Voices of Digital Communities

The Internet of Things: Creating Smarter Cities (Part 2)

The drivers of smart cities are smart infrastructure and asset management monitoring, generating data which is analyzed and with which better decision-making is possible.

by / December 1, 2014

Cities that are applying Internet of Things applications, linking their device’s identifiers are doing so to monitor and measure for efficiencies, security and higher productivity. Often this is referred to as developing “Smart Cities”. In the process, they track their municipal assets, improve processes and controls, track behaviors and preferences, improve overall service and traffic efficiencies and establish themselves as leaders in economic development through differentiating themselves among competitive cities. Routers, meters, digitally-tagged devices and Internet of Things-related initiatives help to generate large amounts of data that help decision makers make better evidence-based informed decisions, reducing costs and positively impacting budgets. It also provides a sense of the public’s acceptance and changing behaviors – feedback and citizen satisfaction of existing or new initiatives and services. In an age when traffic movement is critical and municipal utilities and resources such as water and clean air are vital to a city’s existence, smart city infrastructure is a key element in the creation and survival of cities in the future. In addition to monitoring efficiencies and for trouble spots, the analyzed data can undertake predictive maintenance of these assets as well.

 
While smart infrastructure is valuable in city development and sustainability, an Intelligent Communities’ approach is more holistic; more people-centric; and advocates open source, shared and inclusionary systems. Smart Cities are a reflection of a city that works better; an Intelligent Community reflects a city in which people live better.
 
The drivers of smart cities are smart infrastructure and asset management monitoring, generating data which is analyzed and with which better decision-making is possible. This will lead to reduced costs and continuous improvement which in turn leads to efficiencies, predictive maintenance and the ability to anticipate problems in advance. By proactively coordinating scarce municipal resources to operate effectively and improve systems on a continuous basis, this verges on being revolutionary. Hence, smart cities help drive a more efficient city, which is able to be marketed as a more competitive environment, and thereby adding to its sustainable economic growth and prosperity.
 
The drivers of Intelligent Communities are people (talent and leadership), innovation and creativity, inclusion, advocacy and marketing, sustainability, collaboration, and, oh yes, advanced, smart city infrastructure. By incorporating the Internet of Things in a more horizontal, open source and shared ecosystem, people at all levels will be able to create increased social, economic and cultural opportunities and live better lives. This is a community approach focused on people and not just systems, technology and data.
 
So how can we create better and more sustainable innovation ecosystems and ensure that everyone in society will benefit from these decisions? Are we training people to be able to benefit from the Internet of Things and are there other ways to learn, explore and innovate? For instance, in addition to traditional education, can “maker-spaces” become the new classrooms? Can creative enterprise evolve from access to affordable, standardized and interoperable technologies that advance the opportunities inherent in adopting the Internet of Things more holistically across the board?  Can an Internet of Things ecosystem be part of the creative solutions needed to evolve smart cities into Intelligent Communities? What are the roles of the public, private and institutional sectors in these efforts and who are its champions and advocates? Is a bottom-up approach involving social media the way to engage inclusiveness and involve the greater population to ensure long term sustainability? The Intelligent Community movement and its key criteria are at the heart of all of these questions.
 
In the Waterloo Region of Canada, Intelligent Community of the Year in 2007, one of its cities, Cambridge partnered with IBM, Blackberry and the Government of Canada in a unique research project that provided Cambridge with the tools they needed to enhance their asset management system and related business processes for the municipality. The partnership undertook an integrated approach. They applied routers, measurement devices and sensors to meet a variety of department needs; measured and analyzed data from different departments and applied the collected information into insight and knowledge that was shared across all city departments and for planning and budgeting purposes. The system that was developed will also allow any private service providers working on initiatives with the city to add to the data mix. The program that its partners assembled called Analytics for City Services and Safety (ACCESS) allows the city to compile and synchronize data and to interpret it from a variety of perspectives. Its aim is to optimize capital spending in order to achieve the highest value in investing in infrastructure and for the opportunity to renew its systems and processes in the most economic and efficient way possible. Essentially, the goal is to significantly improve utilization of limited resources. However it should also lead to the highest level of sustainability as a result of this predictive maintenance.
 
