Cities and the infrastructure that connects and moves people are becoming much smarter. Moreover, cities are becoming safer for the people who live in these increasingly dense environments. A range of technologies have emerged to make cities smarter, more connected, and safer. These include both virtual geospatial technologies and geospatial information systems (GIS) that can capture the physical context of cities and infrastructure to create digital “virtual cities”. This also applies to public safety where designers and planners can utilize next-generation technology to provide physical security and improve coordination between multiple agencies such as police, fire, emergency management, and communications.
When comparing the concepts that define a smart city and BIM solutions, a common factor is the amount of information involved and easy access to it by all the stakeholders. The BIM solution set spans the design/build/operate/maintain lifecycle. 3D design models have been around for some time now, but when combined with and empowered by non-graphical data and BIM systems, they enable smart city designers, builders, and planners to connect all elements and systems (buildings, transportation, security, people, recreation, etc.) into an intelligent, and multi-functional ecosystem. This is the essence of a smart city.
What is a Smart City?
As with smart buildings, infrastructure, plants, and factories; realizing a smart city is a lifecycle process of design, build, and manage. Once implemented and brought to fruition, a smart city represents more than just a collection of components and systems. This effective integration of physical, digital, and human systems in a smart city delivers intelligent, connected, safe, and sustainable urban environment for its inhabitants.
Specific elements are involved. To begin with, a comprehensive digital backbone must be established. All elements of the city must be connected so that all stakeholders from administration, security systems and agencies, transportation systems, and ordinary citizens will be functioning components of the city ecosystem.
Equally important to a functioning smart city is an intelligent infrastructure. This would involve intelligent transportation systems that could include autonomous vehicles both for people and commerce. There would be a need for centralized and connected travel access (the connected traveler) for rail and air services. And finally, all aspects of the infrastructure will be connected through a comprehensive system of smart sensors constantly monitoring the condition of the infrastructure.
A smart city needs to be citizen-centric in terms of safety, convenience, and overall quality of life. Safety is one of most important aspects. Here, smart technology can help keep people and assets safe and secure. A smart city should afford high levels of convenience for people, including easy access to transportation, entertainment, open spaces, and the retail experience. Quality of life should include people places, a clean environment, and reliable maintenance for buildings and infrastructure.
Planning for a smart city falls into the general category of urban planning, but now involves a number of technology areas not considered in the past. This would involve planning for new set of intelligent connected areas that include intelligent edge devices, smart energy solutions like smart grids and smart buildings, intelligent traffic systems, and smart data management using AI, analytics and machine learning.
Building a smart city today involves much of the tools and technology currently available. This includes next-generation 3D design tools for buildings and infrastructure, smart construction tools, virtual reality tools, and advanced analytics that uses data from intelligent sensors to monitor buildings and infrastructure.
Smart cities will be designed, planned, and constructed using the latest BIM technologies and solutions. Other advanced technologies that will enable the smart cities of the future will include virtual reality and 3D simulation, Big Data and analytics, smart asset management, mobility and data management systems, IoT, GIS and geospatial systems, smart transportation systems, and smart building systems. Many are already available and in use today.