• Darren White, Associate Director |
  • Ishi Juttla, Senior Associate |
5 min read

In the last few years, there has been a focus on the role that cites have within climate change mitigation. The large carbon footprint of cities can be attributed to two key factors: the urban heat island effect and energy consumption.

The urban heat island effect refers to an urban area that experiences higher temperatures than its surrounding, non-urban counterparts. Higher temperatures are a result of insulating building materials, dense populations, and waste heat from human activities.

Dense populations result in higher energy use in urban areas as demand for air conditioning and electric fans increases in warmer climates, and demand for centralised heating systems and electric heaters increases in colder climates.

The larger use of energy causes an increase in greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to rising temperatures. This results in a cyclical effect as higher temperatures lead to an even larger increase in the use of energy to regulate temperatures in homes and buildings.

With the UN stating that “Over half of the world’s population lives in cities and this is likely to increase to over two thirds by 2030”, cities are vital to climate change mitigation.

The Smart City Concept

A Smart City is a place where various elements of conventional urban development are modified to become more efficient and sustainable through an interconnected digital network.

The network collects data from a city’s infrastructure, energy, transport, governmental, and healthcare systems to improve mobility, energy use, and connectivity using information and communication technologies.

You may be wondering how the data can be used to contribute to a sustainable future, and there are many answers to this. Some examples include data being used to regulate, store and balance renewable energy, redefine and optimise waste management, and monitor and regulate pollution.

Buildings & Construction

Smart buildings utilise data for effective decision-making in response to environmental conditions, safety, ventilation, lighting, and other building systems to improve user engagement.

The buildings are constructed, or retrofitted, with a network that incorporates data for processing with an autonomous response. For example, the use of self-regulating systems to avoid energy use through air conditioning and heating.

The construction of new buildings also provides an opportunity for the use of smart technologies to increase the efficiency of urban living, such as the use of virtual reality to explore land use and spatial plans of buildings and strategically placed pollution monitors. 

KPMG’s Infrastructure Advisory Group provides a range of services in key sectors including power and utilities, social infrastructure, transport, and asset management, which all have a criticaldominantcritical role in sustainable development.

Smart Transportation

Greenhouse gas emissions resulting from transport have doubled since 1970 with around 80% of the increase caused by road vehicles, making a smart transport system vital to building a sustainable city.

The switch to renewable transport, including hydrogen vehicles, electric bikes and vehicles in cities will create a city that is non-reliant on fossil fuels, well-connected and efficient, ensuring that any plans or interventions are accessible to all especially vulnerable groups, therefore, ensuring just transition.

A smart transport system that connects sustainable transport as such, will offer its residents improved mobility and quality of life. The characteristics of a city are closely linked to residents’ social mobility through equity in accessibility and distributed wealth across the city ecosystem.

KPMG’s in-house designed testing tool, pyAX, was used to help the UK Government Department for Transport to launch the Bus Open Data Service (BODS) platform, used to share data about bus operators’ timetables, fares and locations.

The pyAX tool allowed teams to build automated tests for API calls and end-to-end processes for various business to increase passenger volumes, including timetable information to improve the reliability and quality of trip information, ticket fare calculation and live bus location data. 

Smart Energy

A key aspect of the smart city is buildings that are more energy efficient. Many existing smart city projects around the world include the integration of smart grids to address issues such as global warming, urbanisation, and increasing energy demands.

The smart grid brings various technologies together to create communication between energy suppliers, distributors, and consumers, on a platform that enables efficient integration of renewable energy sources and development of tools, policies, and storage systems.

The key benefit of the smart grid is the optimisation of energy and minimisation of waste in cities. Subsequently, the smart grid has a major role in tackling the energy crisis by creating an accurate view of energy consumption and alleviating misalignment between energy required and energy available.

The Competitive Advantage of Smart Cities

Governments, councils, and investors should be looking towards smart cities to create urban developments with a competitive streak. While the key benefit is the ability to drive sustainability, there are a multitude of other competitive advantages.

From the end users’ perspective, smart cities improve quality of life and wellbeing through connected solutions, such as well-linked transport systems and cleaner air, and increased economic savings, opportunity, and investment.

Businesses are drawn to intelligent cities as the use of technology creates improved communication networks, enhanced mobility, reliable infrastructure, easy-to-use services and larger pools of consumers and employees.

Similarly, governments can optimise operations with access to digital technologies, such as advanced analytics to better understand the needs of citizens to enhance experiences, and upskilling the workforce to empower their employees to thrive in an increasingly digital future.