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Smart City Infrastructure–Utilities Making Sense of Deep And IoT Data 

This item is part of the Special Issue - 12/2020 - Data Analytics & Intelligence, click here for more

With expanding urbanization, municipalities face major challenges of efficient management of public services with technologies that can improve urban-centric infrastructure.  By 2050 some 68 percent of the world’s population will live in urban areas according to the UN. Municipalities worldwide either have or are in process of rapidly developing smart-city architecture to leverage efficiency while improving smart-city-focused infrastructure from city lights to garbage collection.

Across the world, Information and Communications Technologies (ICT) are building smart-city framework to sustain efficient operations. Municipalities are integrating intelligent networks with wireless/cellular technologies to leverage the framework and capture critical data emitted from countless connected sensors and devices. While many technologies support smart-city deployments, smart utility infrastructure remains at the core with advanced communications technologies already in place from SCADA to meter reading to Local Area Networks.

With utilities increasingly integrated and aligned with smart city deployments, driven by the need to generate new revenue opportunities, Guidehouse Insights expects the annual utility revenue opportunity in smart cities to grow to over $100 billion by 2027. By 2025, forecasts suggest that there will be more than 75 billion Internet of Things (IoT) connected devices in use–a nearly threefold increase from the IoT installed base in 2019. This will include connected devices for smart street lighting that lower municipal operation costs and enable remote monitoring and management.

Getting Smarter With IoT Technologies

To sustain ongoing rapid growth, more and more municipalities are relying on smart-city infrastructure rooted in an IoT Technology foundation. With data at the core of all smart-city infrastructure, an IoT solution provides municipal operators one, consolidated, cohesive digital ecosystem to gather all the data from across all the connected devices and systems and make sense of it all to successfully and remotely manage everything.

Integrating IoT applications with smart-city infrastructure, municipal administrators tap the Utilities’ infrastructure to connect existing, local smart devices to capture data via wireless and cloud technology from sensors, meters, smart home devices, smart grid, autonomous cars, traffic lights, to countless mobile devices.  The IoT solution aggregates data from all the connected devices and systems, then it organizes and analyzes it in real-time. This provides municipal operators actionable analytics for data-driven business decisions. With open-access source, IoT solutions help expedite data-driven decision-making to better manage city utilities and services and ultimately better serve the residents.

SmartCOS–a joint collaboration between the City of Colorado Springs and Colorado Springs Utilities–is a smart city vision for deploying advanced technologies to improve public services, drive economic development, and solve issues facing the city. In developing a smart metering system, with help from Panasonic, the collaboration integrated technology and the IoT.

With smart architecture and infrastructure in place, smart grids can offer tremendous conservation possibilities. The EU has committed 365 million Euros to boost member states’ smart city development. The city of Amsterdam, one of the world’s top smart-cities, offers households energy storage units and solar panels that are connected to the city's smart grid. The batteries lower stress on the grid at peak hours, allowing residents energy storage during off-peak hours, and the solar panels let residents sell spare energy from the panels back to the grid. Among many uses, the city taps smart sensors and low-power wide area networks for a range of services from better management of waste containers, to gathering crime data to predict and respond to crime.  

Municipal Savings With IoT Platforms

Municipalities investing in smart-city infrastructure are reaping savings and efficient remote monitoring and management of a wide range of city and municipal services. Using the smart-city architecture, to collect, organize and analyze data in real-time allows for the management of such assets as utility poles, water and micro-grids, to traffic lights to major city services.

Integrating an IoT Platform is a critical part of a smart-city infrastructure that seamlessly integrates with existing disparate systems across the municipality, regardless of vendors and equipment. Custom alarming, connected to the data, allows administrators to use trending and reporting with access to the data in real-time across a customizable dashboard that is user-and-role-based. With this intelligence at hand, administrators can control subsystems, do advanced scheduling, even have third-party integration while having full, web-based control and access to critical, real-time data to manage all tasks remotely, from a safe point of operations–expediting city services. With an IoT Platform in place, administrators can direct valuable information and actionable data to specific stakeholders across the city.

For instance, data from the IoT devices connected to the traffic lights on Main Street can send a signal when a nearby outage shuts off the traffic lights at a certain intersection–causing major backups. It flags the administrator in real-time on the web-based dashboard. The administrator can, in a matter of minutes, remotely switch the traffic lights on to resume normal traffic flow and eliminate accidents without calling municipal works to send a truck to repair the traffic light. In the event remote troubleshooting is not possible, then the information is instantly dispatched to the public works department to remedy the problem and keep the traffic running smoothly. All this is done without residents placing calls to the city hall to report malfunctioning traffic lights.

A 2018 McKinsey report –Smart Cities: Digital Solutions For a More Livable Future– focuses on how smart applications affect multiple aspects of the quality of life. With cities becoming more efficient, responsible and sustainable places to live, the report shows savings gained in water usage, lower crime rates, expedited emergency response time and shorter commute times with information available to residents and municipalities from a plethora of smart devices.

Integrating IoT solutions to utility specific applications bring drastic savings to municipalities. With an IoT Platform deployed, municipalities gain actionable intelligence from a single source for all data-driven decisions. Expediting remote operations and control of all their critical infrastructure by fully organizing all their distributed assets, smart-city operators can prevent irreversible failures and emergencies, schedule preventive maintenance while improving city operations–all while maintaining and adhering to social distancing rules and staff safety.

 

Discussions

Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Nov 17, 2020

Great information, Michael-- thanks for sharing! On a city-wide level, are the upfront costs such that it could be too challenging to get these types of programs installed widely? Or would the payback be such that they aren't prohibitive? 

Michael Skurla's picture
Michael Skurla on Nov 23, 2020

This is an interesting question and reflects on who is owning the base assets as well as its application. Cities certainly are not used to this style of monitoring of base assets currently. Telecommunications carriers are and have been following this style of monitoring for years now to guarantee uptime performance. Infrastructure such as this most likely will be contracted out for service and tied to SLA's for performance criteria. Whoever is the end servicer most likely would be the agent to implement these monitoring solutions to limit costs (as mentioned about truck rolls), but also to meet contractual SLA requirements. 

Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Nov 23, 2020

That's a great point, and it'd be interesting to see how this could unfold differently in different cities/regions

Michael Skurla's picture

Thank Michael for the Post!

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