What's in a Name? Explaining the 'Intelligent Communities Lifecycle'

We are often asked: why have we called our new technology the ‘Intelligent Communities Lifecycle’? It’s a good question, so here I wanted to explain the logic behind it.

Why use the term Intelligent and not Smart?

Smart people can be Intelligent and vice versa.  However, I recently read an article which summarised the difference between the two quite nicely:

“The main difference between intelligent and smart is that smart is something you gain by studying or learning something, and intelligence is something passed on from your parents.”

In summary: you can learn to be Smart but you cannot learn to be Intelligent.

A good example of ‘smart’ solutions are Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) approaches. These are smart because they ‘learn’ from vast amounts of data to identify patterns over time, make predictions and react accordingly.

IES’ ICL Digital Twin technology leverages some of these ‘smart’ solutions, integrating real-time operational data with AI/ML to detect anomalies in a building’s operation and to fill missing data gaps. However, we have another key differentiating feature, which takes our technology beyond just ‘smart’ into the realm of ‘intelligence.’

The ICL Digital Twin is intelligent because its DNA is rooted in fundamental building physics. Through our core Virtual Environment (VE) software, we digitised building physics to create the world leading building performance analytics Digital Twin, which has now been used by our customers for over 25 years. It is this same building physics capability, which sits at the heart of the ICL, making it truly intelligent. This is Physics Intelligence®.

Consider that buildings are dynamic over both short and long timeframes - occupants will move around, tenants will change, the purpose of the building may change, and so on.  These changes can occur frequently over a building’s lifecycle. The ICL's Physics Intelligence® empowers decision makers when such changes occur, or if improvements are being considered to the building.  

If something changes in the building, a new operational strategy is implemented, or different decarbonisation options are being considered, the ICL’s Physics Intelligence® simply accepts the change and then predicts how the building will perform without any delay.  

This capability is critical when deciding how to decarbonise a building or community and to improve its performance.  The ICL makes it possible to import sensor information from any number of buildings into the digital twin and use this to calibrate the model to create a highly accurate representation of the building(s), which responds and behaves like its real-world counterpart.  This calibrated hybrid digital twin can then be used to test different options and compare the results to identify the best solution in terms of energy efficiency, carbon emissions and occupant wellbeing.

AI/ML alone cannot perform the same task. The AI/ML system will need to ‘learn’ how to adapt to the change in the system over time, but if there is no data or Physics Intelligence to compare options, this renders the AI/ML approach redundant.  Smart solutions on their own cannot help identify the correct solution. Once changes are implemented within a building or community, and only then, can the 'smart' solution begin to build up the data necessary to help the building operate better, by which time important decisions may have already been taken.

However, the AI/ML approach can have tremendous value when used appropriately, and once you combine these ‘smart’ technologies with an ‘intelligent’ solution - as we have done within the ICL - you end up with an incredibly powerful capability to optimise the performance of a building or community over its lifecycle.

This approach provides decision makers with quality information to de-risk the decision-making process.  This is augmenting the intelligence of the decision maker, allowing the correct solutions to be identified, and implemented, from the outset.

Why use the term Community and not City?

This one was quite simple.  We initially used the term ‘city’ but people assumed the technology was only for use by cities. However, the ICL can be applied to built environments or ‘communities’ of any scale or purpose – whether citizens, campuses, cities, counties, countries or entire continents.

A city is so much more than just its buildings and systems. It’s a complex community of citizens, districts and neighbourhoods. Businesses, hospitals and education campuses all sit within their local communities, while cities themselves sit within the wider communities of regions and countries. There really is no limit to the number of buildings, or the context within which they sit, that the ICL can address, and so we wanted the name to reflect this.

Lifecycle and not Design?    

The design of a building or a community is a very short period of its overall lifecycle.  When we use Lifecycle, we mean from initial concept through to demolition.  The ICL has the power to look at the lifecycle of a ‘community’ and plan as far into the future as you wish.  

Through innovation, IES have created a platform where we can take a plot of land, build a virtual city, create a digital twin of the city, plan its carbon neutrality and monitor the construction of the city to ensure its carbon projections are met. From there we can also ensure the buildings maintain occupant health and wellbeing once in operation, manage all those buildings to be zero carbon, ensure any district electric or energy systems are operating at their optimum performance, and also ensure there would be no fuel poverty and the city has clean, breathable air.  

Buildings are live prototypes – the only constant is that they change. They are adapted by the people who own and use them on a daily basis. And with 80% of the buildings we will have in 2050 already built, a major priority will be to renovate and upgrade our existing building stock in line with zero carbon standards to ensure that global decarbonisation targets are met. Tools therefore need to be able to give a constant feedback loop as our buildings and connected systems evolve over time, which is exactly what our ICL Digital Twin does.

The ICL will make it easy for governments, companies and citizens to decarbonise their built environment as efficiently and cost effectively as possible, helping to eliminate our use of fossil fuels and create a secure, sustainable future for generations to come.

To find out more about our Intelligent Communities Lifecycle (ICL) visit: www.iesve.com/icl