By utilising big data analytics and building an infrastructure that is fit for purpose, we can find out where the valuable use cases for smart cities lie.
“The one thing about the IoT is that it uncovers the unknowns,” said Jay Hedley, managing director at Accenture, a global professional services company, providing a broad range of services and solutions in strategy, consulting, digital, technology and operations.
Hedley, who spoke to SmartCitiesWorld exclusively during an 18 day European tour of Accenture offices, was referencing new pilot projects under the City Digital initiative – of which Accenture is a founding member – in Chicago.
These projects, ‘smart green infrastructure monitoring’ and ‘underground infrastructure mapping’ are the results of a review undertaken by City Digital into Chicago’s data and analytics practices in water, transportation and Geographical Information systems (GIS) that serve multiple departments.
The first of these pilots, smart green infrastructure monitoring, will employ a network of sensors and cloud-based analytics to help with the handling of storm water as it falls, rather than before it enters the sewage system.
The second pilot is based on building a virtual mapping programme to help monitor ‘assets’ underground including water and gas pipes, electrical systems, telecom cabling and underground/subway structures for examples.
These areas have traditionally operated autonomously from one another, but thanks to a single platform, a more informed picture will result in a more co-ordinated and efficient approach, reducing for example, digging operations and accidental interruptions of service, bringing congestion and disruption to the roads above.
City Digital is a consortium of companies including Accenture, Siemens, Microsoft, ComEd and Tyco with academic, civic and government partners.
“To get the most from the Internet of Things, ecosystems and partnerships need to be built as no one company can go it alone” said Hedley.
“When investigating new business cases in smart cities, we can unlock value for our clients more quickly by working with the various stakeholders and partners in the complex city environment, developing scalable, commercially viable solutions to real challenges, and helping to change the way people live and work.”
"Cities accumulate vast amounts of data, from private citizens to government bodies, from utilities companies to traffic signals, and as more devices and get connected, that volume of data is only going to increase. By utilising big data analytics and building an infrastructure that is fit for purpose, such as a common data platform capable of pooling and sharing structured and unstructured data, we can find out where the valuable use cases for smart cities lie.
"We can use the data that already exists to inform our actions, while planning for the data that will exist in the future, and how that will help realise the value of information for improving a person’s life – whether they live, work or do both in a city," he added.
These pilot projects are due to finish in September but are expected to upscale and be used across the city next spring. These issues are not unique to Chicago alone, and it is expected that they will be rolled out nationally and internationally to other cities experiencing similar problems.
"We’re at the beginning of the IoT story” continued Hedley, “and we have teams around the world working across every industry to understand how our clients can get value out of their data. For cities, we can only move forward and solve major problems such as lowering our impact on the environment and improving infrastructure by identifying valuable data sources and applying analytics to provide real, smart insight for us to act on.
"To do that, the commitment to finding solutions needs to be clear, and funding ring fenced for the digital transformation. As more elements of a city become connected, we can get more out of the information gathered to not only improve a city’s operations, but more importantly, create better outcomes for its citizens.”