Top 4 Ways Utilities Can Lead to the Success of Smart Cities

August 20, 2020 by Stefanini

Utilities, energy, and telecom make up the infrastructure of a Smart City. How do they make cities smarter? Read our Trends blog for the answer!

Smart city Infrastructure showing concept of internet of things and information communication technology

It seems that everything – particularly cities – are becoming smart nowadays. At the center of it all? City services such as utilities, energy, and telecommunications. How so? Well, for starters, Gartner previously estimated that by 2020, nearly 1.4 billion connected things would be used to make cities more sustainable and efficient, offering citizens a better quality of life in the process. For instance, many of the devices being connected are old-fashioned streetlights as smart street lighting lowers municipalities’ operational costs, improves energy efficiency, enables remote lightning management and control, and most importantly, improves public safety. Further, there are also many new sensors and smart traffic solutions being deployed along our highway systems, collecting and distributing data to help improve roadway safety and driving, and feeding municipalities data to help them with future urban planning.

How can we rely on utilities, energy, and telecom to improve our smart cities’ infrastructure? Read on for the answer!

Urban Growth Is Resulting in High Energy Consumption

With more and more people moving to cities, cities require continuous energy supply for commercial and industrial activities, infrastructure, transportation, food production, and water distribution. According to IT ProPortal, cities emit between 50 percent and 70 percent of total greenhouse gases and consume from 70 percent to 80 percent of global primary energy. The major sources of greenhouse gas are electricity and heat production, followed by industry, agriculture, transportation, and other sectors.

If steps are not taken to improve the situation, the use of energy in cities will more than triple by 2050. This usage, of course, will leave a massive ecological footprint on our planet.

Improving Energy Usage in Smart Cities

Smart cities offer a number of solutions aimed at optimizing the use of energy resources. Here are a few of them:

1)     Smart grid

– a smart grid involves integrating digital technology into the traditional electrical grid, which allows for two-way communication between power suppliers and consumers. This way, consumers are able to track how much electricity they used through a dedicated application. Energy companies can also, for instance, communicate with customers to educate them about optimal times to run their electronic devices, when the price for energy is at its lowest, or when there is enough power in the grid. Further, smart grids are equipped with sensors that gather and transmit data about energy supply. They can then use this data to minimize environmental impact, improve efficiency, and reduce overall costs, contributing to more effective appliance management and control.

2)     Advanced metering infrastructure

– though advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) or smart metering, is associated with smart grids, these terms are not interchangeable. Smart grid is a broad concept of informed consumption, energy delivery improvement, and environmental impact reduction. AMS, on the other hand, is a narrower concept implying home automation devices that provide near-real-time data on energy usage to both energy providers and energy consumers. AMI helps end users’ manage their energy consumption better by contributing to their awareness of their usage. Further, smart metering lets utility companies deliver the amount of energy equal to the demand in a specific region. As a result, such systems can provide considerable financial, operational, and customer service benefits. This encourages companies to start deploying smart meters across the nation; for instance, the United Kingdom’s government previously announced its intention to implement AMI in all homes across the country in 2020.

3)     Efficient public lighting

public lighting that is efficient also reveals opportunities for energy consumption reduction in smart cities. Specifically, a possible solution is the adoption of LED-based street lights enhanced with motion sensors and smart controls that perform switching on and off automatically when necessary. Intelligent street lights are connected to central control systems through different communication networks to allow data import to the management server, making street light monitoring and regulating possible.

The Role of Telecom

According to Smart Energy, by 2026, revenue generation within the smart cities sector is expected to reach $97.6 billion. This expansion is due to the fact that cities and governments will increase investments in smart grid technologies, open data platforms, networked LED street lights, urban mobility, energy-efficient buildings, water management and government service applications for smart cities.

Telecommunications plays an important role in this investment, as the demand for communication platforms to provide connectivity to IoT applications and appliances for smart cities have driven an increase in the participation of telecom companies.

