Gerhard Kress is the vice president data services at Siemens

Technology is helping us live more sustainable and efficient lives but it’s not easy to make this happen. Some of the speakers from the Siemens Digitalise 2019 conference in Brisbane on Tuesday offered tantalising glimpses into a smarter future, along with some of the challenges.

 According to Gerhard Kress, Siemens AG vice president of data services, when it comes to big cities, there’s no alternative to rail as the backbone of transport in big cities, even automatic vehicles.

We can get the most out of our rail systems, he says and there is a not-far-off-future where trains can guarantee to be up-and-running 100 per cent of the time.

Kevin Kehl, executive general manager – strategy and business development at Powerlink, spoke of the three “welcome” challenges facing Australia’s energy sectors, known as the “three d’s” – decarbonisation, decentralisation, digitisation.

Australian director of LO3 Energy, Belinda Kinkead, likened traditional energy networks to cars on a highway that have only been driving forward at various speeds. But now, with more behind-the-meter solar entering the system, “we’ve got electrons driving backwards.”

“And all the traffic lights are designed for people moving forward.”

Martin Powell, global head of urban development at the Siemens Centre of Competence for Cities, painted a picture of cities clever enough to predict bad air quality days based on weather forecasts and data from air quality sensors.

In this scenario, children might avoid schools on bad air days or people might be penalised for driving in these toxic environments.

Sophia Hamblin Wang is the chief operations officer of Mineral Carbonisation International, an Australian company that’s capturing carbon emissions and storing them in building materials.

She says the negative emissions tech has the potential to decarbonise the world and is currently at pilot scale and looking to scale up.

Scott Giroux, vice president Australia and New Zealand at Enlighted Inc, explained how IoT can be used in smart ways to fix a complex problem, such as booking meeting rooms.

The “hot commodities” in offices are often booked by then left empty without a formal cancellation. But with motion sensors, empty meeting rooms can be cancelled automatically and freed up for someone else to use.

Head of smart building delivery at Dexus, Jon Clarke, has taken on the challenge of digitally enabling both new and existing assets. He says this is a challenge made harder by a changing workplace where “our buildings are more like hotels” and the job of facilities management is getting closer to hospitality.

“Everything we do is customer centric.”

Jon Clarke from Dexus

The Fifth Estate travelled to Brisbane from Sydney as a guest of Siemens for this conference. Siemens also provided one night’s accommodation.

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