- Trends & Technology
Smart cities – smart energy providers
The trend towards urbanisation remains unbroken. Back in 2000, 47 per cent of the world’s population lived in cities. By 2030 it is even expected to be 60 per cent. Above all, this will result in one main challenge: providing the population in the cities with essential resources such as food, water and energy – and ideally in a way that is sustainable for the economy, society and the environment. In order to overcome this challenge, our cities must become smart. Energy providers can and should play a key role. Putting this claim into practice and making smart city concepts a reality is one of the tasks that we at innogy Consulting are working on together with our clients.
But what exactly does the term “smart city” mean? Above all “smart city” means the interaction between modern information and communication technology (ICT) and wireless sensor networks (WSN) in order to efficiently manage facilities and resources and thus improve sustainability and quality of life in the cities. A wide variety of companies – from providers of communication services and technology platforms to software manufacturers – develop solutions for smart cities according to these requirements. To ensure that these smart cities have maximum impact, however, and actually become smarter, various organisations have to work together.
This also includes energy providers. After all, the evolution of smart cities also offers them in particular many new opportunities. By moving towards digital providers, they are in the position to actively drive smart city concepts. To do so they must continue to develop their core business using their core competencies and focus more on topics of the future – such as smart street lights, smart meters and charging stations for electric vehicles. The use of these infrastructure elements offers them several benefits at once. They can ensure secure, reliable and flexible communication and process data on a large scale. Based on the information obtained in this way, they can also identify new opportunities for lowering costs, developing new and better services and improving sustainability. This gives energy providers the unique chance to support cities with their growth and to increase the attractiveness of these cities for companies, institutions and residents.
Nevertheless the development towards smart cities does not just provide many opportunities; it also involves risks. The smarter a city becomes, the more susceptible it becomes to cyber attacks. As a result millions of networked devices (IoT) are potentially threatened by manipulation that may have wide-reaching consequences. For example if traffic control sensors were to be hacked, it could result in incorrect traffic light operations, traffic jams or even serious accidents. Therefore security measures must be an obligatory component of all smart city concepts. However, the security of personal data is also a big issue: to convince residents of the added value of smart technology, the smart cities must protect the individual’s privacy. If the citizens decide against active participation then the main advantages of the smart city approach will not be usable.
In order to handle the increasing security requirements the government must therefore involve all stakeholders in a security network. Therefore we must convey to the greater population and all participating organisations that strict governance, user controls and accepting responsibility are absolutely essential. As a result we at innogy have also made security our top priority for our board of directors and recently became a member of the European network for internet security. We will have more on the topic of cybersecurity and our projects in this field shortly in a separate blog entry.