Coordination of Infrastructures
Coordination of Urban and Service Infrastructures for Smart Cities
In order to realize a smart city, not only is it necessary to improve the efficiency of infrastructure operations, comfort and convenience must also be improved. Not only must electric power, water usage, transportation, healthcare, and a variety of other urban and service infrastructures be made more efficient on an individual basis, they must also coordinate with each other in order to making living more convenient and comfortable while at the same time reducing the load placed on the global environment.
Changes in Operation and Use of Urban and Service Infrastructures
Urban and service infrastructures have been changing as described below due to technological progress in recent years.
Diversification of Urban and Service Infrastructures
In the past, the urban and service infrastructures available for use by consumers were decided in advance. However, with the rise of new infrastructures including photovoltaic power generation, recycled water usage, and electric automobiles (EVs), the number of urban and service infrastructures available for people to use is increasing.
Expansion of Information Utilization
As the Internet spreads and the number of sites providing information grows astronomically, consumers can freely view a wide range of information. Although much of this information is beneficial, consumers are faced with the need to differentiate between information that is necessary and information that is not necessary.
Advancements in Urban and Service Infrastructure Operation
Information and telecommunications technologies have shown dramatic advances, including increases in both the speed and capacity of information transmission over the Internet. In particular, thanks to technologies such as Internet of things (IoT), which connects large numbers of things, and machine to machine (M2M) communications, it has become possible to grasp the state of urban and service infrastructures in great detail. When symptoms of trouble are detected, this type of information can be used to rapidly respond, thereby minimizing the impact.
Issues Facing Urban and Service Infrastructures and the Need for Coordination
The following issues are expected to affect the operation and use of urban and service infrastructures:
Issues Related to Organization
Thanks to photovoltaic power generation and measures such as accommodation of electric power using EV storage batteries, the consumers who used to only consume electric power can now also play a role in supplying electric power at the same time. Regardless, these new sources of electric power cannot simply connect to the grid without conditions. For this reason, a system is required that can enable connecting when appropriate by monitoring the electric power usage state.
Issues Related to Usage
Although electric vehicles (EVs) offer high performance with a low environmental load, since they cannot travel as far as a traditional automobile, they must be charged frequently. As a result, in order to promote the expanded use of these vehicles, issues such as the construction of a charging infrastructure and methods of providing charging information will have to be resolved.
Water usage and transportation agencies are also considering more environmentally conscious facilities and equipment, but in some cases new sources of electric power are required to use them. It is necessary to coordinate while simultaneously considering both convenience and energy supply at each facility and equipment.
Issues Related to Environmental Load
Wasteful use of electric power, water, and fossil fuels is a factor behind increases in carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, resource shortages, and environmental destruction. For this reason, efficient resource utilization and energy use with an awareness of recycling are important issues.
Needs of Coordinating Infrastructures
To resolve these issues, it is not enough to simply implement measures regarding the operation of individual urban and service infrastructures, because positive results cannot be achieved without an understanding of how such measures affect other infrastructures. For this reason, in order to realize a smart city, it is necessary to coordinate and evaluate relationships between different infrastructures in order to optimize operations, which will in turn lead to improvements in convenience. Furthermore, by monitoring the usage state of each infrastructure, it becomes possible to verify whether or not each resource is being used with maximal effectiveness through the coordination of infrastructures, and if there is a problem, to rectify that problem.
For instance, it is expected that some of the power required to produce recycled water and desalinate seawater from photovoltaic power generation, wind power generation, and electric power via EVs (V2G: vehicle to grid, V2H: vehicle to home). Also, when EVs are used, by providing appropriate guidance referencing location information, it is possible to enable smooth driving without the need for wasteful stopping.
Benefits of Coordinating Urban and Service Infrastructures
Benefits from the User’s Perspective
The coordination between urban and service infrastructures itself is not something directly seen by consumers. This ability of consumers to use the services provided without being aware of this coordination also leads to reduced usage costs and improved comfort and convenience. In addition, the coordination of urban and service infrastructures is expected to enable the creation of new infrastructure uses that match consumer lifestyles.
Reduced Usage Costs
Usage fees must be paid in order to use urban and service infrastructures. In a smart city, however, since consumers may also generate energy as well, this can help reduce usage fees. For instance, consumers can contribute to their incomes by generating their own electric power. In addition, if they agree to allow their electric power to be collected for use in producing recycled water, this can be used to reduce water usage fees.
As the number of urban and service infrastructures increases, interconnections between infrastructures will improve consumer comfort. For instance, by utilizing electric power generated in the home to purify water, it is possible to avoid water shortages. In the same way, the use of recycled water in a community or other setting to cool an entire region can enable air-conditioning that is both low-cost and comfortable.
