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News & opinion

23 MAR 2018

Smart technology and the built environment

Technology is changing the interaction between the built environment and people. Indeed, the topic of smart buildings has been a key focus of the smart cities dialogue.

We gathered professionals together last week at our inaugural Smart Buildings Conference to discuss smart developments, sustainable building and the adoption of new technology.

Whether you are an owner or occupier, funder or investor, builder, developer or technology provider, we must not forget that smart cities and smart buildings need to focus on the people living in them, not just the technology, to reach their full potential.

The traditional emphasis has always been on the hardware and physical infrastructure: the Internet of Things, big data, artificial intelligence and advanced computing systems. Important as they may be, technology should not be embraced for technology’s sake; it must deliver practical, seamless and integrated solutions for the benefit of people.

We must not forget that smart cities and smart buildings need to focus on the people living in them, not just the technology, to reach their full potential.

Catalysts, not building blocks

More often than not, smart city marketing has focused on promoting slick, tech-driven supply-side solutions, often with little evidence of demand and testing in the real world. As a result, many smart city ideas may struggle to deliver on their promise of combining high costs and low returns.

As leading developers, consultants and industry practitioners, we need to view smart buildings, not just as the building blocks of smart cities, but as catalysts for supporting better living, placemaking for stronger communities, enabling and creating opportunities for sustainable economic growth and a better quality of life.

Singapore’s Smart Nation initiative leverages a fully integrated urban ecosystem to connect citizens, industries, research institutions and the government via the use of technologies, networks and data. Ultimately, the aim is to boost Singapore’s vibrancy, liveability and competitiveness. This must be underpinned by a framework of strong participatory governance and international standards, ensuring a connected and engaged citizenry and urban resilience.

To succeed, it is clear that the concept of Smart Nation must go beyond being a cool slogan or marketing spin. To be truly smart, technology, government and society need to come together to deliver innovative people-centric solutions to urban challenges. 

What can smart-nation Singapore learn from other smart cities?

In the same vein, professionals and practitioners must see their role beyond just designing and delivering physical assets and infrastructure. Each and every one of us is a smart-city architect, delivering a piece of the overall puzzle  technology is the great enabler.

Consistency amidst rapid development

Let us also bear in mind that, as the smart agenda develops, the role of the professional is changing. Interconnectivity demands consistent international standards. Technology is increasingly delivering services (rather than professionals) and needs to achieve certain standards to ensure that public interest is served. Professional bodies need to give assurance. The relevance of today’s skill sets and capabilities is by no means assured for tomorrow.

RICS is a global professional body for the built environment  fostering trust and confidence  through standards, qualifications and regulation. Over the last year, we have reviewed our global competency set for professionals across the built environment to ensure that we, as a professional body, continue to meet the changing needs of the market. We know that the professional who can integrate and enhance their competencies with technology will be in demand in the smart-city marketplace.

Smart Development in Asia Cities was moderated by Professor Jason Pomeroy, Founding Principal of Pomeroy Studios. Panelists included: My Poon Joe Keen, Managing Director at Surbana Jurong Pte Ltd; Mr Raymond Hoe, Director at Scott Brownrigg; and Doctor Gerhard Schmitt, Professor of Information Architecture at ERH Zurich.