Smart Cities – again, making huge changes to benefit citizens, taxpayers

Here’s something shocking… A recent report revealed that smart traffic management could save 4.2 billion man hours worldwide annually by 2021. If that happened, it would mean that every motorist in a crowded city would save roughly one full working day per year.

Transportation data, the focus of most smart city initiatives, is helping city leaders use technology to alleviate traffic congestion, improve mobility and create safer roads. That’s a good thing and motorists in traffic congested cities hope that relief is on the way soon.

Cities used transportation data in the past for planning and decision-making but the data that was collected was usually outdated by the time planners received it. The technology was not there to collect traffic data in real time.

All that has changed and traffic data is now collected in real time and the Internet of Things (IoT) is changing cities so rapidly that most citizens are not even aware of the changes.

The IoT enables the collection, storage, analysis and use of real time data. For example, one city project in Ontario, Canada, is using real time traffic data to create algorithms that regulate traffic lights.

Another city – Columbus, Ohio – is about to install an IoT-connected transportation network that will respond to sensors deployed along 50 miles of roadway, at 175 traffic signals and on 3,000 vehicles. When complete, the project will allow emergency vehicles to have priority at all intersections.  The real time data received from the sensors will signal traffic light changes as emergency vehicles approach.  Pedestrians and motorists will be protected at intersections.

Cities are also launching innovative technology solutions to provide better circulation routes on roadways with high truck traffic. Oregon Metro in Portland hopes to deliver freight priority at signalized intersections on Columbia Boulevard, which is a freight corridor and a vital link between North Portland and I-5.

In 2018, the Ohio Turnpike and Infrastructure Commission plans to experiment with variable highway speed limits based on road and traffic conditions detected by computer sensors. Many motorists will support that concept.

Cities are even using transportation data to make infrastructure repairs more effective. Digital monitoring of streets uses real time data collection to assess infrastructure quality and prioritize needs. Some cities are doing it through vehicle-monitoring systems, and here’s how that works. Street data is collected from city-owned vehicles that have sensors and other technology attached to them so that they can transmit road data to a central location. The vehicles have GPS technology, tire pressure sensors, cameras, radar and microphones which gather road data cheaply and effectively. Cincinnati turned to this form of digital monitoring to monitor and prioritize repairs to streets that had fallen in disrepair.

From monitoring traffic congestion to planning and prioritizing future infrastructure projects, the IoT (which really means the collection of massive amounts of real time data) is changing cities like nothing has in the last few decades. Smart cities are evolving and citizens and taxpayers will reap the benefits for generations to come.

Data sensors, out with the old and in with the new 

Sensors of the past that are still put to use today are often always on, and it can be challenging to collect, store and interpret the tremendous amount of data they create. The Internet of Things (IoT) is making it easier for information to be collected and analyzed. The IoT is an interconnection via the Internet from computing devices which are embedded in objects so they can send and receive data.

The sensors of today come with an analytics system which can help by integrating event-monitoring, storage and analytics software. The system on a data sensor has three parts: the sensors that monitor events in real-time, a scalable data store and an analytics engine.

Sensors have improved in capability, efficiency and cost and this allows organizations to be more aware and empowered and to intelligently react to factors such as past performance metrics, configuration and calibration conditions, input-to-output rates, predicted failure intervals and environmental impact.

In several cities throughout the U.S. this technology is playing an important role in improving the quality of life of citizens, enhancing government transparency and trust and improving environmental and economic sustainability. This is particularly true in cities where budgets are constrained and population growth rates continue to rise.

The city of Las Vegas is installing a traffic-monitoring system that uses technology to help determine how well vehicles are moving and monitors the state of traffic signals. Sensors will be installed at 2,300 intersections and across the region’s multi-jurisdiction corridors to provide the city and drivers a better perspective on traffic.

The city will be able to monitor sensors from their traffic control center where engineers can change traffic-signal timing, check various streets and intersections and analyze trends in real-time. The sensors are also equipped to communicate with autonomous cars. These vehicles will have access to real-time traffic light data so they know when to stop or slow down. The system can also tell cars and drivers the best speed along a stretch of road to ensure that they can proceed through the maximum number of green lights.