Although the spread of the Internet has improved convenience in that it has made it easier to acquire information, at present, all it can do is provide related information when one enters search keywords. The fact remains, however, that what consumers actually need is often a combination of information. For instance, by combining a hospital reservation with the selection of a transportation method, by presenting a transportation method to a hospital along with the day specified for receiving medical care, convenience can be improved.
The coordination of urban and service infrastructures can be expected to result in the discovery of interrelationships and complementarity between infrastructure-related information, resulting in benefits to consumers.
Benefits from the City Manager’s Perspective
The coordination of infrastructures is also expected to provide new benefits to city managers in areas such as electric power, water usage, and transportation. These benefits can be categorized as explained below, as providing stable infrastructural services, providing new infrastructures, and contributing to reduced environmental loads.
Providing Stable Infrastructural Services
Urban and service infrastructures cannot be stopped, even for a moment. Regardless of the state of affairs, services must be provided in a stable manner. When infrastructures are coordinated, it becomes possible to use the capabilities of other infrastructures in order to ensure the provision of stable services. For instance, deserts and other arid areas as well as remote islands are faced with the issue of water shortages and limited water supplies. By coordinating the generation and storage of renewable energy with seawater desalination in a region such as this, it becomes possible to stabilize water usage. The provision of stable services also leads to improvements in reliability with respect to city managers.
Providing New Infrastructures
The provision of new infrastructures that did not exist before, including EVs, recycled water, and highly advanced medical treatment equipment, creates new business opportunities for city managers. Rather than just providing infrastructures as services, as the number of available infrastructures increases, city managers are also expected to offer the service of proposing and implementing optimal combinations of infrastructures for consumers, so that they can select infrastructures that match their own lifestyles.
Reducing Environmental Loads
Based on the coordination of infrastructures, city managers can take the initiative in promoting measures such as the local production of electric power and the aggressive use of recycled water, thereby limiting increases in CO2 emissions and preventing environmental damage due to wastewater and other factors. As result working to reduce the load placed on the environment also supports the operation of highly sustainable cities.
Increased Infrastructure Options and SSC Positioning
In the past, urban and service infrastructures were things given to consumers in advance. Due to this, as shown in the left side of the figure below, the number of services that could be used was limited, and consumers would use infrastructures selected from among these few options.
As shown in the right side of the figure below, however, in a smart city, the providers of each type of infrastructure are diversified, and this increases the number of services available for consumers to use.
An example of new urban and service infrastructures is shown below.
In addition to the large-scale power generation used in the past, electric power can be generated utilizing renewable energy, which is represented by wind power generation, photovoltaic power generation, and others, or electricity can be used by storing heat generated with utility gas. In addition, photovoltaic power generated in residences and buildings, electric power stored in electric vehicles, and other systems can be used in a smart city in order to enable the consumers of electric power to participate in the supply of electric power as well. This also enables the use of cost-saving measures, such as using electricity storage devices to store electricity at night when it is cheaper, and using that electricity in the daytime.
In addition to traditional water treatment, water usage systems can include the use of recycled water. Seawater can also be desalinated as a new water usage system for remote islands and arid areas.
When it comes to transportation, the use of environmentally conscious cars including electric vehicles and hybrids is expected to expand. In addition, buses and transportation methods with a reduced environmental load such as trams are also expected to show increased use. Furthermore, the transportation infrastructure will also play a role in the supply of electric power, including the use of electric vehicles as storage batteries.
Healthcare will no longer be limited to just patients visiting hospitals to receive diagnoses and treatments, but will also include the ability to receive remote medical consultations, even from the home. In addition, with the spread of devices such as proton beam therapy (PBT), advanced treatments will also be easy to receive.
Among all of these developments, the SSC acts as a bridge between city managers and consumers for the increasingly diverse urban and service infrastructures. While understanding the state of each infrastructure and providing services such as operational support, the SSC also presents concrete methods for optimal use, combinations, and coordination between infrastructures.
SSC: social system coordinator, EV: electric vehicle
Role of SSCs
In a smart city, the SSC acts as a bridge between managers and users of urban and service infrastructures, while working to balance consideration for the environment with a convenient and comfortable lifestyle. An SSC mainly fulfills the following three roles.
Monitoring of Urban and Service Infrastructures
In a smart city, communication networks connect everything. Sensing technology will also progress until the status, operational state, usage state, and other information is always known for each facility and installation for the various types of infrastructures. The SSC makes full use of these technologies and the information they gather in order to constantly monitor the state of urban and service infrastructures, and plays a role in visualizing and providing this information.
