Navigant Research Blog

How the IoT and Big Data Make Cities More Efficient

— September 8, 2017

The delivery of city services is being transformed by smart technologies that are providing city managers with new insights into operational performance and providing platforms for new forms of personalized and responsive services. Central to this transformation is the availability of real-time data from a growing range of intelligent devices that can monitor city operations. Sensors, communications networks, and the real-time data cities collect can enable more intelligent, efficient, sustainable, and interactive public services. The new technologies are helping cities make the most of limited budgets while adding additional value to the services provided to their communities. These innovations have the potential to drive a revolutionary change in the way city services are delivered in term of the quality, efficiency, and responsiveness of services.

Digital Technologies and City Services

Examples of how digital technologies are changing the way city services are provided can be found across a variety of key sectors:

  • Transportation: Real-time data collected from sensors and other devices can optimize connections between modes of transport for faster travel times, reduce the costs of operation, and increase convenience through improved information services for users on parking and transit availability in cities. Real-time data on traffic and transit services is providing new tools to city managers for both operation optimization and the delivery of new services to users. In Helsinki, for example, the bus service operator Helsingin Bussiliikenne Oy (HelB) worked with CGI to use improve its competitiveness through the use of sensors and data analytics on service performance.
  • Waste: Waste collection in cities is being transformed through the use of sensor technologies to improve collection. Companies like Enevo are providing real-time data and predictive analytics on the fullness of waste bins, enabling optimization of the collection process. These technological advances address the inefficiency of traditional waste collection, which is carried out by emptying containers according to predefined schedules and routes that are repeated at a set frequency.
  • Water: Droughts and population growth around the world have made water an increasingly important issue for cities. Intelligent devices, communications networks, and advanced IT systems are helping the water industry transform the way they deliver water services for cities. Veolia, for example, is working with the City of Lille, France to transform its water infrastructure. Working in partnership with the city, it deployed 1,000 sensors across the water network to identify leaks, as well as water meters and probes to test water quality.

Innovative Smart City Projects

The smart city market continues to expand, as city leaders across the globe are heralding innovative projects and laying out a vision for how cities can use technology to meet sustainability goals, boost local economies, and improve services. The importance of smart cities is being recognized at national level, as well. Canada is the most recent country to launch a national program, joining a list that includes Australia, the United States, China, India, Japan, Singapore, South Korea, and the United Kingdom. The Canadian federal government announced in early 2017 the launch of a Smart Cities Challenge Fund, proposing $300 million over 11 years for Infrastructure Canada to implement the program.

Intelligent Cities Summit

The myriad of ways in which this funding can utilize the power of big data and the Internet of Things (IoT) to deliver improved services in Canadian cities will be discussed at the upcoming Intelligent Cities Summit in Toronto (October 24-25). The conference speaker lineup features C-level municipal executives from cities such as Toronto, Vancouver, and Calgary, among others. See the conference website to download the brochure and register for the summit.

 

Realizing the Potential of Street Lighting Networks

— July 27, 2017

Navigant Research expects 73 million connected street lights to be deployed globally by 2026. This will be an immense asset for cities able to use these smart nodes as part of an emerging city mesh of sensors and smart devices. However, while the potential of smart street lighting is clear, there are still several hurdles to faster adoption. As Richelle Elberg noted in a new Echelon-sponsored white paper, we must examine the complex issues around the network choices facing cities—and technical complexities are only part of the problem. The Echelon white paper and Navigant Research’s recent Smart Street Lighting for Smart Cities report both identify five key messages for cities as they consider their street lighting policy:

  • Consider street lighting upgrades as part of an Internet of Things (IoT) strategy. Any city looking to deploy a street lighting network should at least have an outlined plan for how it will engage with the growth in the use of digital and IoT technologies for city operations and services. How do these developments fit with existing city development strategies? What are the priority local issues and what are the local assets that provide the starting point and make the plan distinct to the needs of this city?
  • Find new ways to collaborate across departments. The potential to add future services to a street lighting network means that coordination across city departments on procurement is essential. Restricting the procurement to the traditional concerns of the lighting department may limit the ability to realize future benefits. Coordination of networking requirements and procurement across multiple city departments—and even involvement of other stakeholders such as local utilities—should be considered.
  • Think about problems first. While there are a wide range of potential use cases for a multi-application network, not all will have the same priority. Just because many applications can be supported on a street lighting network does not mean that all will be equally important to all cities. As a leader of a successful smart city program recently said: “our secret is that we always start with a city problem not a technology.”
  • Understand the diversity of requirements. While integration across departments and the consolidation of requirements is a sensible approach, it is also important to realize that one approach will not satisfy all needs. Most cities are likely to require different communication solutions to address the span of smart city applications, from low risk Living Lab projects, to specific services applications such as street lighting and smart parking, to critical city systems for public safety. The future of city networking will be a hybrid.
  • Recognize that street lights are a city asset. In a world that depends on ubiquitous access to power and connectivity, the street lighting network is a valuable resource. In addition to providing a platform for new sensors and applications to improve the efficiency of city services, they can also be a source of new revenue. Street lighting poles are being used to extend cellular and Wi-Fi access, to integrate EV charging equipment, and as digital signage sites for advertisers.

Where Do We Go from Here?

Installing smart controls for street lighting at the same time as an LED upgrade program is a logical and cost-effective step to enhancing the value of the city lighting system. In 2017, smart street lights represent only about 2% of the installed base of street lights; there is still immense potential for better utilization of these valuable city assets.

Installed Base of Smart Street Lights by Region, World Markets: 2017-2026

(Source: Navigant Research)

For further detail on smart city applications, street lighting as a platform, and the relevant connectivity platforms, see the Navigant Research white paper, Smart Street Lighting as a Smart City Platform. The Executive Summary from the Smart Street Lighting for Smart Cities report is also available.

