Earlier this month, Panasonic announced Future Living® Berlin, an “urban beacon” that spokespeople say will contribute to the company’s focus on the decarbonization of society. The press release for the new smart city in Berlin describes green, sustainable, and connected living realized through the installation of smart energy solutions.
A “smart city” refers to planned urban environments that contain technological and data-driven urban systems that have at their core technology and data designed to improve the lives of citizens. Panasonic’s energy and software engineers of its R&D Centre in Europe have developed an intelligent energy management solution to optimize the use of energy and couple electricity with the heating sector.
Panasonic’s global smart cities portfolio now deepens with this European project. Significant contributions are Panasonic’s air to water heat pumps, photovoltaic panels, and storage batteries integrated into an intelligent and efficient energy management system. Junichi Suzuki, Chairman and CEO of Panasonic Europe BV, commented, “We bring to the project over 60 years of heating and cooling expertise alongside decades in PV and battery solutions and a passion for innovations that will shape the future for generations to come.”
The digital and connected goal of Future Living® Berlin focuses on residential apartments within an IoT infrastructure — Panasonic TVs and smart speakers, plus wide security, safety, and smart building solutions.
The Panasonic Contributions to Future Living® Berlin
The core energy component of the Future Living® Berlin green and sustainable goal is Panasonic’s air to water heat pump product lineup, “Aquarea.” Highly energy efficient technology, they run almost carbon-free when powered by the renewable energy provided by the 600 Panasonic HIT panels, which supply a capacity of 195kWp. Because of the patented silicon technology, the Panasonic photovoltaic system is 10% more efficient than conventional modules. Furthermore, Panasonic’s HIT technology achieves better performance in hot environments because of its superior temperature coefficient — an essential advantage in coping with the climate crisis.
Utilizing renewable energy, the air to water system is used for space heating and warm water generation but can also be called upon for cooling. For increased performance, the heat pumps include a reliable cloud-based connectivity feature for installers called Aquarea Service Cloud. It saves further CO2 emissions as maintenance visits can be organized much more efficiently and, partially, conducted remotely.
These energy solutions are brought together under the Aquarea Smart Cloud, which allows end-users to monitor their power usage and manage temperature settings accordingly. This results in increased efficiency and comfort while enjoying transparency of their consumption.
To achieve further sustainable and green objectives, residents are part of a wider ecological environment which offers green car-sharing, shared washing machines, and Panasonic energy solutions. The smart control combines heat pumps together with other efficient green Panasonic technologies, such as PV panels.
Going Green in Sustainable Cities
Green infrastructure helps to solve urban and environmental challenges. Examples include protecting existing parks, rivers, and as many trees as possible, growing green roofs and living walls, and installing permeable pavements.
In viewing the video that accompanied the Future Living® Berlin / Panasonic press release, I was a little caught off-guard by the significant proportion of built environment to natural landscape — a lot of material structure, a teeny nod to greenscapes. Couldn’t this Future Living® Berlin smart city reach to the highest sustainable, resource efficient, socially enhancing, nature-preserving, and ecological levels? Do tech advances necessarily have to dominate green environments?
Gary Grant, director of the Green Infrastructure Consultancy, argues that “we take the built environment for granted and rarely take the time to analyze it or make plans to improve it.” He outlines that the first tasks for smart cities should be to use cameras and sensors, working with artificial intelligence, to complete the mapping and cataloging of natural features within our cities — soils, watercourses, and waterbodies, habitats (both on the ground and on buildings), as well as species.
Eric Sanderson, a senior conservation ecologist at the Wildlife Conservation Society, adds that “a natural city by definition fits seamlessly into its environment, much as forests, grasslands, and waters do; it gives as much as it takes; and, it lasts for a long time.” Are the designers of smart cities, who are intelligent technological innovators, asking enough questions about nature and smart cities? Nature has to be understood as an essential part of forward-looking and smart cities, as partner and ally to overcome many aspects of urban deficiencies.
We’ve asked similar driving questions here at CleanTechnica in the past about the direction of smart cities, attempting to move past celebration of innovation to analysis of continued potential.
- “How Much Are We Willing To Sacrifice Our Privacy?“
- “Aside From Cyber Security, How Was The Traffic?”
- “How To Encourage Citizens To Speak Up & Governments To Listen In The Pursuit Of Sustainable Cities?“
If we expand the definitions of the smart city to include the surrounds and peripheries that sustain it as a viable ecosystem, it may make us see the smart city in new and healthier ways. Let’s hope that the execution of the Future Living® Berlin / Panasonic project continues to explore ways to generate knowledge on and create greater awareness of the extent and impact of natural resources on daily living.
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