Provision of Information on Available Urban and Service Infrastructures
From the consumer’s perspective, as the number of options for using infrastructures increases, it also becomes necessary to judge which combination of infrastructures one should use. The SSC also plays a role in presenting options that match the lifestyles of these consumers.
For instance, households with two breadwinners can use photovoltaic power generation during the day while both adults are out in order to generate electric power, which can then be used at night while the family is at home. Also, if the family is on vacation or otherwise away from home for an extended period of time, photovoltaic power generation can be used during this time to generate electric power to sell for additional income, or to sell in exchange for recycled water or the use of electric vehicles. The SSC presents ideal usage methods for urban and service infrastructures in order to meet the needs of consumers such as these with individualized solutions.
Operation of Urban and Service Infrastructures
Not only does the SSC present consumers with information about urban and service infrastructures, SSC also operates and controls the infrastructures.
For instance, the operation of urban infrastructures includes promoting energy and resource saving, reduced carbon emissions, and appropriate combinations of energy and resources, along with services such as working on the consumer’s behalf to secure methods of transportation.
In addition, if it is not possible to meet these various needs within the SSC’s own community, the SSC can negotiate with the SSCs managing other communities to make accommodations for energy and resources, or reserve services such as transportation or healthcare.
In this way, the SSC plays a role in maintaining the ideal balance between optimal community management and consumer satisfaction while operating urban and service infrastructures.
Coordination of Electric Power and Water Usage Infrastructures
By coordinating the operations and services of infrastructure facilities involved in water usage with the electric power infrastructure, including the use of recycled water and seawater desalination, it will be possible to reduce water treatment costs, make power consumption more efficient, and realize a variety of other synergistic effects (refer to the figure on the right). Through this coordination, the SSC accurately monitors trends in the demand for recycled water and fresh water, while securing a level of electric power suitable for the water demand.
Recycled Water Usage
Recycled water is suitable for uses such as cleaning toilets and cooling buildings. Not only can the use of recycled water reduce the amount of power consumed for treatment, it can be obtained and effectively utilized from sources such as rainwater, and also contributes to the resolution of water shortages.
Electric power is necessary in order to operate the equipment involved in increasing the number of recycled water treatment plants that produce recycled water, in addition to the traditional water treatment plants. In order to secure this electric power, if electric power can be sold by consumers who generate extra power in the home and others, and if the electric power stored through large-scale photovoltaic power generation and wind power generation can be applied to recycled water treatment plants, it will be possible to reduce energy and resource usage costs for both electric power and water usage at the same time.
Seawater desalination systems have potential to help alleviate concerns of water shortages in areas such as remote islands and arid regions. In particular, by introducing seawater desalination on remote islands, it becomes possible to secure a water supply that is more stable than what was available before. Unfortunately, seawater desalination requires a large amount of electric power. If the same power generation equipment as before is used to generate power, power generation costs are subject to increase in situations such as when the price of oil skyrockets, which would lead to skyrocketing water prices as well. For this reason, the introduction of photovoltaic and wind power generation is seen as a promising method for alleviating shortages in electric power caused by seawater desalination, on remote islands and in arid regions where these methods are expected to be effective.
Use of Water for District Cooling
The use of recycled water as a cooling medium for air conditioning makes it possible to effectively use resources in regions that are high-temperature and high-humidity, or arid. In particular, by utilizing recycled water for cooling at the community level, it is possible to reduce the costs involved in using electric power and water.
Control of Inverters for Pumps for Raising and Distributing Water
Because water usage amounts vary depending on the time, flow control is effective when based on demand. Flow control is usually implemented through the opening and closing of valves, and with this method, the electric power used does not change. However, by using inverter control, it is possible to change the pump’s rotational speed by adjusting the amount of electric power, thereby saving electricity. Additionally, if renewable energy such as photovoltaic or wind power generation is used to cover the electric power needs of this inverter control, it will be possible to secure the necessary electric power while reducing water usage costs.
Coordination of Electric Power and Mobility Infrastructures
At present, many initiatives are being focused on fostering the use of EVs around the world, including the expansion of electric power supply infrastructures for EVs, and the coordination of mobility and electric power infrastructures has already begun. This is a description of the coordination of transportation and electric power infrastructures that is indispensable to the spread of EVs (refer to the figure on the left).
EV Management by SSCs
EVs, which do not emit exhaust gas, are attracting attention as a means of transportation with a small environmental load. Charge stations are already being installed, and the standardization process is also underway for high-speed charging and connection plugs. At present, however, EVs can only travel several hundred kilometers on a single charge, and drivers must take care to recharge frequently in order to ensure that they do not run out of power partway through a trip. In addition, the consumers who drive EVs find it difficult to achieve a grasp of all the pertinent information, such as how much electric power is left in the EV, as well as traffic information and how crowded charge stations are. For this reason, the SSCs in charge of management stations notify drivers of the usage status of charge stations in order to ensure convenience and work to avoid the types of problems listed above.