Another set of benefits emerged for Cambridge as a result of this focused approach to asset management. The Asset Management Division was created which can now systematically collects all of the “big data” that is generated on all aspects of the city’s infrastructure and independently analyze it to take a city-owned long-term approach to its maintenance, operation, rehabilitation, and replacement of all its key assets, annually saving hundreds of thousands of dollars for the municipality. This will give Cambridge a competitive edge by making it possible that all its systems are healthy, efficiently managed and cost-effective. This type of city intelligence is also attractive to investing companies, local businesses and its citizens. Currently the city monitors and analyzes data from tens of thousands of related control devices monitoring over 2000 km of underground water mains, sanitary pipes, storm sewer pipes, roads and sidewalks. With increasing connections to the city’s soft infrastructure such as parks, schools, bus stops, sports and cultural facilities, Cambridge has become a model of how the Internet of Things can benefit a society.
 
Not to be outdone, Cisco and the city of Nice, France are undergoing research in the ”Connected Boulevard“ initiative. This experiment applies the Internet of Things to the urban management of a street with sensors installed in everything from street lights, parking metres and sidewalks to waste containers. The data is collected in real time by 200 devices which are continuously analyzed to provide information ranging from traffic flow, energy consumption and even the level of cleanliness on the street. In addition to sensors and devices, Nice has also built the capacity to capture a variety of data from daily life through a hybrid network infrastructure including Cisco`s Wi-Fi network. According to Cisco, ``the data is processed into real-time information and converted into intelligence with the help of context-aware location analytics, before being disseminated to serve multiple services in city operations and for city dwellers. It is an Internet-centric "always-on" platform designed to be resilient, extensible, highly secure and agile, through several interoperable layers. The Connected Boulevard is a multi-stakeholder collaboration integrating various solutions from different international and local companies.” Early projections suggest that this initiative can prove that these measures will contribute to the reduction of traffic congestion by 30% and energy costs can be reduced by 80% as a result of the synchronization of street lighting on a need-basis.
 
As we learn more about the benefits that the Internet of Things will bring into our lives, we will need to invest as society into the training, research and constant improvement for analyzing the data that comes with these new connections of devices everywhere. Beyond machine to machine connections and provisioning sensors to create more efficient municipal infrastructure, new ways to be more productive and innovative with the Internet of Things is being undertaken every day. For instance, this is already taking place in Columbus, Ohio where IBM, Ohio State University and Columbus 2020, the region’s economic development agency, have partnered to create the Client Center for Advanced Analytics. The Center will train analysts to analyse the billions of bits of data that are produced, making the information available to companies who will use it to make better strategic decisions, improve services for their customers, analyse predictive solutions such as ways to identify fraud and gain a competitive advantage for the company and community. This can apply to cities as well.
 
Cities are crucibles where experimentation and market forces combine to test innovation. They are also the place we call home where we live out our dreams, raise our families and add to our culture and economy. With predictive intelligence we are able to make more informed and realistic decisions that will make life more bearable and less stressful. We will be able to have better information on possible options and outcomes. Instead of worrying about all the data that is being generated, we should think about the knowledge that we can gain as a society and the benefits of the information that we can turn into wisdom and intelligence that will help people to build better communities and better lives for themselves, their families and their neighbours.
 
John Jung will be presenting the keynote address at the Internet of Things Conference in Auckland, New Zealand on November 19, 2014.
John Jung Co-founder of the Intelligent Community Forum

ICF co-founder John G. Jung originated the Intelligent Community concept and continues to serve as the Forum's leading visionary. Formerly President and CEO of the Greater Toronto Marketing Alliance and Calgary Economic Development Authority, he is a registered professional urban planner, urban designer and economic developer. He leads regular international business missions to US, European, Asian, Indian and Australian cities, and originated the ICF Immersion Lab program. John is a regular speaker at universities and conferences and serves as an advisor to regional and national leaders on Intelligent Community development. The author of numerous articles in planning and economic development journals, he has received global and Toronto-based awards for his work in collaboration and strategic development and sits on numerous task forces and international advisory boards.