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Analysis: Cities, buildings are getting ‘smarter’

The potential for futuristic cities that comprise working, life-improving technologies has significantly increased, according to JLL lead director, Jeremy Kelly, reports. Kelly wrote in a previous article that “In this digital age, governments, urban planners and businesses see an opportunity to use technologies—from artificial intelligence to sensors— to enhance where communities live, work and play.”

Smart technology issues were discussed during the “Smart Cities and Smart Buildings” breakout session at the recent CREW National Convention 2021 in Las Vegas. Panelists discussed how cities of future will offer a variety of “smart technologies.”

It’s data that will help determine what technology is “smart,” according to panelist Fred Ellermeier, VP of Connected Communities at Black & Veatch.

“Everything that goes into the definition of ‘what is smart’ ends with how data is used,” he said. “What it takes to be smart is whether or not there is a communication infrastructure in place that can move that data around to where it needs to go.”

Jennifer Saunders, executive director of the Dallas Innovation Alliance, agreed. Saunders noted that smart cities and smart buildings are the combination of sustainability, design ability and data.

“We look at people first, and then look at how we can take problems and use technology as a catalyst and as a tool,” she said. “And sometimes the things that make a city ‘smart’ are things the tenant would not know anything about.”

Moderator Darlene Pope, president of Planon, and Chairman of the Fifth Gen Media Advisory Council, said that when everything that can go into a smart building and a smart city is considered, connectivity plays a key role and making sense out of all the data is key.

“The data itself isn’t what makes it smart,” Pope said. “It is taking that data and understanding what it means and then taking that information and making the building respond in real time.”

Ellermeier, added that it’s critical to look for a seamless transition from outward to inward, reports.

“It is about digitizing cities, which leads to monetization of data,” he said. Ellermeier added that what smart cities do is leverage information and communications technology and data analytics.

Fiber optic cable, Wi-Fi-cellular low-powered wide-area wireless solutions, 5G edge processing and hybrid solutions make up the enabling communications infrastructure for the smart city system, according to the panelists.

“It is about better services overall,” said Saunders.

Pope added that smart buildings and smart cities are two completely different things.

“If you take the same application of data technology inside the building so we could tell if the building was crowded and understand real time occupancy in the buildings using the same technologies that we are used to—we need to think of what we aren’t doing in the public space that we are doing in the private space and why,” she said.

Adaption remains a big challenge, the panelists said.

“Financials is the single biggest barrier,” said Saunders. “Cities are accelerating facilitating faster permit time but we need more examples of the ROI.”

Joe Dyton can be reached at

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