The number of smart digital innovations being introduced in cities has increased over the last ten years. Many of the innovations have been introduced as one-off projects as technology develops, awareness grows, and city needs and budgets permit. These IoT innovations are varied, including intelligent traffic control, smart parking, smart lighting, remote infrastructure monitoring, waste management, smart sensors, and even shark monitoring. The opportunities grow by the day.
Each of these initiatives is a huge step in the right direction and can help improve city efficiencies and sustainability, but in isolation, the benefits are often diminished. Many IoT initiatives involve proprietary systems, which rely on different frameworks, and use different data architectures or sensor hardware that speak different “languages.” Managing one of these projects in isolation is fine, but as the number grows, the management of these smart systems can quickly become an IT nightmare.
IoT & Smart City Benefits
There are significant benefits and efficiencies to be gained by integrating disparate IoT systems and data. Let’s take a look at some of the possible improvements.
- Operations: By integrating systems, operations teams no longer need to switch between different operating platforms and systems, forgetting logins and functions. The ability to monitor and control all city operations, be it municipal buildings, traffic management, lighting, and waste management all from one platform can greatly improve operational efficiencies.
- Maintenance: Improve the prioritization and scheduling of predictive maintenance work as teams access one cloud-based platform where they can obtain crucial information to assist with the correct ordering of spares, insights into the root cause, and improved coordinating of personnel. Improving the flow of data and communication to maintenance teams ensures that work is carried out correctly the first time, every time.
- Advanced analytics and AI: As systems and software are integrated, cities can benefit from the application of advanced analytics and artificial intelligence across the available data. Predictive analytics can provide critical insights to city teams to improve day-to-day services, as well as help inform strategic planning. Having the data on one platform greatly reduces, if not removes, time-consuming data wrangling and data manipulation.
- City stakeholders: By connecting disparate IoT systems, a larger number of stakeholders can benefit. For example, community facilities can be integrated to allow for booking management, access control, maintenance alerts, and accounts for automated accurate billing (i.e., power consumption). Events teams can be granted access to city decorative lighting installations to tie in lighting sequences with city and community events.
- Automation: Many cities rely on a large workforce as their jurisdictions are widespread. The integration of IoT systems can allow for the automation of many simple tasks, such as the switching on/off of lights or irrigation, as well as the monitoring and reporting across a wide range of critical infrastructure. Some cities are even automating their traffic infringement systems, connecting to existing cameras on their fleet of cars.
- IT and OT: Reducing the number of systems, software, and platforms can reduce operating costs for cities and councils, eliminate IT and OT headaches, and help to improve communication and data usage between departments. Data security can be improved as data won’t reside in legacy and proprietary systems which can increase the risk of security breaches.
Integrate From the Beginning
Many cities run small pilot projects to test an innovation. While often successful, many still struggle to scale the innovation and roll it out. This can often be attributed to issues with system compatibility, which may require customization, retrofitting, and sometimes rebuilding, all of which add time and can blow out a project’s costs.
When planning a smart city innovation there are three things to focus on to ensure you avoid IoT silos:
The linking of legacy IT systems, IoT sensors, and data architectures needs to be at the forefront when considering future solutions. When looking for a solution, cities should prioritize innovations that use open standards and are committed to interoperability.
#2: Operations Transformation Project
Many IoT projects are still considered technology projects rather than operational transformation projects. An operational transformation project can benefit a wide range of stakeholders, even if the project wasn’t designed for them. As innovation is used and embraced by a greater number of stakeholders, the inherent value will be more easily recognized, which will help embed and scale the solution.
The beauty of digital innovation and IoT is the vast amounts of data that can be produced. Ensure you have a plan for how you are going to store and access the data. Even if you are not using the data immediately for advanced analytics or artificial intelligence, you very soon may choose to do so. The more data available the better, so the integration of all available data, even from different systems, will prove to be invaluable. An ideal period for artificial intelligence is two years of historical data, so we recommend you start storing your data from day one.
Built to Last
Finally, teams and personnel come and go, but an interconnected, interoperable smart system is built to last. Future city and council employees will one day be grateful for the vast amounts of data stored, and city services and resources can continue to be optimized and improved to increase efficiency and effectiveness. This is the beauty of integrated IoT for smart cities.