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How Buildings and Infrastructure Are Changing

The COVID-19 pandemic has put a lot into a tailspin. Perhaps there is no place that is more evident than in cities, buildings, homes, and infrastructure. The fundamental way of how we design and build structures has changed—for good. Savvy contractors and municipalities are reimagining cities, with net zero in mind.

No doubt, technology will be at the center of the cities of the future. A study released by Oracle in 2021, shows 65% of city leaders suggest the biggest lesson learned during the pandemic was just how crucial smart-city programs were for their future. Further, Grand View Research says the global smart cities size will rise 24.2% between 2022 until 2030, due to the need for efficient management of resource use, demand for energy efficiency, and public safety concerns.

Grand View Research makes a very interesting point. During the pandemic, the dependence of global economies on urban areas and the importance of public healthcare in smart city initiatives have been brought to light. However, organizations are trying to implement emerging technologies such as the IoT (Internet of Things) and AI (artificial Intelligence) to overcome the challenges faced during the pandemic.

As one example, Lucia Mirabella, head of design and simulation systems, Siemens, says technology can be used to determine how COVID would spread and circulate in buildings, as simply one example. Technology can help far beyond the pandemic as well. Another example is with net zero.

Siemens recognizes there is a need for an open AI-enabled suite for net zero buildings and launched Building X on June 29. This suite is open, interoperable, and fully cloud-based and is built on the design principles of Siemens Xcelerator, which is an open digital business platform to accelerate digital transformation and value creation across industry, transportation, grids, and buildings.

This answers a big need in the construction industry. “Interoperability ensures that things talk to each other and that things understand each other,” says Peter Koerte, chief technology and strategy officer, Siemens. “First, we have to establish the connection and then we have to understand each other too.”

The suite currently features a set of applications and digital services, tailored to different stakeholder groups, which are all connected on the AI-enabled platform. The benefit here is it is able to digitalize, manage, and optimize building operations. Its applications cover key domains of building management, including energy, security and building operations, backed by analytics capabilities.

As of now, the offering embraces four applications, with more to be added to the platform in the future, including the Energy Manager, Operations Manager, Security Manager, and the 360-degree Viewer app.

“That’s why I call it a candy store because this massive organization that does nothing else than consult and implement projects around facilities, HVAC, and the like,” says Thomas Kiessling, CTO Smart Infrastructure, Siemens. “To detail through what the decarbonization process and the data I need to manage to show my building system is following a decarbonization pathway … I am going to put this in to Building X with the right reporting and by county and jurisdiction. It is an amazing opportunity to pull this stuff together in the right way.”

With an eye on digital building operations, Siemens also recently announced the acquisition of Brightly Software to accelerate growth in digital building operations. With a purchase price of $1.575 billion, plus an earn-out, this acquisition elevates smart infrastructure and will add Brightly’s cloud-based applications across education, public infrastructure, healthcare, and manufacturing. The end goal here is to enable infrastructure owners and operators who are increasingly looking for software that supports more efficient and sustainable operations.

Of course, this is simply one example, AI, ML (machine learning), cloud computing, the IoT, digital twins, and the metaverse can be used in myriad ways in our cities.

But there is a catch—and a question that most people are trying to ignore right now. How do we ensure all this data about our cities is secure?

Well, ABI Research is one willing to touch on this tough topic its recent The State of Cyber & Digital Security Report. The report points to multiple in-depth trends to watch including citizen digital identities, new cybersecurity applications, digital payment technologies, industrial cybersecurity, telco cybersecurity, and general IoT (Internet of Things) cybersecurity.

One of the key trends to watch is critical infrastructures are primed to adopt enabling cybersecurity solutions. Industrial operators are more often implementing AI, ML, and more. Global cybersecurity in industrial critical infrastructure sectors—like energy, transport, and water and waste management—is expected to hit $23 billion by the end of 2022. While the transport sector is the most advanced in terms of integrating and deploying cybersecurity tools, the pandemic has cut budgets and investment.

However, ABI suggests the industry most affected going forward will be the energy sector. The current armed conflict between Russia and Ukraine is forcing Western countries to wean themselves off oil and gas and accelerate the transition to more sustainable energy. Naturally, this transition has been in the works already, due to changing climate needs, but now the transition has been sped up. This is set to directly impact cybersecurity, both in oil and gas initially within the context of the war and going forward in securing the energy transition and new modes of electricity generation.

As we continue to connect our cities, buildings, homes, and infrastructure, security needs to be one of the top concerns.

I believe systems integrators will play a big role here in making all this possible. Kiessling says, “We are going to have system integrators, energy efficiency providers, facility providers, automation, workplace, space, comfort, all the building stuff. This is already happening. Xcelerator is going to accelerate it, basically.”

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