphere, the alliance uses digital engineering models for visual operations and asset performance of connected infrastructure that enables advanced applications such as the "Simulation as a Service" solution for the entire asset life cycle. This reduces overall life cycle costs since optimization in design, implementation, and operations can be achieved through simulation on the digital twin with implementation only beginning when it meets all expectations and specifications. The Essential Connected Data Environment for this provides end-to-end digital innovation that creates comprehensive and accurate digital twins of the process and the physical asset. In the latest collaboration, both parties launched Plant View to Connect, Contextualize, Validate, and Visualize Plant Data to create a live digital twin for users to discover new insights. In Hong Kong, our smart digital city center is exploring similar topics with Bentley to create value for customers and accelerate the transformation of the smart city.

What do you mean by Connected City Solutions?

 Connected City Solutions (CCS) integrates the Internet of Things, cloud computing, and connectivity technologies to support smart city management and enable public convenience. With data collected by sensors and smart devices integrated and powered by MindSphere, connected city solutions streamline city operations by enabling IoT connectivity and city data collection and analysis. The proliferation of IoT sensors in the city can allow the collection of environmental data, including environmental brightness, road traffic, environmental data including temperature, humidity, pressure, noise, vibration level, and suspended particles. The collected data can be analyzed with artificial intelligence to provide information or predict futures for various urban challenges. This can generate transformative ideas for city planners to address urban challenges such as public safety, asset management, energy efficiency, and traffic congestion.

 How is Siemens helping build a community of smart city developers through a focus on education?

 The Siemens Smart City Developer Community (SSCDC) was established on January 24, 2019 as an extension of our digital smart city hub to harness and extend the power of Mindsphere. SSCDC engages business partners, technology experts, SMEs, and startups in smart city development through knowledge sharing, collaboration ideas, networking, and partnership opportunities. It has 4 key objectives:

  • Education: Provides advanced IoT trainings, collaboration workshops and market-focused seminars to support local talents, engineers, academia and CXO in developing scalable digital solutions.
  • Networking: Build professional networks by forming special interest groups with startups, SMEs and multinationals with networking opportunities at various conferences.
  • Co-creation: Leverage MindSphere as an online platform for collaborations with like-minded people to transform industry concepts into real-world applications.
  • Partnership: opportunities to refer potential startups and SMEs to the global network of startups and industrial connections to equip members with the knowledge and investments to scale up the solution with MindSphere.

 The community also fosters a tight-knit innovation ecosystem for companies to withstand the technological disruption brought about by the IoT, expand their businesses, and address the pressing challenges of emerging cities. In less than a year, SSCDC has more than 120 members with 13 community events ranging from hands-on IoT workshops to MindSphere Solution Day, unlocking the potential of IoT and generating dialogues on value co-creation opportunities.  

 Any message you want to give to the construction industry / users.

Digitization brings disruptive changes to many industries that can be a threat if ignored, but an opportunity if adopted. In the construction industry that is challenged by declining productivity and increasing costs, the entire life cycle of a project can benefit from digitization.

For example, building information modeling can simulate a building virtually and then physically, and construction only begins after the virtual meets all expectations and specifications. This can be enhanced with MindSphere, which enables real-time data collection, consolidation, and analysis throughout the construction cycle, opening up more opportunities focused on a digital twin of the project. This further enables the integration of technologies such as additive manufacturing that can assist in the creation of building components from the digital twin to accelerate the adoption of Modular Integrated Building (MiC) for a more efficient building process.

To transform the construction supervision and certification process, currently still on paper, innovations in blockchain technology can enable the management and supervision of digital projects, ensuring transparency, the integrity of records, and improving efficiency. Digitization presents far-reaching opportunities and transforms the way we build, collaborate, and operate, greatly improving construction productivity and reducing overall project cost, while generating measurable benefits throughout the life cycle of the building .

 Is Siemens collaborating with other companies to build cutting-edge technologies that enable the creation / maintenance of smart cities?

Siemens is always open to work with other companies and is not limited to companies.

Siemens has signed memoranda of understanding and forged several alliances in Hong Kong to accelerate the development of the smart city, for example:

Smart City Consortium (SCC): Connects MindSphere to Hong Kong's smart city community to show how MindSphere can serve as a city's IoT platform.

Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks Corporation (HKSTP): Prompt collaboration in developing smart city solutions with IoT and data analytics

CLP: Develop pilot projects for the power grid, smart city, power generation and cybersecurity.

MTR: Create digital solutions to optimize rail operations through analytics

VTC: Cultivate the talents of the next generation to ensure the sustainability of the innovative ecosystem and bring new ideas for future innovations.

In January of this year, Siemens also participated in the GreaterBayX Scalerater Program, a joint initiative with startups and leading corporations such as Greater Bay Ventures, HSBC and Microsoft to help scalers realize their smart city vision and take advantage of the growing opportunities in the greater bay area with our domain knowledge.

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