Navigant Research Blog

From Connected Street Lights to Smart Cities

— April 5, 2018

Chicago’s program to replace 270,000 city lights over the next 4 years with LEDs and intelligent controls is a good example of the growing scale and ambition of street lighting projects. This initiative could eventually save Chicago $10 million a year in energy costs. The latest edition of Navigant Research’s Smart City Tracker includes smart city projects in 221 cities, a quarter of which are deploying smart street lighting ranging from initial pilots to citywide and regional deployments that span tens and even hundreds of thousands of lights. This is far from an exhaustive list of street lighting projects, but it is a further sign of the growing momentum behind the deployment of connected lighting solutions in cities. Navigant Research expects 73 million connected street lights to be deployed globally by 2026.

First Step Toward the Future

Smart street lighting is being recognized by many city leaders as a first step toward the development of a smart city. In addition to increasing the energy efficiency of the city and reducing energy costs, carbon emissions, and maintenance costs, intelligent lighting can also provide a backbone for a range of other city applications, including public safety, traffic management, smart parking, environmental monitoring, and extended Wi-Fi and cellular communications.

However, while an increasing number of cities are recognizing the value of upgraded lighting networks, there are still financial and organizational barriers to be addressed, including:

  • Finance: Although the energy savings from street lighting upgrades is well proven, it can still be a challenge for many cities to approve financial packages for the necessary upfront investment. The pragmatic benefits and long-term cost savings of deploying intelligent controls at the same time as upgrading to LEDs are not always easily fitted into existing approaches to procurement and financing.
  • Customer understanding: A lack of understanding of newer lighting technologies may also be a barrier to the adoption of LEDs and networked solutions. While the LED lighting market is getting over this hurdle, controls lag further behind since customers are less familiar with these technologies. The issue is not about quality, but rather a lack of knowledge about the business case for the additional benefits intelligent lighting brings, particularly for secondary applications.
  • Utility-owned street lights: Where street lighting is provided by a utility, building the business case for energy efficiency may depend on the incentives set by regulators. This means that some utilities have been reluctant to invest in lighting network upgrades. However, attitudes are changing due to the pressure to reduce carbon emissions and to recognize street lights as an asset and potential revenue source. Indeed, many utilities now see street lighting as a pathway to a range of new service offerings while they look to opportunities in the Energy Cloud.

Join Us and Learn More

In the forthcoming Navigant Research webinar, From Connected Street Lights to Smart Cities, I will discuss current trends in smart street lighting with Troy Harms and Terry Utterback from Acuity Brands and Dan Evans from Itron. We will be discussing how intelligent street lighting can provides a platform for urban innovation, and how leading cities are addressing some of the remaining barriers.

Please join us on April 10, 2018 at 2:00 p.m. EST. Click here to register.

 

Integrated Ecosystem Partnerships Are Critical to Innovative Residential Customer Solutions

— March 29, 2018

My recent blog regarding Southern Company’s Smart Neighborhoods initiatives with Alabama Power and Georgia Power demonstrated that innovative customer solutions can have customer benefits as well as utility value. These types of customer-focused solutions in both the residential and commercial and industrial sectors are the focus of our new Utility Customer Solutions Research Service. Further, these Smart Neighborhoods initiatives are featured in my recently released Strategy Insight report titled Maximizing the Residential Energy Customer Experience with Emerging Solutions.

Smart Neighborhoods Initiative Taking Shape in Atlanta

Since that first blog release, Georgia Power has released details on the roles that individual technology providers are playing in the Atlanta initiative. These partner roles include:

  • Alarm.com focuses on smart home security solutions and can connect smart home devices to make them accessible through a smartphone app for homeowners.
  • GreenMarbles is a connected home systems integrator that is a channel provider for Alarm.com that specializing in home automation and energy management solutions that can manage homeowner’s thermostats, door locks, lights, garage doors, and water sensors.
  • Hannah Solar is a Georgia-based solar PV plus energy storage installer for residential, commercial, and agricultural sectors.
  • Mercedes-Benz Energy provides home energy solutions related to EV charging, solar PV and battery energy storage that can help provide resilient backup power.
  • Sunverge Energy has developed a distributed energy resources (DER) software and hardware controls platform that allows for the integration of solar PV, battery energy storage, and home energy management systems (HEMS) across multiple residences across a virtual power plant.

Sunverge Energy Helping to Find Savings for Customers

As part of the Atlanta Smart Neighborhoods program, Sunverge Energy’s platform will help customers by forecasting and scheduling residential activities to provide energy bill savings based on Georgia Power’s Smart Usage or Nights & Weekends energy rates. Further, Sunverge Energy’s platform will help Georgia Power and Southern Company understand how aggregated DER such as solar PV, battery energy storage, and HEMSs can interact across multiple residences to optimize the local grid.

Innovative Partnerships Will Transform the Role of the Home

Both regulated utilities and deregulated utility services companies are now exploring new energy-related solutions such as the DER optimization demonstrated by Georgia Power. Further, technology disruptors with smart home/home energy solutions are also looking to deploy their new solutions—either directly with customers or in partnerships with utilities—to make homes more safe, convenient, and comfortable. Navigant Research anticipates that an innovative ecosystem of partnerships between customers, utilities, and vendors will come together to expand the role a home can play in safety, convenience, comfort, and the transition of the grid from traditional, centralized generation to part of an Energy Cloud platform.

