MEP expertise is essential while developing Internet of Things (IoT) systems for buildings. Georges Basmaji, director of buildings and places at Aecom Middle East, says that Dubai has become a hub for smart services, and has led the way in implementing new technologies in the Middle East.
He says: “The MEP industry in GCC countries is striving to live up to the expectations of end-users, as well the technologies thriving in the current market. MEP plays an important role in the development of IoT design within buildings, as well as externally.
“In smart cities, air, water, environmental factors including wind, temperature, traffic, parking and so on can be integrated with IoT sensors and real-time information can be shared with end-users through apps on their smart devices.”
Basmaji believes that Dubai has led the “firsts” for tech roll-out in the GCC. He says: “This includes driverless metros and trams, drones and unmanned aerial vehicles being used for security and safety operations, and city and traffic surveillance using cameras.
“Almost all [of Dubai’s] governmental agencies are using apps and offering smart services through devices.”
However, the MEP sector still needs a lot of catching up with IoT systems, according to Tony Owens, technical director for building services at Cundall.
Owens says that the real estate and technology sectors are “worlds apart”. He says: “The IT [information technology] world is fast and requires little capital compared to real estate; it is also less risky. The real estate sector is very slow and conservative due to funding requirements, planning compliance, design and construction process.
“Technology moves fast and usually developers do not want to invest in technologies that will be outdated by the time a project is completed.”
Commenting on the compatibility of the MEP sector and smart cities, Owens says: “Building management systems (BMS) tend to be installed as standalone systems for HVAC control only. It is rarely connected with the other building systems such as the lifts or the lighting control systems.”
Owens adds: “Now there is more opportunity to integrate better self-learning technologies into buildings to enhance the experience for users and the inhabitants of those cities. Giving building occupants the facility to change temperatures in their office space or change lighting levels requires better technology. There is still huge opportunities for the MEP sector to provide smart solutions for buildings, but they will need to be affordable to interest decision makers.”
Basmaji says that the key KPI’s in a smart city are broadly defined as energy, water, urban quality, innovation and technology, waste materials and water, nature and ecology. He says: “The key challenge will be to connect and integrate the above elements to provide a harmonious environment for citizens and residents in smart cities. There is also the challenge of integrating all legacy systems into the smart services framework. Commitment from governments, investors and other stakeholders as well as the finance required will also provide major challenges for the successful development of smart cities.”
Adoption through enforcement
Dilip Sinha, general manager, Honeywell Environmental and Energy Solutions (E&ES), Middle East, Turkey and Africa Building, says that operators in the Middle East are increasingly adopting the IoTs.
Sinha says: “Building operators in the Middle East are under increasing pressure to make their facilities safe, green, productive and more efficient while reducing operational costs.”
He adds: “In order to achieve this, they are increasingly turning to IoT, data analytics and cloud computing technologies. They want solutions that help them rapidly respond to incidents, reduce costs, enable compliance with local standards, and in turn, enhance the customer experience.”
He says that the MEP sector is integral to the construction industry and therefore the development of smart cities. As such, the Dubai government has created a roadmap that highlights 545 smart initiatives and services across eight government entities and two smart districts – pushing the Emirate to become a leading smart city by 2021.
“For these initiatives to come to life, MEP stakeholders such as contractors, building owners, and facility managers must ensure that the correct solutions and systems are in place, and that they are designed for optimum performance. These systems must be efficient and productive to ensure energy conservation and sustainability.”
In the construction sector, there is a shift towards software based solutions hosted in the cloud, which has opened new opportunities to improve efficiencies in buildings – the fundamental building blocks of a smart city,” Sinha concludes.