Technologies For the Built Environment

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By Rick Seiden, AICP

As developers, designers, and real state professionals it is important to understand how technology can differentiate a project, make it unique, safer, and more successful. New technologies are continuously being introduced into development projects, but as in other aspects of current human activities, urban and retail technologies are becoming more ubiquitous and complex. Professionals in the real estate development industry should become aware of what technologies are becoming standard in new projects and which ones are just being considered. By understanding new and emerging technologies, real estate professionals and developers can keep their new developments innovative, safe, vibrant, and most importantly profitable.

This article focuses on three technologies selected to illustrate this point: the first is already here, the second is quickly being deployed, and the third is on the horizon.

Video Surveillance: Making Your Development Safer

Urban video surveillance is being deployed widely in both large and small European projects, towns and communities and is quickly spreading in North America. Many of us are familiar with cameras set atop traffic signals, also called red-light cameras. Video surveillance is basically the same technology, but it is deployed in strategic locations throughout communities, retail spaces, or industrial areas and can be simple or extremely sophisticated. Large cities such as New York and London already have cutting-edge surveillance systems and many retail environments have installed cameras. Video surveillance systems can make your project safer and provide shoppers, visitors, or residents with both a real and perceived sense of security. When considering the introducing of a video surveillance system for your project, items to consider may include the following:

• Camera placement
• Number and types of cameras
• Municipal regulations
• Infrastructure usage
• Comprehensive plans
• Project aesthetics
• Privacy issues

Urban surveillance technology is a Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) network. Unlike broadcast television, where images are broadcasted to a mass market, CCTV is a closed system sent only to authorized personnel such as project security officials, municipal employees, police agencies, and first responders. More specifically, it is a system in which a number of video cameras are connected in a closed circuit or loop, with the images produced being sent to a central television monitor or recorders. These systems can be quite dynamic, capable of zooming and panning, capturing images of license plates from thousands of feet away. Multiple cameras working in unison can track movement across a large space, and incidents can even be monitored by computer software that can have pre-set incidents programmed into the system to produce alarms when specific incidents occur.

Cameras come in numerous formats and prices. They can be basic low-resolution black and white cameras or extremely sophisticated with attributes such as night vision capabilities, motion detection, bulletproof casings, zoom capabilities and high-definition recording.

The cost runs the gamut for the installation of urban surveillance systems. Some advanced features may include:

• Control of each camera using a joystick to move, pan or zoom on a specific area or incident
• Recording and storage of images on tape or on a digital video recorder for the purpose of archiving and analyzing past incidents, particularly after a crime is reported
• Analytic software that can trigger alarms for pre-set events such as a car parked in a restricted zone more than three minutes or a fence jumper in a prohibited area
• Mobile video units on trailers that can be moved around communities or retail spaces for events such as parades, concerts, or large civic gatherings to record large crowds or emergency situations

Some benefits of video surveillance are obvious, such as increased “eyes on the street” and an increased virtual police presence. Other, not so obvious, benefits include:

• Protecting restricted areas by installing a motion sensor camera that triggers an alarm only when an intruder is detected
• Monitoring threatening behavior. For instance, if the same car passes a restricted area more than ten times in a week, a camera can trip an alarm
• Immediate dispatching of medical personal as soon as a medical emergency occurs
• Monitoring of project infrastructure, such as burned out streetlights, downed power lines, and other infrastructure problems

Dummy or fake cameras have proven effective as a crime deterrent. As this technology spreads, urban planners and city officials must begin to weigh the costs and benefits of such systems, balance security with privacy, and explore aesthetics with the capability to respond quickly and archive incidents. Increasing the eyes on the street using video surveillance technology can help protect tenants, residents and visitors, as well as make a development safer and more appealing.

Wireless Broadband: Bringing Vitality to a Development

Do you wish for your retail space or plaza to be vital and active? Do you hope to discover new revenue streams? Do you wish to differentiate your project from others? Wireless broadband can help achieve these goals. Allowing people to access the Internet within your development will give a reason for people to visit and shop there, increasing your projects vitality and profitability. Establishments such as Starbucks Coffee and Panera Bread have already discovered the commercial benefits of wireless connectivity in their shops. Wireless broadband (outdoor wireless connections) can also provide a revenue stream by allowing landlords to charge users to access their wireless network. However, providing a wireless broadband service at no charge, could help to differentiate one development from another. Wireless broadband could allow developers and designers to:

• Enable office workers to work and shop in outdoor plazas within your project
• Replace fiber and copper with wireless high-speed networks
• Use as an alternative to trenching or digging up streets for increasing bandwidth (fiber need not be laid)
• Be a last mile solution for residents and businesses
• Enable mobile Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) telephony that could compete with cellular phone providers (4G)
• Provide wireless, mobile-rich media solutions to laptops and PDAs including steaming video, high-speed movie and fast music downloads
• Provide instant secure access to wireless, mobile business applications, such as private corporate networks, cooperate databases, and company Intranet applications

Developers and designers could have much to weigh when considering this technology for a project or community. Such considerations include: where the base station/hub site antenna should be located and where the small public and private antennas can be deployed; what outdoor spaces will office workers be able to work from and congregate in; and which revenue-generating models would be most appropriate or should the service be provided at no charge.

Bluetooth: Extending the Reach of your Tenants

An emergent technology, Bluetooth, might change the way your tenants and communities transmit information in the near future. Bluetooth is a short range, wireless technology intended to replace the cables connecting portable and/or fixed devices while maintaining high levels of security. The key

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