IE 11 Not Supported

For optimal browsing, we recommend Chrome, Firefox or Safari browsers.

Atlanta Deploys Predictive Infrastructure Maintenance Technology

What began as a project to monitor the health of tunnel ventilation systems within the rail network of the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority, has evolved into a citywide upgrade of building infrastructure.

New sensor and machine learning technology is working to improve efficiencies across Atlanta’s sprawling network of city buildings and infrastructure, in a move to reduce greenhouse gases, energy usage and better predict needed maintenance.

The city has partnered with IBM Maximo, an enterprise asset management software suite, to outfit predictive maintenance technology for major pieces of mechanical equipment like generators, pumps and heating and air conditioning infrastructure. Several of these pieces of equipment had surpassed their useful life, said Remy Saintil, commissioner for Atlanta's Department of Enterprise Asset Management.

“And as we replace and upgrade them, we will install this new technology to monitor and control them. The sensors will be attached to everything that provides a signal for us to track,” he explained in an email, adding, the city is introducing “intelligent building optimization” to collect and analyze real-time occupancy sensor data, weather conditions, temperature, humidity and pollution levels. The system will also use machine learning and AI to analyze historical and real-time data to autonomously adjust systems to meet desired parameters.

However, getting to this stage started with a pilot project last year with the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) to install the IBM technology on a tunnel ventilation system, described by city officials as a critically regulated “life safety” system. This proof of concept helped to lead to an expansion of smart city infrastructure across other agencies and departments.

Predictive maintenance, said Kendra DeKeyrel, vice president of environmental, social and governance (ESG) and asset management products leader at IBM Software, can help reduce labor costs 60 percent through the near-constant detection of the condition of critical assets or, “reducing unplanned downtime by half by catching failures sooner.”

Atlanta is looking to expand its smart infrastructure portfolio across all city-owned buildings, said Saintil. The project began with outfitting the public safety facilities with sensors connected to the IBM Maximo software, and is now progressing into the city’s administration facility.

“The next significant phase will be outfitting all recreation centers and public facilities,” said Saintil.

Further, Atlanta plans to establish a platform for monitoring carbon emissions and building health, and even new technologies like electric vehicle management, said Saintil.

“The plan is to collect, store and process facility metering and other sensing data to transform it into the knowledge needed to make better energy optimization decisions,” he added, pointing out that all of this new sensing and analysis data will help the city better forecast energy demand.

“There are countless ways that cities can leverage the insights that come from data and intelligent infrastructure, including to improve operational efficiency, save on costs, drive progress on sustainability goals, and attract new talent to well-maintained and innovative facilities,” said DeKeyrel, via email.
Skip Descant writes about smart cities, the Internet of Things, transportation and other areas. He spent more than 12 years reporting for daily newspapers in Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana and California. He lives in downtown Yreka, Calif.