Are you sure?

Smart Buildings, Smart Cities in Fight Against Epidemics

With the world in shock from the coronavirus pandemic, some future trends are emerging that may define our life and the global economy. Tungsram’s smart solutions expert, Gabriella Zsivola, shares her vision in the second part of this joint mini-series with the Budapest Business Journal about the role of smart buildings and smart cities in human wellbeing.

Gabriella Zsivola

In the world of business and technology, buzzwords are always present; one of the most common in recent years is “smart”. Smart cities, smart homes, smart lighting, smart solutions; all over the globe, products and services are being launched based on digitalized, automatized, and computerized data analysis, aiming to contribute to human wellbeing in a cost-efficient, sustainable way.  

The COVID-19 epidemic drove these trends into even more sharp focus; after all, we need smart solutions that can help curb epidemics and avoid infection, while also creating a society in which safety and self-sustenance stand at a higher level (remember the food supply panic at the beginning of the epidemic, or the fears concerning infected items arriving from faraway countries).

Here’s a real-world example: with the use of smart software and systems, the spread of the coronavirus can actually be halted where it is expected to spike, such as residential homes for the elderly or hospitals.

In these institutions, digital intelligence can be established that is indispensable for data-driven decision-making and for centralized, speedy management. The smart system starts at the entrance, detecting whether someone who enters exhibits a high body temperature, and in case infection is confirmed, contact tracing can be completed by means of mobile technology.

The system also allows for the movements of individuals to be followed within the hospital or nursing home, for example by means of a smart bracelet. That means it will be possible to pinpoint a resident’s exact position inside or outside the building, while the care staff can receive continuous information about the individual’s vital life signs. Reducing groupings with an infection hazard is also possible, for example in hospitals, by optimizing the waiting time at consulting hours.

Hungarian Kick-off

This equipment is already present on the market; moreover, Hungarian entities are at game kick-off – sometimes almost literally: one of the country’s largest public buildings, the Puskás sports stadium, applies a Hungarian-developed facility management software (ArchiFM). This, together with the involvement of some partners, could be capable of managing the sort of system described above.

Cities around the world are working on completing smart city concepts, and not for the far future: Consulting company Roland Berger reviewed the world’s 15 smartest cities. Five were Chinese; but London, Birmingham, Paris and Vienna are also listed; the latter had already completed its digital architecture system in 2017, and has since been developing new services based on the feedback. At home, the most recent smart city candidate is Debrecen, which presented its 68-page smart city study plan for the city’s digital renewal a few weeks ago.

Tungsram sees smart city solutions in a very practical light: it believes outdoor lighting, more precisely the lampposts standing on every street at every five meters, are highly suitable for becoming the spine of a city’s smart infrastructure.

These lampposts can be equipped with sensors, measuring instruments, cameras, and signaling devices, all of which continuously provide data for the organizers of traffic and parking, as well as organizations monitoring air pollution, security, and other factors that influence our everyday lives.

The devices operating on the lampposts may help find an empty parking lot or assist in orienting self-driving cars; they can also direct attention to criminal acts occurring and provide public Wi-Fi, for example. Considering the new challenges raised by the coronavirus emergency, just as in the case of hospitals and elderly care homes, contact tracing and observing movement will also be possible from, and thus control the spread of illnesses and infections.

On top of all such advantages, these procedures will result in a continuous cost saving, since modern lighting is LED-based with its energy consumption just a fraction of the earlier solutions.

Furthermore, a model already exists for financing it: so-called ESCO service providers pay for the entire investment, or a part of it, and the investor pays off the loan from the money gained through energy saving, while the maintenance costs that they pay during the loan’s duration basically remain the same as before.