Management stations acquire information regarding the locations and power consumption states of all EVs, as well as the number of charging stands available at charge stations. EVs without much electric power left are informed of usable charge stations based on map information. Furthermore, by reserving charging stands, it is possible to avoid interrupting other EVs and reduce wait times for charging.
Electric Power Control for Charge Stations
It is possible to reduce environmental load by controlling the supply of electric power at charge stations, increasing supplied power and the number of charging stands at stations that are frequently used, or reducing supplied power or limiting usage frequency at stations that are not used as often.
Coordination of Mobility and Healthcare Infrastructures
At present, transportation and healthcare agencies use different Internet systems to support reservations. In a smart city, however, these two reservation systems are coordinated by an SSC, thereby enabling both healthcare and transportation scheduling via a one-stop service (refer to the figure on the right).
(1) One-stop service reservation
Although remote diagnosis technology is also expected to advance in a smart city, it will still be necessary to visit a hospital for direct diagnosis or treatment by a doctor, or the use of advanced medical treatment equipment such as proton beam therapy (PBT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
When a patient needs to visit a hospital, diagnosis scheduling is considered at the same time as the securement of a means of transportation. Although thanks to the spread of the Internet, it is already possible to make reservations while referring to healthcare institution and transportation method information as necessary while making reservations, this involves a process of trial and error, and adjusting medical service and transportation schedules is a hassle. This type of one-stop service, which can remove this hassle, is particularly useful for the elderly. For instance, by simply inputting the reason for the hospital visit, it will be possible to reserve the necessary diagnosis and healthcare equipment as well as transportation to the hospital if necessary, all in a single step.
(2) Scheduling optimization
The SSC reserves diagnosis and treatment at the hospital based on requests from patients, and also adjusts transportation schedules and secures means of transportation. When an SSC receives a request for the reservation of highly advanced medical treatment equipment from a patient, that SSC searches for and reserves an appointment at a healthcare institution that has that device available for, based on the date and time requested by the patient, while also scheduling a means of transportation between the patient’s home and the healthcare institution. When a patient uses a healthcare or transportation service, the shorter the wait time, the better. The SSC searches for information regarding the reservation of highly advanced medical treatment equipment and transportation services using the Internet and other means, and can propose to the patient a usage plan that minimizes wait times between the home and the healthcare institution.
Inter-community Coordination of Urban and Service Infrastructures
By coordinating electric power, water usage, transportation, and healthcare for the benefit of the consumer, the SSC can provide consumers with convenience and comfort without the need for the consumers to be aware of the coordination of infrastructures that occurs in the background of services.
There is no guarantee, however, that the supply of resources such as electric power and water will be sufficient to satisfy the demands of every consumer. There is also no guarantee that every consumer will be satisfied with the reservations of healthcare institutions and means of transportation. When a problem of this nature occurs, the SSC can request resource support from an SSC administering another community, and the two can make mutual adjustments to supply each other with resources or services as necessary (refer to the figure on the right).
Methods for Coordination of Urban and Service Infrastructures
A SSC gathers information regarding various types of infrastructures and creates a coordination plan based on the results of analysis. The information regarding each infrastructure is gathered via the IT platform, and the SSC administers the urban and service infrastructures based on the results of analysis.
Since the IT platform applies autonomous and decentralized technology, this makes it easy to add and update the devices necessary for services, and even if a service’s system stops, the configuration is set up in such a way that another server computer can be started and run as an alternate server.
The entire system is comprised of the following three layers: a “sensing layer” that gathers information about urban and service infrastructures through measurements using sensors and other such devices, a “network layer” that sends information to the SSC, and a “service layer” that aggregates and analyzes the gathered information in order to create services. Of these three layers, the SSC corresponds to the “service layer.”
IP: internet protocol
Information is gathered in order to grasp the state of each infrastructure. More compact sensors and other hardware, the local production and consumption of energy, and other factors are making it possible to monitor each infrastructure’s state more meticulously and permanently than before, in even more locations as well as remotely.
The network layer connects everything in a smart city through technologies such as virtualization and wireless communication stabilization. This includes existing networks and IP networks.
Information acquired from the sensing layer is gathered by the IT platform, analyzed by applications, and utilized to determine the operational status of each type of infrastructure. Additionally, simulations can be used to analyze relationships between the state of each infrastructure and city functions such as logistics and payments, with the various types of visualized data applied towards helping coordinate infrastructures and provide services in the future. In particular, the use of urban and service infrastructures fluctuates over time and the seasons, and so it is important to store and use these operational records as a knowledge base to assist in operations.