Johnson: SE Asia cities require more investment

  • September 13, 2023
  • William Payne

Developing cities in Southeast Asia lack adequate smart building technologies and initiatives to achieve their goals of becoming sustainable, smart cities, according to a paper published by Johnson Controls. The company says more investment, a strategy for embracing AI, and greater regulation to allow improved collaboration are needed to accelerate smart city development in the region.

The paper, “Pioneering a Sustainable Future – Building Smarter Net Zero Cities was written in collaboration with the International WELL Building Institute, CBRE and WiredScore. It aims to provide a roadmap for the industry, calling for greater investment and collaboration to help Southeast Asian cities realise their goal of creating a sustainable, net zero environment for their citizens. With nearly 40% of global greenhouse gas emissions coming from buildings, smart buildings increasingly play a critical role towards helping cities realise their visions. 

“Southeast Asia’s journey to transform its smart cities requires collaboration, innovation, and a holistic approach”, said Anu Rathninde, president, Asia Pacific, Johnson Controls, who was speaking at the Built Environment Leaders’ Summit in Singapore for the International Built Environment Week (IBEW) 2023.

“We see the challenges facing our industry, but more importantly we see the willingness from both public and private sectors to collaborate and scale up technologies available to solve these challenges. To help achieve the aspirations of a growing population, we must work together to leverage the latest smart building innovations to enhance urban living, create sustainable environments, and ensure safe and healthy spaces for people to thrive and grow”.

To enable this, the white paper highlights three key areas for Southeast Asia to address: more investment needed for deploying and maintaining smart building systems; maximising AI technology to monitor and optimise the built sector’s environmental impact; and strengthening regulatory environments to facilitate collaboration, standardisation and data sharing between the public and private sectors.

According to the white paper, significant investment is needed to deploy smart city sensors and Internet of Things (IoT) devices, and analyse the smart city data collected to improve the overall efficiency of buildings and promote individuals comfort and health. While before each building system could only be improved on its own, integration allows system-wide improvements.

AI-powered systems have a strong potential to help buildings reduce their environmental impact by monitoring and analysing energy consumption patterns, optimising energy usage, and managing waste and water consumption. They also can predict when maintenance is needed to prevent equipment failures and reduce downtime and costs.

Policies that encourage collaborations between the public and private sector can help leverage resources, expertise, and funding to drive smart city initiatives. This can overcome the funding and technical expertise barriers to smart city adoption and better integrate governance structures to create more cohesive, streamlined processes among agencies and jurisdictions.

The white paper highlights Singapore’s achievements in harnessing technology to create a more efficient and interconnected society while driving net-zero goals.

For these to happen more widely across the region, more skilled talent is also needed to advance the built environment sector. Labour supply issues, particularly around a digital skills gap, continue to challenge the industry, exacerbated by an ageing workforce and the COVID-19 pandemic. The white paper highlights the role that government agencies, industry players and academic institutions must perform together to nurture a digitally savvy workforce that supports their smart city initiatives.