GCC: How sustainable urban development can lead to smart city environments
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GCC: How sustainable urban development can lead to smart city environments

GCC: How sustainable urban development can lead to smart city environments

Cities represent 54 per cent of the world’s population today, a figure which will grow to 70 per cent by 2050


By 2025, the population of the GCC is predicted to reach 57 million, with an additional 14 million people expected to call the region home by 2050. Traditional urban environments are typically not designed to accommodate a growing population, particularly in terms of infrastructure and sustainability. That is why the region’s move towards smart city environments is more important than ever before, and why the service industry must step up to play its role in the transition.

Even though things have slowed down as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, the world has never seen such a rapid evolution as it has experienced in the last few decades, and the GCC is no exception to this.

Urbanisation is relatively new in this region. This is an advantage in that governments here have the opportunity to implement sustainability at a fairly early stage of development, compared to having to retroactively address issues in the centuries-, even millennia-old cities in Europe.

Cities represent 54 per cent of the world’s population today, a figure which will grow to 70 per cent by 2050. Growing populations put a strain on infrastructure and essential services such as energy, hospitals, and so on. They also account for 75 per cent of global energy consumption and 80 per cent of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

Designing and adapting existing urban environments to become more sustainable is critical for the well-being of the communities that reside within them, as well as for the well-being of the planet – and this is where service solutions companies need to step up their game to look to the future, rather than focusing on fixing today’s problems.

A traditional service solutions company tends to work towards preventative measures. For example, working to ensure that a building’s air conditioning is functioning correctly to see residents through the summer, conducting regular maintenance and cleaning, and so on. While there is undoubtedly a need for these services, there is also a growing awareness and consequent demand to adopt more sustainable measures amongst both clients and service solutions providers alike. However, the movement towards delivering the services that society needs in order to achieve sustainability is slow.

Perhaps the fact of the matter is that there is not enough awareness for the potential of service companies to reshape the future of urban environments. Cities and communities have complex systems with various moving parts, including transportation, manufacturing, urban development and more, that require specialists to manage services and assets. Through the use of cutting-edge technology and smart solutions, a service solutions company can be a partner to the public sector, contributing towards realising the necessary transition into becoming more sustainable in terms of energy consumption, infrastructure, and so on.

So what can – and should – a service solutions company do for evolving urban environments? Starting from the very beginning, involvement in planning and development will enable cities to grow in the most sustainable way from the get-go. This can involve everything from energy-conscious design to accessibility and solid, scalable infrastructure that is capable of growing alongside the needs of the community.

By developing an artificial intelligence (AI)-enabled digital model of the city, empowered by data algorithms, it is possible to generate predictions for how the environment will function in the future under unlimited potential circumstances, thereby enabling the development of contingencies as well as laying the foundations for a sustainable environment from its earliest stages.

It pays for a service solutions company today to have technology expertise that enables a collaborative approach with providers of telecommunications solutions, safety, security and more. Today’s service solutions company must be flexible and agile, in keeping with the technology-driven world around us. Any company that seeks to rest on the laurels of traditional services risks being left behind in an increasingly technology-driven environment.

It is the industry’s responsibility to guide clients towards a more sustainable future. Whether that means working with them to build a project from the ground up, or retroactively addressing existing structures to make them more sustainable, this is an essential and ongoing journey that must be taken for the benefit of clients, communities, and the planet alike.

Ian Harfield is the executive vice president for ENGIE Solutions, Middle East South and Central Asia and Turkey

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