For example, IoT networks that are owned by telecommunication companies have been deployed to provide connectivity to smart streetlights under efforts by utilities, municipalities and governments to remotely operate and control streetlights and reduce energy costs from streetlighting. Markets intelligence firm NorthEast Group says there are currently 315 million streetlights worldwide, 42 percent of which will require IoT networks for connectivity and smart operations over the next decade. By 2027, investments of up to $69.5 billion are forecasted to be directed toward the Internet of Things in the streetlight market. And a $69.5 billion investment will be directed toward telecommunications companies providing networks for connectivity of smart streetlights, manufacturers of energy-efficient streetlights and cities through energy efficiency savings achieved from the installation and use of smart streetlights.

Ways Utilities Can Lead to the Success of Smart Cities

Data is at the heart of smart cities. Equipment such as sensors constantly generate data streams and serve them up across the network for consumption. As companies and urban areas collaborate to deploy IoT technology and use data for a range of city services, inherent challenges arise, including rising costs, siloed city departments, and technical complexities. A recent study on disruptive technology found that as organizations adopt next-gen tech, they face additional obstacles, including a lack of skilled workers and a lack of expertise for effective implementation. In fact, half of those surveyed believed they might need a partner to guide them on how to best integrate and adopt these solutions into their business.

When it comes to best practices, here are four ways utilities can shape smart cities’ success.

1)     Integrate technology

– when you’re using disruptive technologies like data storage, specialized sensors, and face the challenges brought on by the Internet of Things, there’s a need to integrate these technologies into a standard, unified, secure, and simple platform with a rich ecosystem. City departments responsible for services such as traffic, transportation or lighting are often siloed due to no mechanism for cross-department collaboration. These groups need a shared network infrastructure to leverage resources effective and reduce cost, increase efficiency, and provide better services.  An example of a city doing this effectively is Glasgow, which is meeting its objectives by integrating multiple city services on a common platform and using one network canopy for several applications. Bringing data from many devices onto a common platform enables new approaches in real time analytics and in distributed intelligence.

2)     Leverage data

– the information and insights collected by sensors are only useful if they are actionable. Successful smart city initiatives typically decide how the data might be valuable, whether private or public, which data should be open, and how the data is to be governed and managed. In many cases, an open data platform should be promoted. Citizens are now being connected to city leaders via social media more than ever. To help foster innovation and improve quality of life, many cities are looking to share data sets from across the city with individuals, businesses, and research facilities. To be successful, smart cities should create a culture that encourages developers. It will require some trial and error to figure out which apps will effectively improve city services. Success will require creating an ecosystem of developers who are being nurtured to disrupt and are leveraging open standards.

3)     Ensure reliability

– conduct due diligence to research and choose a smart city technology/smart grid partner. Set overall deployment goals and specific benchmarks to ensure technology will meet your needs. Search for standard, reliable, mature, and secured solutions. To quickly demonstrate public safety and operational benefits and ensure fast results, begin with low-risk/high-return projects like networked LED street lightning. Your community will immediately see the difference with better and more reliable street lightning. Plus, you’ll get instant ROI with drastically reduced maintenance and lower energy usage.

4)     Engage the community

– community engagement is extremely important to a smart city initiative. Empower local businesses and innovators to get involved and involve citizens from the start by leveraging social media and holding town hall sessions. Make concrete statistics public that demonstrate the success of your project along the way, like reduced energy needs, improved customer satisfaction, and operational savings. For instance, in Colorado Springs, city officials started open discussions with the community via a live web link that enables citizens to provide feedback on what they would like to see in areas like sustainability, smart mobility, and other city services. Creating an ongoing dialogue gives the public a sense of ownership within the community and keeps leaders focused on projects that will improve citizens’ lives.

Stefanini’s Solutions

Smart Cities are not a reality of tomorrow; you likely live in one yourself. We provide digital solutions rooted in excellence that are focused on people. From our Smart Grid solution to Smart Streetlights, we’re here for any and all of your utilities-focused needs. Prepare your city's infrastructure for a better future now – contact us to start making your city smarter today!

We offer a multitude of Digital services to create the right solution for you. Ask us how.

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