Report creates business case for a smart Aberdeen

Study by Siemens and Arup highlights long term return on investments in smart energy, transport and the city’s harbour

Aberdeen could achieve major long term financial benefits from a big capital investment in smart technologies and systems, according to a report on its outlook by German industrial giant Siemens and professional services firm Arup.

Aberdeen aerial viewIt has said that a total spend of €273 (£244) million could produce a cumulative net direct benefit of €563 (£504) million over 35 years, and when added to the indirect benefits it could come to €3 (£2.7) billion. On a per capita basis this would amount to €13,100 (11,720) per resident.

The report is one of five on the business case for smart cities in specific metropolitan areas, also including London, Brussels, Albu Iulia in Romania and Kartal, a suburb of Istanbul. It results from desk research and modelling, but has an indication of support from the city council.

Writing in its foreword, Simon Haston, Aberdeen’s head of IT and transformation, says the council will use it as an integral part of its reference material in aiming to deliver its strategies for the city.

Three RoIs

It highlights three areas in which investment in smart technologies can provide big returns: energy, including street lighting, transport and a ‘smart harbour’ – the latter reflecting the importance of the city as the prime port for the North Sea gas and oil industries.

For energy, an investment focused on smart grids and street lighting controls could pay back a €180 (£161) million investment in 11 years (including indirect benefits), producing annual direct and indirect benefits of €80 (£72) million after 35 years.

Transport strategy needs to reflect the fact that there is a heavy use of cars in Aberdeen, creating a number of pressure points, but there is little room for extra infrastructure. This places an emphasis on dealing with the problems through a network of operational sensors managed at a traffic control centre, along with smart parking management, a congestion charge and better bus services.

The report says that spending €34 (£30) million on smart transport over four years would pay for itself in seven years and produce total annual benefits of €70 (£62) million after 35 years.

The investigation of the port is timely given the plans for an expansion by the Aberdeen Harbour Trust. It points to the benefits in an onshore energy supply, with a harbour microgrid managing the variations in demand for power, and an intelligent control hub for freight operations. The latter would involve the management of data from a range of sources including weather, vessel identification and intelligent storage units.

An investment of €58 (£52) million would pay for itself in nine years and produce benefits of €18 (£16) million per year after 35 years.

Radical change

Speaking at the recent Siemens Digital Cities Forum 2017, the UK chief executive officer Juergen Maier said radical changes in digital manufacturing should transform the way cities are managed.

“We must create the innovation hubs and we will have to redesign the cities around that,” he said. “We have to look for a way we can manage that and design our cities in a much more digitally enabled way.”

Image by Bob Embleton, CC BY-SA 2.0