SMART CITIES – THE KEY TO SUSTAINABILITY
As being the smartest and most intelligent living organisms on Earth, we human beings have evolved from non-civilized cavemen to civilized and developed society. From the ancient valley civilization to modern living communities, we can see the exponential evolution of human living infrastructure and their surroundings.
Now, driven by the advancement of technology and strives for sustainability, the second evolution of infrastructure has begun – the change of modern cities to smart cities.
A smart city is an environmentally aware city that uses information technology and other innovative techniques to utilize energy and other resources. It also focuses on being a more sustainable city using much less energy and being environment friendly. There are more than 90 smart city projects around the world now, the first few being in Spain, Barcelona, France and Nice. Happy to see that our Dubai is also transforming in fast pace to entitle this glory.
One of the most widely anticipated feature of a smart city is free connectivity, which enables better interaction of citizens through messaging apps, experiencing connectivity on the go, without paying for it. It also enables citizen interaction with government services, like smart parking services and more.
Smart cars are the perfect vehicles for smart cities. These include vehicles that run of electricity, hydrogen cells or solar energy. There are driverless pods too. This means that after we get into the pod, we just enter the location and it drives. It includes many useful sensors that helps it to avoid collision with other pods or cars.
No need to be surprised, it is a reality now in UAE. At the Masdar City in Abu Dhabi, there are driverless pods that take you from one end of the university to the other.
The American company Tesla Automobiles has released a software update for their smart electric car Model S, which allows it to drive autonomously. That word "autonomously" is an important one. It means the car thinks for itself without you having to hold the steering wheel, put your foot on the brake or gas pedal. The car is already equipped with 16 sensors. It senses obstacles and cars with the waves the sensor produces. It is kind of like the ultrasonic waves produced by a bat, which allows it to sense objects in the dark. It also has lane changing assist, which allows the car to change lanes automatically. You just need to switch on your indicator, and you will change to your desired lane within seconds, all without touching the steering of the car.
Read my previous blogs to understand more about autonomous cars...
Why can’t our cars be fitted with mini wind turbines? This thought lead to the idea of ‘project zero’- zero emission, zero impact, happy travelling! The main objectives are:
· Infinite power
· Sustainable living
· Use of renewable energy (wind)
· Low maintenance and manufacturing cost
Don’t think that this is not going to work. The concept is demonstrated and recognized in science exhibitions and the prototype is getting ready with the involvements of my buddies in the class.
There are many more concepts that can make a city change from modern to sustainable and smart. As the saying goes, the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.
Well, with all the above in the pipeline, we cannot be neutral hoping for the innovative technologies which might mature and get implemented may be in another couple of decades. So here are some practical methods which we can immediately apply without much hazels.
Fossil fuels, as the name suggests, are very old. It was the Industrial Revolution that led to their wide-scale extraction. And in the very short period of time since then – just over 200 years – we’ve consumed an incredible amount of them, leaving fossil fuels all but gone and the climate seriously impacted.
Fossil fuels took millions of years to form. And when they’re gone, they’re gone pretty much forever. Clearly fossil fuel reserves are finite - it's only a matter of when they run out. Globally - every year we currently consume the equivalent of over 11 billion tonnes of oil in fossil fuels. Crude oil reserves are vanishing at the rate of 4 billion tonnes a year – if we carry on at this rate without any increase for our growing population or aspirations, our known oil deposits will be gone by 2052.
It’s often claimed that we have enough coal to last hundreds of years. But if we step up production to fill the gap left through depleting our oil and gas reserves, the coal deposits we know about will only give us enough energy to take us as far as 2088. And let’s not even think of the carbon dioxide emissions from burning all that coal.
So does 2088 mark the point that we run out of fossil fuels? The simple answer is no. Renewables offer us another way, a way to avoid this (fossil fuelled) energy time bomb, but we must start to act now.
Before setting up campaigns or seminars to create awareness of this issue, we must first start with ourselves. Here are some tips I find useful from my perspective to save fuel.
