Giving communities real-time information on infrastructure

2019 ES&E Consultants’ Forum

Smart city graphic illustration

By Tony Petrucci and Luiraf Garcia, Civica Infrastructure

Today, more than half of the world’s population lives in cities. By 2050, almost seven out of ten people will live in urban areas. Cities represent more than 70% of global carbon emissions and between 60% and 80% of energy consumption. Rapid urbanization has created new problems, such as social inequality, traffic congestion, water pollution and related health problems.

Governments and municipalities can turn to information, communication and other technologies to build smarter and more sustainable cities for their residents. An intelligent and sustainable city is an innovative city that uses technologies to improve the quality of life, the efficiency of urban operations and services, and competitiveness, while meeting the needs of present and future generations in economic, social, environmental and cultural aspects.

Although there are still no cities where all urban systems and services are connected, many are already transforming into smart and sustainable cities. The smart city concept helps communities to have real-time information, allowing them to make the right decision at the right time. Smart city technology also allows city officials to interact directly with both community and city infrastructure and to monitor what is happening in the city and how it is evolving.

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Defining smart cities

There are many definitions for a smart city. However, from the practical point of view, it can be defined as an urban delimited geographic territory that uses the internet of things (IoT), along with different electronic devices and sensors, interacting with each other and collecting data. This can be used to manage assets and other city resources more efficiently.

Google defines a smart city as “a developed urban area that creates sustainable economic development and high quality of life by excelling in multiple key areas: economy, mobility, environment, people, living, and government.”

Others define smart cities as those that use infrastructure, innovation and technology to reduce energy consumption and emissions.

Still another definition identifies a smart city as the group of potential factors that can contribute to a city being considered “smart”: smart infrastructure, smart education, smart governance, smart building, smart security, smart healthcare, smart transportation/mobility, smart city planning, smart energy, and smart water and sanitation.

Some researchers have calculated that by 2030 the world will have more than 90 billion sensors and equipment connected as part of a very large network, providing enormous amounts of data in different fields. With the right systems, along with real-time supervision and data quality control and analysis, it is possible to ensure that smart city infrastructure will work efficiently and in a safe way.

Increasingly, cities want to use photovoltaic panels in the community, use windmills on street lamps, solar panels for traffic lights or signals, and promote the use of bicycles and electric vehicles. Smart cities use a variety of resources and all these elements perform together to increase efficiency and sustainability.

Smartest cities in the world

There are different parameters by which one city is valued more than another. For this, 10 dimensions that are key are considered: governance, urban planning, public management, technology, environment, international projection, social cohesion, mobility and transport, human capital and economy.

The following are considered to be the smartest cities in the world:

Tokyo is the city that placed best in the 2013 ranking, being first in human capital and public management. However, it has been relegated to a lower position for social cohesion, especially because of the Fukushima earthquake and the subsequent tsunami.

London maintains high levels in almost all dimensions and stands out especially in international projection and technology. However, it has relatively low values in public management and social cohesion.

New York is the most populous city in the United States, second in urban agglomeration on the North American continent after Mexico City. It is one of the most important cities in the world in terms of human capital and economy.

Zurich is the main city in Switzerland and is the financial engine and cultural centre of the country. It stands out in the environmental dimension, mobility and transport.

Paris is the most popular tourist destination in the world, with more than 40 million foreign tourists a year. It excels in international projection, technology, and mobility and transport.

From many years of experience in the water management industry, Civica Infrastructure has developed a “smart” approach which integrates software, hardware, internet of things (IoT) and professional services to help municipalities, regulatory agencies, consulting companies and land developers solve drainage capacity problems.

Diagram – Civica Infrastructure’s software
Civica Infrastructure’s software products integrate sensors that collect data from the field with hydraulic/hydrologic models.

We provide insights into predictive maintenance, asset performance and data quality, viewable on smart city dashboards. Based on these insights into smart city infrastructure, we can create roadmaps for water management, flow monitoring strategies and flood forecasting. Our software products integrate sensors that collect data from the field with hydraulic/hydrologic models, to not only demonstrate the current operating conditions of a drainage system but also predict how the system would perform in the near future with global forecasting models.

Tony Petrucci and Luiraf Garcia are with Civica Infrastructure Inc. This article appears in ES&E Magazine’s December 2019 issue.

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