UPDATED 16:26 EDT / JULY 10 2014

How Legos inspire Smart Cities

This week’s Smart City roundup features a report on the progress of smart cities, an appropriately sized Lego initiative for adults, and a unified specification for smart buildings.


Study projects huge growth for smart cities


A report from the United Nations states that there are now more people living in cities than in suburbs, with urban populations expected to grow from 3.6 billion to 6.3 billion from 2010 to 2050.  This growth, according to Navigant Research, is one of the driving factors for smart city development.

This new research projects that the smart city market will grow from $8.8 billion annually worldwide in 2014 to $27.5 billion in 2023, as more cities aim to address issues with regards to energy management, water management, urban mobility, street lighting and public safety.  Development in technologies such as wireless communications, sensor networks, data analytics, and cloud computing are also driving smart city adoption.

The report also stated that there are five key industries that will see the largest development in technology: energy, water, transportation, buildings and government.  Smart transportation is seen as receiving huge investments but smart water solutions will see the fastest growth.

Asia Pacific is projected as the largest regional market in terms of smart city technology and is expected to be worth $11.3 billion annually by 2023.  North America and Europe are also seen as key drivers in smart city adoption.

Is Kite Bricks the Lego for adults?


James Mays, the dowdy Top Gear show host, built a full-size house using millions of Lego bricks which would have seen a place in Windsor, Berkshire’s Legoland but was ultimately considered too expensive and risky to move.  Though constructing a house in Legos may be a dream for the inner child, it does have its drawbacks, like the lack of waterproofed materials.

Keeping the dream alive, Kite Bricks has created what they call Smart Bricks or S-Bricks, which resembles the familiar Lego bricks that we grew to love when we were kids.  Kite Bricks claim that S-Bricks will be a cost-effective way to build homes and buildings, plus using it would reduce clutter during building construction.  All you need is a special adhesive to keep the stacked up bricks in place and you’re all done.

What makes S-Bricks smart is that they’re designed with open internal spaces for insulation and infrastructure elements such as steel bars, water and gas pipes, and wiring. Another smart thing about the S-Bricks is the removal panels, which can be used to easily access pipes and wiring if needed. You no longer have to tear down your wall just to access a burst pipe.  Because of the internal spaces, the S-Bricks are perfect for keeping rooms cold during hot days, and warms during cold ones, which leads to cutting consumption of electricity just to keep it warm or cold.

According to Kite Brick, the S-Bricks can save up to 50 percent in building construction as they reduce the requirements for natural materials such as sand, iron, and water.  They also claim that the bricks are made for extreme strength, holding up in earthquakes and weather-related stresses.

Though it would be cool to build your house as easy as stacking up Lego bricks, the Smart Bricks are not yet available in the market as the company still needs to raise $3 million to be able to go into full-scale production.  Question now is, will Lego be interested in funding this innovative building construction material?

Building smart city standards


Building automation expert EnOcean Alliance has defined a unified specification for remote commissioning of energy harvesting wireless devices in building automation systems, to optimize and ease the control and configuration of building automation networks.

The goal of EnOcean is to define a uniform approach for the installation and long-term support for automation networks like what the company offers.  EnOcean’s Technical Working Group has developed a complete process for remote commissioning which includes initial set-up, parameterization, control, maintenance and documentation of batteryless wireless devices.

Ultimately, the broader goal is device interoperability. Remote commissioning also defines the communication between the commissioned and target device and the basis for the specification in an interoperable interface which can be used by product manufacturers to integrate in their devices.

image via Kite Bricks

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