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Our present focus,'says Devidas Kulkarni, VP & CEO, Building Technologies Division, Siemens, 'is to make sure that we have completely digitalised buildings. That means they have a fully-integrated fire safety, building management, surveillance and access control system.'
It was nearly a year ago that Siemens India inaugurated its experience centre at Mumbai's outskirts. What are the important milestones achieved in this one year?
The purpose and objective of this experience centre were to showcase live what is available and to make people understand what we talk about. Because, normally, if you look at a product, say healthcare, you can easily understand what is an X-ray or a CT scan machine. However, our products are such that they work behind the scenes. Technological products and solutions are predominantly built for people. They serve in two principal areas: one is comfort and the other, safety.
We ensure that we provide the best comfort and safety to people. But how do we demonstrate what we achieve? That is the reason why we established this centre. Since last year, we have invited a large number of customers to this experience centre. We show them real-life cases of what, if and how solutions can be achieved for a given requirement. For example, how security and safety systems are integrated, and how a CCTV can help improve security. Not only CCTV, but also the associated command and control workflows that are required to be established within an organisation to maintain orderly audit track of information. Besides, we have an extensive training and awareness programme for our partners at the experience centre.
We have also started introducing this concept in colleges as many students may not be aware of the Internet of Things (IOT) that can help them in the long term.
Today, one major area of city planning is surveillance, including the traffic management system. How is Siemens taking it forward?
When you talk about smart cities, there are various aspects to the concept. One of the prominent aspects for my business is the digital building. Our primary focus is make individual buildings smarter. Our present efforts are in ensuring that we have completely digitalised buildings. That means, the buildings will have a completely integrated fire safety, building management, surveillance and access control system. Once you have it, it is also a building which can communicate to anybody outside. For example, the advanced service centre at our experience centre enables us to communicate to any building on a 24x7 basis. Now, in a smart city, real-time data is important to take proactive actions.
Let's assume there is a fire in a building, do you know what will happen in the background with our systems? First, since the building is smart and intelligent, it will shut down the air handling system. Alarms will get immediately activated and the area isolated. Second, everyone, including the internal and external fire officers, building manager, employees and residents on that particular floor will be asked to evacuate. The lifts will automatically reach the same floor. All the doors having access controls will open. The signages will turn on to show the exit. Just imagine, so many things happening in parallel to evacuate people safely. Not only that, the closest CCTV will focus immediately on the affected area to enable monitoring by the person who is supposed to take action on the fire. All this can be done in a building, complex or city.
How would you manage the malfunctioning of a critical component, especially when human intervention will be minimal in such a scenario? Do you know that we guarantee an uptime of 99.99 per cent?
This is the highest level of uptime any system can have. To do that, we provide a lot of backup. The fire alarm sensor is continuously connected to our system and if it is not working properly, the malfunction will send a signal to the fire alarm panel. This panel is connected to the main system and people monitoring the fire will immediately go about restoring it. Then, there is an exhaustive maintenance approach. We have people to regularly test and certify the systems in such buildings.
When we talk about digitalisation, it monitors human behaviour. Therefore, is it not an encroachment on our privacy? Your thoughts.
Forget about digital buildings, for they only monitor human behaviour to a limited extent. For example, in this office people are sitting in different locations. There can be occupancy sensors, which monitor what time of the day 'A' is coming in. There is an access control, which monitors the time he is inside or outside the office. His working hours can also be monitored. By the way, we do not do that at Siemens, but several IT companies are doing it to monitor the performance and productivity of their employees. IT companies have two types of job. One is body shopping, where people are assigned to clients who are charged on a daily or hourly basis. So, access control takes care of it. In case of their own projects, they can monitor employees to find out how many hours are actually being utilised productively. Coming back to your question on privacy, unknown to us, it is already encroached upon by social media platforms and mobile handsets to an extent that is beyond imagination. But when we talk about digital services, what we do with the customer is that we add value on a continuous basis. For example, a hotel working on a two- or three-shift basis consumes a whole lot of energy. When a hotel charges you Rs 5,000 for a night, the cost of electricity is at least 40 per cent of the tariff. If you calculate the cost of electricity in a hotel on per room basis, it is very high. What we do is that we monitor the hotel's power generation as well as consumption 24/7.
Big data is the new oil. According to you, how is it likely to benefit not only smart cities and their residents but also commercial entities?
It is going to help in a big way. First of all, you should have people who are able to make use of this data. Just having data is of no use as we have billions of data points. For example, if someone is using a gas turbine or generator 24x7, its behaviour is continuously monitored by systems using backup data. But unless you monitor and use that data effectively, the benefit is not going to be there. The first requirement is to be able to have the right people who are able to meaningfully analyse the data.
We collect data from all the metres and energy points to regularly provide it to facility managers, which really helps them. Otherwise, they have to log the systems manually, which may or may not be correct. If it is done in a digitalised way, it can be converted into useful data by a data analyst.
Can a structure be smart and affordable, simultaneously? If a structure has to be affordable, it has to be smart. Affordability is on a lifecycle basis. If you buy an air-conditioner, would you go for one with one star or five stars?
You would pay more and go for five stars. A small amount of cost is necessary to minimise the lifecycle cost. How much of money do you think is required to construct a building on a square foot basis? Take an assumption of Rs 5,000/sq ft. Now, to make this building smarter and completely digitalised, a maximum of Rs 200/sq ft needs to be added. It will not exceed this amount, and look at the long-term benefit.
What happens in India is that a building is constructed by a builder or developer, owned by somebody else and used by a third person. So, the user is not so enlightened about these things. Now, things are changing and people understand comfort and safety as necessities, although unfortunately in India safety of people is not critically seen in our public infrastructure or other places. But similar to how you need electricity and water, you need comfort and safety. So smart buildings are a necessity.
In August, we had large-scale flooding in Mumbai. How can smart technologies be implemented to prevent situations arising out of such calamities?
I will review the incident that happened on August 29, 2017. Believe me, I did not know till 2.30 in the afternoon that the city was in chaos. My window blinds were closed and I was not checking phone messages or emails as I was in a deep discussion. It was only when I got a call from my wife enquiring as to what time I would be leaving office that I realised what was happening outside. Reaching home after finishing the meeting was a challenge.
But that is not important. What is important is that we are still not making use of technology. There can be interventions to get me out of my seat in no time. And what are those interventions? Public announcement is one. Two, being aware can help in a lot of ways. When it was so well known that there would be heavy rainfall, most of the companies should have decided the day before that employees could work from home. But we do not go to that extent.
When there is chaos, we make people go on the road first, rather than keeping them safe at their home or workplace. We do things exactly the other way round. The result is commotion at train stations. We can avoid that with reliable predictive information that can be disseminated in advance. Predictive analysis can be a useful tool in mitigating the effects of a disaster.