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Digital Transformation Needed to Decarbonise

30 April 2021

Major advances in energy sources, electric transport and heating will not be enough to reach net-zero by 2050, unless our cities and innovations are digitally interconnected for real impact.

That was the key finding from a World Economic Forum report from two industry-leading CEOs, who believe smart, digital tech can connect urban areas, buildings, and operations to optimise emission and waste management while providing governments with the data needed to maximise emission reduction.

This approach defined by the report as systemic efficiency could also boost city resilience to withstand a range of potential future climate dangers.

The report was produced by Francesco Starace, CEO and general manager of oil and gas manufacturer and distributor Enel Group, and Jean-Pascal Tricoire, chairman and CEO of automated digital products supplier Schneider Electric.

They predict that the key battlegrounds for decarbonising our cities will be buildings and infrastructure. Buildings produce 40 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions, with 30 per cent coming from operations and 10 per cent from construction, the situation made worse by emission reduction on an individual rather than collective basis.

Starace and Tricoire said: "With climate change accelerating, we need more action on three fronts:

  1. We need to have more energy produced from renewable sources.
  2. We need more cars, public transportation, and heating to be powered by electricity.
  3. We need everything from factories and homes to transport systems and consumer devices to become more energy efficient.

An intelligent energy infrastructure through digitalisation is key to integrating these actions to make the transition successful."


Digital Adoption


Starace and Tricoire also believe their systemic efficiency plan would have economic benefits too; a report from Rewiring America claims that a US national commitment to electrify all aspects of the economy would create 25m jobs alone.

Therefore, there seems to be no reason to avoid technological progression. That said, research suggests that more than two-thirds of FM leaders are resistant to digital advances in the workplace. 71 per cent are cynical about its ability to improve productivity, and 79 per cent question its positive impact on customer relationships. In addition, employees in the sector are also less than keen – only 21 per cent of the facilities management sector’s employees react positively to the implementation of new technology, and just 30 per cent appreciate the benefits of new technologies according to the Connected Enterprise report, produced by digital transformation specialist Nexer in partnership with applied futurist Tom Cheesewright.

Colin Crow, managing director of Nexer, said “it’s important to bear in mind that while digital transformation makes companies more profitable, enhances the customer experience and enables them to keep up with competitors, it should also always improve the employee experience.”

ThisWeekinFM spoke to several leaders in FM including Mike Green, who has thirty-eight years of experience specialising in FM building services, about this apparent lack of adoption.

"Later this year, it is likely that workplaces will begin to be re-occupied but not in the same fashion as we did pre-pandemic," said Mike Green. "They will be finding new ways of bringing their staff together – online, suburban and provincial hubs springing up, and co-working spaces will probably be more popular.

“Tenants, landlords and occupiers will be more interested in the way space management is handled than ever before. How are they going to control and manage this on a day by day basis? Technology of course."


Digital Twins


A key component for this integrated tech is Digital Twin 3D modelling software like Cityzenith’s SmartWorldOS. Digital twins have been described as being able to provide “previously unthinkable” levels of operational control, asset performance management and insight – last year we took an in depth look at this innovation. The Cityzenith’s CEO Michael Jansen said:

"Despite only covering 3 per cent of the Earth's surface, cities contribute to 70 per cent of global carbon emissions while consuming 78 per cent of the world's primary energy, of which we waste 67.5 per cent. Smart tech innovations such as SmartWorldOS can provide the essential interconnectivity required to reduce these percentages.

"Handling massive data streams harnessed to cutting-edge AI, we have delivered custom climate resilience applications to greenfield cities, real estate developments, and infrastructure projects. We know the issues and have the capabilities to help solve them for those who design, build, and manage cities."

Picture: a digital connection graphic.

Article written by Bailey Sparkes | Published 30 April 2021


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