IT and sensors put to green use
Robots that clean ships hulls, energy and traffic control systems in cities, and especially systems that create direct contact between decision-makers and the inhabitants of the city. These are some of the IT solutions that Saab would like to get GIN2012 researchers to address.
Carl-Johan Koivisto at Saab calls the initiative “Attractive City” which is exactly what it addresses; different ways of utilising information technology to make the city as attractive as possible for its inhabitants. Koivisto explains:
“We looked at all the technology we retain at Saab and collated different technologies to devise tangible products that we hope will be successful on the market.”
It could all sound a little abstract and vague but he gladly brings it down to earth with a few solid examples:
The first deals with major port cities: The environmental debate has hitherto mostly concerned hull paint on leisure boats, but obviously barnacles and algae and other organic material grow on larger vessels sailing the world’s oceans. This growth is greatest in warmer waters. The more growth that builds up on the hull, the more fuel is needed to power the vessel and of course the more carbon dioxide the vessel emits.
Today divers descend with scrapers when the ship is at rest however ports do not want the scrapings left in the harbour, so scraping the vessel while moored at the quay is often prohibited. Furthermore the work is dangerous for the divers.
Saab has developed an underwater robot that removes growth by means of a high-pressure water jet. The material removed by the water jet is sucked into a container, and the water is pumped out again through a filter, leaving the detached matter in the container.
The robot is controlled from a small boat that circles around the larger vessel and also collects the waste matter.
The Danish shipping giant Maersk has calculated that if they “scrape” their ships with Saab’s robots once every six months fuel savings would total over US400 million per year. The plan is to begin by building up a network of cleaning robots at the world’s busiest ports.
“We hope that the organic material we collect can then be converted to biogas in the ports, which could then be used to fuel the harbour road vehicles,” Koivisto says.
Several of the larger ports have shown interest, but of course they want to know what the removed material actually contains and the options available to deal with it. This is one of the lines of research Koivisto and his colleagues want to sound out interest for.
Another line is the possibility of connecting all the sensors that are already in place in the city. There are many sensors that currently measure air quality, pollen and bacteria levels in the water, pressure, temperature and much more.
“We have developed a decision support system for urban environments where it is possible to monitor the environment, energy and traffic in real time,” he explains.
A larger system is currently being developed for a major South American city, in conjunction with the Inter-American Development Bank, however Saab would like to set up a “verification plant” in the considerably smaller city of Linköping, before the technology is put into operation on a large scale.
“We receive large amounts of data from the sensors, merge the various values into comprehensible information, and then forward it in real time to the inhabitants of the town. This facilitates more direct contact between politicians, decision-makers and inhabitants,” he says.
One example of this on a somewhat smaller scale is the 3-D maps the city of Gothenburg has put on its website. These are maps produced with Saab technology, where the inhabitants can easily click on the map and leave a concrete suggestion. During the short time the people of Gothenburg have had the opportunity to comment on their city, several hundred suggestions have been received.
“Of course this places great demands on the city; it has to collect, evaluate and act on these suggestions,” Koivisto points out.
“This could be a bit frightening for some people,” he jokes.
A further example is the energy use in buildings, which according to an EU directive should be reduced by 20% prior to 2020. Every building currently has its own control system, which comes from different suppliers, but by connecting them at a general level it becomes possible to better manage energy consumption.
“Malmö is a pioneer city that has expressed interest; even now we have a system of this type in operation within the armed forces,” Koivisto says.
Now the people at Saab want to bring new ideas into the process.
“A huge amount of research will be needed to bring these systems in to effective and beneficial use,” he points out.
This is the interest he hopes to awaken among participants at the GIN2012 conference.
Related External Links
- C leanship
- See how it works on Youtube
- Technologies for Sustainable Cities: A sustainable urban environment demands efficient societal flows (PDF)
Last updated: 2012-10-22