While Las Vegas attempts to ease traffic, Chicago is calculating its rainwater through a new pilot project that combines sensors and cloud computing. Sensors are already in place at three locations to measure rainwater running downhill.

The tool is aimed to reduce urban flooding and prevent millions of dollars in subsequent property damage. These sensors can record, among other things, precipitation amounts, humidity levels, soil moisture measurements, air pressure levels, and chemical absorption rates. Planners and engineers in Chicago hope to collect data that will help them produce and manage green infrastructure.

Texas is also keeping track of its water levels to better manage the flood plain along the Colorado River basin. The Lower Colorado River Authority built a network of 275 connected river sensors, called Hydromet. The sensors provide near-real-time data on stream flow, river stage, rainfall totals, temperature and humidity.

In July, LCRA received a $650,000 contract from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to investigate better sensor technologies and software needed to relay information and alerts during a flood. The goal is to find high-tech sensors at a reasonable cost that can be rugged enough to last in outdoor conditions.

Another goal for LCRA is to have sensors that might be able to help emergency responders geo-target the smartphones of Texans who live in areas where flooding is likely to occur.

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Cyber commission recommends P3s to enhance security

The U.S. President’s Commission on Enhancing National Cybersecurity released a final report that emphasized public-private partnerships (P3/PPP) as a way to improve cybersecurity. The commissioners assessed the state of our nation’s cybersecurity and developed recommendations for securing the digital economy. The recommendations are meant to enhance cybersecurity while at the same time protecting privacy, ensuring public safety and economic and national security and fostering the discovery and development of new technical solutions. Some recommended actions included building a roadmap to improve security of digital networks, creating exchange programs and developing an educated and experienced cyber workforce. Commissioners reported that the joint collaboration between the public and private sectors before, during and after a cyber event must be strengthened.

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Electric vehicle corridors designated in 35 states

White House officials announced 48 national electric vehicle (EV) charging networks will be established on nearly 25,000 miles of highways in 35 states. State officials, utilities, automakers and EV charging companies have partnered on the initiative to jump-start charging station construction on designated corridors. Charging stations are expected to be constructed every 50 miles and Federal Highway Administration officials unveiled new roadside signs to help motorists find the stations.

“Alternative fuels and electric vehicles will play an integral part in the future of America’s transportation system,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx.  “We have a duty to help drivers identify routes that will help them refuel and recharge those vehicles and designating these corridors on our highways is a first step.”

A list of Alternative Fuel Corridors, which includes those designated for EVs, can be found here.

Officials said one reason EVs have not been adopted in great numbers is the difficulty in locating charging stations. The number of EV charging stations in service has grown from about 500 in 2008 to more than 16,000. Recently, 24 state and local governments have agreed to buy hundreds of additional EVs for government fleets.

Los Angeles officials plan to purchase 50 percent of all new light-duty vehicles as battery EVs by 2017 and 80 percent of municipal fleet procurements by 2025. The city’s electric fleet is slated to reach over 400 battery EVs and 155 plug-in hybrid EVs by the end of 2017. About $22.5 million dollars will be spent on electric vehicle charging stations by June 2018, adding to existing stations for a total of 1,500 city-wide.

In Vermont, 50 percent of the state motor pool will be converted to plug-in electric vehicles by the end of 2017. The state will also convert 10 percent of its centralized light-duty fleet to EVs and install one dedicated charging port for each of these vehicles.

Minnesota officials have developed a fleet action plan to integrate EVs, hybrid EVs and zero emission vehicles. The state plans to purchase 25 of these vehicles in 2017 and install 15 charging stations.

The City of Atlanta is encouraging public adoption of electric vehicles and installing charging stations in 100 dedicated EV parking spaces at the Hartsfield Jackson Atlanta International Airport by the end of 2016. The city committed to converting 20 percent of its municipal fleet to electric vehicles by 2020.

In Detroit, city officials plan to purchase 10 percent of service vehicles as plug-in electric in 2017. They also set a goal to purchase EVs as 10 percent of light-duty replacement vehicles. Low-speed EVs will also be used for transit police and safety and security staff.

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