 

Los Angeles Uses Data to Transform Streets

— March 1, 2018

Cities are using data to make informed decisions to deliver city services; however, data alone is not enough. Successful data-driven initiatives require clear vision backed by coordinated processes, and smart technologies that can provide city managers with new insights into operational performance. On January 25, Bloomberg Philanthropies announced nine cities earned the What Works Cities Certification for their excellence in data-driven governance to improve quality of life. The nine cities—Boston, Kansas City, Los Angeles, Louisville, New Orleans, San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington, DC—will each receive expert assistance to accelerate progress. What Works Cities Certification evaluates factors including cities having a dedicated staff responsible for helping departments use data to track progress, contracts being awarded based on past performance, and having key datasets open to the public.

Data-Driven Initiative Starts with a Clear Vision and Realistic Process

Among the nine cities, Los Angeles holds the highest honor with gold-level certification. The other eight cities won silver. One of many data-driven initiatives in Los Angeles is the Clean Streets LA (CSLA) initiative. In 2015, Mayor Eric Garcetti launched the CSLA initiative to replenish funding for city cleanliness services, aiming to have the dirtiest streets cleaned up by 2018.

Los Angeles Sanitation (LASAN) crew members assessed the cleanliness of 42,000 street segments using video and geographic information system tools every quarter. They assign a score based on four criteria: loose litter, bulky items, weeds, and illegal dumping. A street is rated 1 if it is clean, 2 if it requires some cleaning, and 3 if it requires immediate attention.

CSLA Interactive Map

(Source: City of Los Angeles)

After assigning a score, LASAN uses the data to identify where to allocate new garbage bins and where to target the deployment of cleanup crews. Since launching the initiative, the city has deployed over 1,500 garbage bins around the city. In just 1 year, these efforts led to an 82% reduction in streets previously rated as “Not Clean.” To make this data accessible to residents, the open data generated from the CSLA initiative is translated into an interactive map on the GeoHub, the city’s map-based open data portal.

Next Step: Smart Technologies

Cities can take another step forward to improve operational efficiency by leveraging smart technologies to automate data collection and analysis. For example, having achieved the goals of the CSLA, Los Angeles is now exploring avenues to incorporate forecasting and predictive analytics that can predict future deployment of garbage bins.

The City of Baltimore recently announced its move forward with a $15 million project to deploy 4,000 smart garbage bins across the city in an effort to increase the city’s waste collection efficiency. Ecube Labs will provide solar-powered bins equipped with sensors that monitor fill level, and a software suite to plan optimized collection routes and provide daily route information for each truck based on real-time data. Navigant Research expects the global market revenue for this type of smart waste collection technology will reach $223.6 million in 2025.

There is an opportunity for smart technologies to enhance the delivery of municipal waste collection services. And as Los Angeles demonstrated, it is necessary to have a clear vision and coordinated process in place to achieve successful outcomes. Once the goals and resources are defined, technology can accelerate the progress by improving efficiency and opening the door to other integrated solutions.

 

Smart City Technology Helping Low Income Residents, Too

— January 23, 2018

Particularly in the developing world, there are valid concerns that smart cities could exacerbate the digital divide and primarily benefit wealthier residents. However, a number of emerging companies and initiatives demonstrate that smart city technology can also be utilized for digital inclusion, citizen empowerment, and to increase low income residents’ access to essential city services such as transportation and healthcare.

Key Company and Project Examples

A new company called Cityblock Health was recently spun out of Alphabet’s urban innovation unit, Sidewalk Labs. Cityblock raised over $20 million from a range of investors to help low income Americans access basic health services. Through the company’s Commons platform technology, it will partner with community health centers and partner organizations across the US to reconfigure the delivery of health and social services—and make healthcare services more personalized for qualifying Medicaid or Medicare members. Specifically, the company is targeting issues with misaligned payment incentives (between payers and providers of Medicare and Medicaid), siloed medical and social service delivery, and fragmented data. Cityblock is expected to launch its first Neighborhood Health Hub in New York City in 2018. The Hub will differ from traditional siloed health clinics, using the company’s custom-built technology to merge health services with the community. Caregivers, Cityblock members, and local organizations will all engage with each other in one physical meeting space to discuss and solve local health challenges. Cityblock will be an interesting startup to follow as it aims to integrate primary care, behavioral health, and social services all under one roof.

Another significant example of the potential for smart city technology to help low income communities (and further explained in one of my previous blogs) is Columbus, Ohio’s proposal for the US Department of Transportation’s Smart City Challenge. One of the primary reasons the city won the Challenge—and beat out the better-known technology centers of San Francisco, Austin, and Denver—was due to Columbus’s ability to demonstrate that its plan would result in increasing poor residents’ access to new transportation options. Additionally, Microsoft, along with its partners G3ict and World Enabled, launched the Smart Cities for All Toolkit in spring 2017 as part of its broader city engagement program. The toolkit is designed to help city officials and urban planners make more digitally inclusive and accessible smart cities. Tools developed for cities include a guide for adopting information and communication technology (ICT) accessibility standards and a guide for ICT accessible procurement policies.

Project Design and Implementation Crucial

These examples demonstrate that smart city technology can be used to the benefit of low income residents—whether it’s increasing access to crucial services such as healthcare and transport, or helping to bridge the digital divide. Policymakers must be vigilant when designing and implementing smart city programs, ensuring that technology deployments will extend to and directly benefit low income residents and neighborhoods in their city. Specific projects designed for low income communities (e.g., providing transport between high unemployment neighborhoods and nearby job centers) should be pursued as part of a city’s broader smart city strategy whenever possible.

 

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