Transportation, Public Safety and the Modern Power Grid Thrive with Integrated Smart City Data

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In this special guest feature, Steph Stoppenhagen, Smart City Business Development Director for Black & Veatch’s Smart Integrated Infrastructure business, outlines how a growing awareness, understanding and acceptance of data-based technology is rapidly changing how city officials manage community services. Steph is recognized as a technology solutions expert, strategizing with clients to deliver value from smart infrastructure, networks and data. Her successes include creating consortiums to deliver complex, integrated smart city programs and products.

A growing awareness, understanding and acceptance of data-based technology is rapidly changing how city officials manage community services.

As local leaders, utilities and public agencies increasingly embrace data analytics tools and city-wide communications networks, they are realizing that even the most complicated city systems can be better managed and deployed. These advanced technologies will enable the next generation of sustainable, energy efficient and resilient infrastructure that can be built to scale. Early adopters are already seeing results, as their use of data significantly enhances public services through transportation, public safety and integrated power grid modernization.

Smart Street Systems and Transportation

Today’s cities now integrate with technology that was previously only dreamed of, as street lights, interactive kiosks and electric vehicle (EV) charging stations are being equipped with sensors that can collect and return critical information. For example, real-time data on traffic, road closures, parking and more can be used by citizens to inform their daily commutes. WiFi-enabled kiosks not only offer increased connectivity, but can display information such as public transportation schedules, weather forecasts and local business news.

Smart street systems, and the data they gather, can also create opportunities to generate revenue. Findings from a recent Black & Veatch smart city survey revealed that while only 27 percent of government/municipality respondents saw data monetization as a realistic opportunity to generate funds, more than half of technology providers saw this as a very real benefit of smart city initiatives. Data monetization, while new and unfamiliar to many, could help leaders solve the issue of budget constraints, a common hurdle for those looking to deploy smart initiatives.

Public Safety

Increased connectivity also benefits the public safety sector, as advances in communication networks from broadband long-term evolution (LTE) deployments improve how first responders, government officials and other public agencies serve their communities. Modern public safety LTE networks now enable seamless data transmission, improving resident experiences across municipal departments and services.

Smart cities are seeing the evolution as public safety departments increasingly retire legacy land mobile radio (LMR) systems in the shift to LTE applications that can better meet citizen expectations and increase first responder effectiveness and safety. A fast-growing number of cities currently use LTE applications, with many still in pilot phases. The next iteration of public safety communications looks even more promising, as broadband LTE and next-generation 9-1-1 systems will eventually leverage not just voice data, but also geographic data, pictures and video in real time.

Transition to a Digital Grid

Smart city survey respondents recognize the important role that data analytics can play as the modern power grid transitions from analog to digital, with 44 percent including data analytics as a primary use case in their grid modernization plans. Although the power grid was originally designed for one-way flow, the proliferation of distributed energy resources (DER) such as solar and wind power has increased the grid to potentially thousands of data points. This data, if analyzed correctly, can drastically drive efficiency and reliability and assist with key decision-making in real time.

Granted, too much data can be overwhelming for a utility. Commercially available third-party software can help ease the burden an overabundance of information can create for utilities through effective management of the vast amount of data in a single, system-based asset life cycle platform, incorporating multiple dimensions for detailed, actionable information. To optimize the digital grid, utilities should carefully capture, integrate and analyze data against defined key performance indicators for a holistic view of a system’s performance to guide day-to-day operations and long-term planning.

Collaboration Key to Data Optimization

Data’s role in improving operations and creating efficiencies cannot come to fruition without close collaboration between city leadership, public agencies and local service providers. While actionable data can be gathered to inform decisions in silos, it is most effective when made visible and shared among community leaders to foster holistic smart city planning and implementation. As stakeholder engagement increases, data from smart city technologies will help boost communities in exciting new ways.


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