The application of Civil engineering in the construction of Smart infrastructure is the foundation for all the other key elements in a Smart city like Smart property, Smart economy, Smart living, Smart governance and Smart environment. The underlying principle behind most of these elements is that they are well linked and that they generate data, which can be used to ensure the optimal use of resources and improve performance.
A precise and a unanimously accepted definition of Smart city has remained ambiguous till date. There are multiple interpretations available and a lot many amendments are being made to it every day, but there still remains a certain degree of imperfection in its definition. It is basically because of the wide range of components that come under the umbrella term- Smart City.
When tried to pick the mutual parts from all the accessible interpretations, a Smart city is the one that supervises and fuses conditions of all its critical infrastructures, including roads, bridges, tunnels, rails, subways, airports, seaports, communication, water, power, even major buildings, with Information and communication technologies (ICT), to better optimize its resources, plan its preventive maintenance activities, and monitor security aspects while maximizing services to its citizens.
The role of civil engineering in some key components of smart city infrastructure is discussed in this article.
A smart city is all about all-round connectivity and accessibility. The storage and efficient transfer of data by and between roads, vehicles, highways, bridges, traffic lights and even the relevant buildings is capable of assisting with the public as well as commercial transportation management, route information system, vehicle control and safety, and traffic congestions.
Though the Intelligent transportation system has been there for a while, the latest generation of solutions comes with features like traffic prediction, analytics and decision support, traveller information, advisory services, ticketing and fare collection that are capable of enhancing the current system to a whole new level.
A lot of sensors need to be embedded into new and existing roadways, buildings, bridges, posts and signs that continuously gather data from passing vehicles. All the different kind of vehicles on the road need to be able to interact with each other and the infrastructure without any interruptions.
City planners, therefore, are required to go an extra mile and work with Civil engineers to upgrade their urban infrastructures to incorporate sensors and IoT devices.
In a Smart city, Civil engineers have to plan the construction of a building giving due consideration to the installation of smart building management systems.
With the advent of IoT and AI, the working mechanisms for lighting systems, fire protection systems, security system, CCTV, HVAC have undergone a complete overhaul.
Today, motion sensors can sense when an area is vacant or occupied and turn off or on the lights and lower the temperature; crews can be monitored using passive RFID as they check in; IP networks let the users adjust the HVAC settings of the building over their smartphone or tablet so the desired temperature is achieved by the time they arrive.
Another important technology is the adoption of smart concrete sensors. These sensors are embedded within concrete at the time of placing and are able to relay necessary information like concrete's health, temperature etc. that ultimately helps with increased sustainability and infrastructure lifespan- a huge benefit to Civil engineers.
Smart Water and Irrigation Systems
IoT has revolutionized the conventional water and irrigation systems as well. Now, the system uses digital technology to help save water, reduce costs and increase the reliability and transparency of water distribution.
Physical pipe networks are embedded with sensors that help analyse the available flow and pressure data to determine aberrations (such as leaks) in real time to manage water flow. Real-time information can be provided to customers to help conserve water leading to lower water bills.
In the field of irrigation, Automatic irrigation system are set to replace the traditional irrigation systems. Again, the conjunction of IoT and sensors is used for controlling the basic switching mechanism of motors by sensing moisture present in the soil.
Moreover, Automatic irrigation system makes it possible to identify the amount of water to be delivered that will assist in maintaining the level of soil moisture and monitoring the level of water-tank which stores the water that will aid in the irrigation system.
Smart Sewerage Management
A smart sewerage management system is required to manage the flow of waste through low volume and high volume periods and, occasionally, at times of high precipitation that brings in a heavy influx of water, making the way into the sewers.
Smart sewerage systems allow city sewer infrastructure to store overflows in huge tanks (interceptors) constructed in various parts of the system. The addition of smart sensors to detect and monitor flow levels allows smart sewer systems to manage gates and valves that direct wastewater to locations where there is sufficient storage space.
Sensors are also used to monitor sewer lines for any weaknesses or damage that may require attention providing time to enable convenient scheduling of maintenance trips and routines.