Smart Cities And The New Role Of Chemical Companies In The Digital Economy

Stefan Guertzgen

According to Wikipedia, a ”smart cityis an urban development that integrates information and communication technology (ICT) and Internet of things (IoT) technology in a secure fashion to manage its assets. Multiple industries and stakeholders collaborate on platforms owned and run by local communities. Arup estimates that the global market for smart urban services will be $400 billion per annum by 2020. Examples of smart city technologies and programs have been implemented in Milton Keynes, Amsterdam, Barcelona, Madrid, Stockholm, and in China.

Often overlooked for their benefits, chemical companies can play a major role in the digital economy and the efficiency of smart cities. How could chemicals benefit a smart city?

Utilities and environmental benefits

Chemical companies can contribute to the energy needs of a smart city and improve better environmental practices. For example, many chemical companies operate their own power plants. When these plants create energy surpluses, they could offer the energy to local communities in a smart energy initiative. Since plants are connected to the grid, the infrastructure for this application is already in place. This solution could eliminate the need for additional power plants, minimizing environmental repercussions.

There are also many potential applications for the chemical industry to support breakthrough innovations that reach beyond their usual boundaries. For example, chemical companies that produce hydrogen could be integrated into a fuel cell-driven connected-car concept.

Chemical companies could also be tied into water systems. Many chemical companies produce chemically treated clean water as a service. In addition, using treated water for municipalities and cooling the power generation units of chemical and utility plants would help to streamline wastewater treatment processes and cut overall costs.

Safety protocols

Chemical companies could easily be aligned with emergency services, providing emergency workers and first responders with training and relevant information on chemical usages and hazards. Smart cities would need to be able to track chemicals being transported and implement safety guidelines such as specific truck routes to minimize risk.

Further, smart cities could collaborate with chemical companies on real-time models to predict the impact of the wind direction, air temperature, and other factors in the event of a chemical release.

Smart regions

Chemical companies could have further applications by combining smart cities with nearby rural areas. For example, these areas could use precision agriculture, which creates better yield with less irrigation, less use of chemicals, and reduced labor.

Also, chemical parks could be established as “smart regions” that incorporate transportation and logistics solutions to help areas run more efficiently. Chemical parks could also include smart buildings, facility management, and other solutions that align with the smart city concept.

Many people see chemical companies as a danger or health threat, but these companies also enhance life and boost civic efficiency in many less visible ways. Offering plant tours, sustainability reports, and other local public relations activities could improve the perception of the chemical industry and help the public understand its important role in everyday life.

Learn how to innovate at scale by incorporating individual innovations back to the core business to drive tangible business value: Accelerating Digital Transformation in Chemicals. Explore how to bring Industry 4.0 insights into your business today: Industry 4.0: What’s Next?

Find out how to unlock the value of IoT for your business.

About Stefan Guertzgen

Dr. Stefan Guertzgen is the global director of Industry Solution Marketing for Chemicals at SAP. He is responsible for driving industry thought leadership, positioning & messaging, and strategic portfolio decisions for chemicals.