Many of us use our own private vehicles to get to school. A majority of children come by school transport buses, but this also uses a lot of fuel. Many of the student’s homes are near the school, so they can come by cycle or walk there. My school is just around 2 kilometres from my home, so I have started to go by cycle every day.
A lot of plastic, including the ever-present plastic bag, uses fossil fuels in its manufacture. Plastics don't break down easily and create landfill problems. Some plastic leach chemicals into our food, water and home environments. For reasons of fossil fuel reduction, your health and the health of your local ecosystems, using less plastic is a good choice to make. Use reusable cloth or recycled bags when you go for shopping, just like I do.
In respect to the UAE, driving at speeds of above 100 km/ph decreases fuel efficiency. The optimum driving speed limit is between 85-95 km/ph. This saves a lot of fuel and the money saved can be used for many purposes.
These were just some of the hundreds of points which can be implemented to save fuel. With co-operation, optimism and a change of few of our habits, we can give the future generation a world better than the one which we live and experience right now.
When we think of ‘Climate and Weather’, first thing which comes up in the mind is the massive impact of global warming to our mother earth and the living organisms in it. Being responsive and committed youth, we are also contributing for the awareness and campaigns in various levels and the collective thinking of My little mind lead to the technology called Carbon Capture and Storage, abbreviated as CCS.
Energy‐intensive industries account for a significant part of global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. Industrial sectors such as cement, iron and steel, chemicals and refining represent one‐fifth of total global CO2 emissions, and the amount of CO2 they produce is likely to grow over the coming decades.
Mussafah, the industrial heart of Abu Dhabi has a high concentration of various industries with a big living community around the industrial area including over a dozen of schools nearby. The effect of global warming is quiet noticeable to us by increased rate of heat we experience year by year.
The challenge is not to evacuate the industries but to eliminate the greenhouse gas contents from the atmosphere. This thought lead me to think of a Carbon Capture, Use and Storage System for Sustainable Abu Dhabi (CCUSSSAD). The idea here is to capture the CO2 form factories , carry away from residential area use it on the way and at destination and store in underground whatever remaining.
As a solution to the problem concluded, there should be a provision to capture these CO2 emissions at sources, to be transported and dispensed in safe areas. As Abu Dhabi is abundant of oil and gas fields, potential for utilization of CO2 to enhance extraction is much higher than in other region.
Some more innovative ideas proposed are man-made jungles and ponds of microalgae for CO2 disposal, CO2 theme parks etc.
Schools are the best communities where we can start practicing out little thoughts for the nature. Here are few points for a sustainable schooling:
Install solar panels to satisfy the electricity need of the school.
Reduce water consumption by implementing sensor oriented toilets and water dispensers.
Waste water recycle and reuse for watering plants.
Compost-waste to manure and bio gas. Use the manure for gardens and bio-gas for heaters.
Green House - Germination and sapling nursery by children.
Install e-notice boards and touch screens for information guidance to reduce paper use.
Last but not the least, include Sustainability as an part of curriculum.
These initiatives will provide a platform for students to understand energy use patterns in school and their own home, learn how to conduct energy audits and design a solar power system. The students will also have opportunity to have hands-on experience with the installation of the solar power system in the school premises. Further, education and awareness sessions will include knowledge on climate change mitigation and adaptation, sustainable development and skills to the project through social media. Students will learn about legislative and regulatory requirements and challenges in implementing renewable energy in UAE.
Another important objective is to promote students to understand and adopt to nature through germination, planting and consumption of vegetables.
In a nutshell, all these developments and innovative ideas show how much the human race has developed in the field of technology, and the ultimate aim is to reduce emissions and global warming. From a different perspective, global warming was the change that lead us to create many new technological developments as this. If we all adopt eco-friendly methods including in transportation, along with other factors, we can conquer the global warming effect to a great extent and make the earth a better and sustainable place to live in.
Being smart is not about living with smart technologies, but adopt and practice innovative ideas and technologies for a sustainable living bearing in mind that the future of our descendants and the mother-earth as such relays on how we live today!