 

Mapping Smart City Applications to Smart Street Lighting Platforms

— June 28, 2017

City managers interested in smart street lighting applications today can choose among a multitude of technologies and vendors. Questions such as cost, functionality, useful life, and ability to accommodate other applications over time, however, can make the decision-making process overwhelming.

To provide guidance, Navigant Research performed a heatmap analysis in a study commissioned by smart street lighting vendor Echelon. The heatmap compares the characteristics of various narrowband, mediumband, and broadband network technologies with the performance and cost characteristics required by 10 different smart city applications. Network technology features such as costs, reliability, security, latency, and bandwidth, among others, were evaluated.

Smart City Platforms and Applications: Suitability Heatmap

(Source: Navigant Research)

The analysis indicated that for a balance of cost and functionality, the mediumband options, such as power line carrier (PLC) and radio frequency (RF) mesh technologies, offer several advantages. For basic lighting controls, there are several narrowband connectivity options that will work at a competitive price—but they are limited in terms of capacity for additional applications to be layered on top.

In contrast, broadband options such as point-to-multipoint RF solutions, public 3G or 4G networks, or Wi-Fi may be robust enough to handle even high bandwidth applications like closed circuit TV—but at a higher price. Wi-Fi—public access or private—may also bring higher security concerns to municipalities, as there are publicly available hacking tools for cracking Wi-Fi networks. Also, public access Wi-Fi may see its throughput constrained by citizens streaming video over their phones; this could impair the efficacy of higher speed applications such as smart traffic light controls or gunshot detection.

Advanced Controls Have Advantages

At the most basic level, lighting controls provide elementary features such as remote on-off control, dimming, and scheduling functions. There is also a wide range of advanced functions that can be enabled by intelligent controls, including energy monitoring and billing, performance monitoring, color controls, adaptive lighting, and emergency response.

Beyond the capabilities for advanced lighting controls, street lighting networks also have the potential to support a range of non-lighting applications: environmental/air quality monitoring, traffic monitoring, smart parking, and gunshot detection. An even wider range of applications may benefit from sharing the network infrastructure. These might include traffic light controls, smart waste management, public messaging/ digital signage, or high definition video surveillance.

New applications for smart street lighting platforms are emerging still. New ideas such as controlling sprinkler systems or controlling public restroom locks have been raised—and other new ideas are sure to emerge as connectivity becomes more ubiquitous.

Better Quality of Life

A growing number of cities globally are looking for ways to not only reduce their energy expenses, but also improve the efficiency of city operations and provide a better quality of life to their citizens. As such, the selection of the appropriate smart street lighting platform that meets both long-term goals and near-term constraints should be given careful consideration.

For further detail on smart city applications, street lighting as a platform, and the relevant connectivity platforms discussed herein, see the Smart Street Lighting as a Smart City Platform white paper, available here. Navigant’s Navigating the Energy Transformation white paper, available here, also provides a related discussion of smart city solutions as a platform in the Energy Cloud era.

 

New Federal Government Support Will Accelerate Canada’s Growing Smart City Market

— June 16, 2017

Recently, the Canadian federal government announced it has pledged to launch a Smart Cities Challenge Fund, proposing $300 million over 11 years for Infrastructure Canada to implement the program. The funding will support the deployment of clean and digitally connected technology that can improve life in cities and is modeled similarly to the US Smart City Challenge (won by Columbus, Ohio).

Until recently, Canada has lacked a national smart city framework, leaving major cities such as Vancouver, Toronto, and Montreal to develop their own climate action plans and digital infrastructure projects without significant federal guidance or funding assistance. Over one-third of Canada’s population lives in these three cities, and over 80% of its overall population is urbanized, making the improvement of city service delivery a crucial issue in the country. Highlights of key smart city initiatives from these three cities include:

  • Vancouver: In March 2015, the City Council of Vancouver voted unanimously to develop and implement a 100% Renewable City Strategy by 2050. This aims to make the city emissions free in both the energy and transportation sectors.
  • Toronto: Canada’s largest city, Toronto (Greater Toronto Area population of 6.4 million), is targeting an 80% reduction in greenhouse gases by 2050 (compared to 1990 levels). The city has allocated nearly $100 million for energy conservation measures, renewable energy projects, and retrofits of city facilities. Toronto is also expected to be the site of Sidewalk Labs’ Digital City project, part of Google’s vision to reinvent cities from the Internet up.
  • Montreal: The Montreal Smart and Digital City Action Plan aims to position Montreal as one of the world’s smartest cities. The action plan introduces 70 projects divided into five focus areas: urban mobility, direct services to citizens, quality of life, democratic life, and economic development. This is an open data project with an ultra high speed, multiservice telecom infrastructure.

Federal Government Stepping Up with Funding

Three rounds of funding are expected to take place in Canada, with the first round set for fall 2017. Each round of Canada’s Smart Cities Challenge will include:

  • One $50 million prize in funding for a large city
  • Two $10 million prizes for midsize cities
  • One $5 million prize for a small community
  • One $5 million prize for an indigenous community

Prime Minister Trudeau has pledged to link infrastructure with an innovation agenda, and the Smart Cities Challenge will help Canada achieve that goal. Canada has evolved into one of the leading countries in the world in terms of building infrastructure through public-private partnerships (P3s), using this model to fund light rail lines, hospitals, jails, and water systems, among other infrastructure. The country’s high utilization of P3s for infrastructure development combined with the new funding available in the Smart Cities Challenge positions Canada to elevate its attractiveness to key suppliers in the smart city market. Its actions also potentially lift the country from its current follower position into a leadership role in global smart city development.

 

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