Integration toward a Smarter World

Innovative projects help improve society and the environment

By Gabriela Ehrlich

Under the leadership of IEC Vice-President Hiromishi Fujisawa, the Open Session of the 78th IEC General Meeting provided an interesting overview of several different projects that all aim to integrate complex systems in order to achieve better outcomes for society and the environment.

spec-7 smart city
Developing Smart Cities

Balancing quality of life and sustainability

The session was opened by Mitsubishi Electric President and CEO Masaki Sakuyama who in his key-note address presented some of the challenges society faces to balance quality of life for citizens with the need to protect the environment and natural resources. This balancing act is made more difficult by an increasing occurrence of natural disasters such as typhoons, droughts and wildfires as well as growing urbanization, which complicates the reliable provision of energy, food and water. Massive concentration of populations also leads to increased pollution, traffic congestion, and concerns for public safety.

Better outcomes through technology

Sakuyama pointed to three key technology fields that promise to contribute to a Smarter World: sustainable energy generation, optimized transportation systems and industrial automation.

In particular, he outlined an innovative approach to power generation from renewable energy combined with hydrogen-based energy generation and storage to build a hydrogen grid. As a result the use of fossil fuels is strongly reduced. Sakuyama also explained how broad scale energy management and regenerative energy technologies can increase transportation efficiencies by up to 10 times.

Mitsubishi actively contributes to standardization work in the IEC. Sakuyama emphasized how the IEC contributes to a Smarter World by enabling the interoperability of systems as well as assuring safety, reliability, performance and quality. Going forward Sakuyama said he expects the IEC to bring on board all stakeholders, including governments and regulators to develop all the Standards that are needed.  

Overcoming “pilot paralysis”

Peter Lacy, who is a Member of Accenture’s Management Consulting leadership team and in charge of Accenture’s Strategy Practice and Sustainability services business in Asia Pacific, presented approaches to bring transformative change to Smart Cities. He cited the example of the city of Amsterdam.

When “retrofitting” a city, a holistic approach is needed and standardization is key. Amsterdam took an open platform citizen-centric approach in adding smartness to the city. A decision support tool that was built with the help of Accenture gave city leaders a tool to ask strategic questions while involving citizens in the process and allowing for decisions to become more transparent. With it the city was able to overcome “pilot paralysis”, a syndrome that plagues many smart projects, which never make it to full-scale implementation. Amsterdam is one of the rare cities that can be called smart.

Decoupling growth from resources

Lacy also pointed to the fact that the era of cheap and plentiful resources with stable or falling prices has come to an end. This is another reason why integration to a Smarter World and in particular how we produce, use and consume things has become more important than ever.

Since 2000 every 1% growth of GDP has led to a 1,9% increase in the price of commodities. In this context growth will need to be decoupled from resources in a circular economy model to enable continuous economic development. This model calls for resource recovery, life extension of products, the sharing of platforms such as for example housing (AirBnB) and an approach to products as services rather than physical elements, i.e. owning 500 washes rather than a washing machine. Circular economies were once the successful basis for early human existence. Now, with increasing resource constraints, they are again the way forward.

Waste: a thing of the past

Today, the key to success will be a mix of new emerging and disruptive technologies, such as mobile, M2M (machine to machine), cloud, big data, 3D printing, modular design, advanced recycling technologies and new materials that are fully recyclable and renewable. Such technologies will disrupt how services are delivered to citizens and support new innovations. This approach will enable new ways in which to access and understand product use-phases and efficiency.

A hellishly dependent paradise

Leon R. Roose, Principal and Chief Technologist at the Hawaii Natural Energy Institute of the University of Hawaii, spearheaded the formation of Grid Systems Technologies to increase the adoption of renewable energy in Hawaii. The islands are a paradise but at the same time one of the most remote places on this planet. Until recently 90% of Hawaii’s energy needs were met by using fossil fuels. 100% of crude oil was imported and the totally uncontrollable volatility of cost tied to crude oil prices heavily impacted household and business budgets as well as the islands’ overall economy.

Energy and economic security

The opportunity for sustainability in Hawaii is abundant. The islands are blessed with unlimited sunshine, steady winds and are surrounded by ocean. In an effort to increase energy and economic security, the State of Hawaii and the US Department of Energy launched in January 2008 the Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative. The initiative is part of a clean energy cooperation agreement which was signed in November 2009 between Japan and the US. With it the islands of Hawaii and Okinawa agreed to share expertise in an effort to achieve energy independence for the islands. Hawaii wants to become a clean energy model for the US and the world by reaching at least a 70% share of renewable energy by 2030. To foster renewable energy use and overcome intermittency, wind and solar technologies are complemented by energy storage systems in a Smart Grid and micro-grid setup, with Electric Vehicles and virtual power plant integration forming an integral part of the project. In this context International Standards help ensure interoperability between the systems of many different manufacturers.

Power quality as a way of stimulating economic investments

Mr Fanalu, Head of the PLN Research Institute, which is part of the state-owned electricity enterprise of Indonesia presented a pilot project for a Smart industrial park in Indonesia. The project aims to stimulate industrial investment in the country by providing a stable and reliable power supply as a basis for higher quality manufacturing. In an effort to increase grid reliability and stability PLN put in place measures to prevent transmission blackouts and minimize outages in distribution, overall increasing power quality. This effort is part of the Indonesian Smart Grid Roadmap.

Launch of IEC White Paper on Smart Cities

Last but not least Dr Fumio Ueno, Chairman of IEC TC (Technical Committee) 105: Fuel cell technologies, and Convenor of SEG (Systems Evaluation Group) on Smart Cities presented the IEC White Paper “Orchestrating Infrastructure for sustainable Smart Cities” which was published in Tokyo (see related article in this e-tech).

Tokyo statement

Presentations were followed by a round table discussion which brought forward some of the key messages from the talks. At the end of the Open Session, which was attended by several hundred participants, the organizers issued a statement that outlined the three key factors that are needed to move towards a Smarter World: Integration, which directly depends on the ability of systems to interoperate; diversity and co-existence as well as sustainability which are all best supported by International Standards that enable scalability and continuous improvements. The detailed statement can be found here.

Hiromich Fujisawa Meeting energy needs with clean renewable energy
spec-7 smart city Developing Smart Cities
windpower Meeting energy needs with clean renewable energy