By the year 2050, cities are projected to add more than 2.5 billion new urban residents. Though the rise of these “mega-city” urban centers will present significant challenges in stretching already strained resources, these same challenges represent an unprecedented opportunity for cities to transform into centers of innovation that continue to ensure high quality of life for residents.
The definition of a smart city can take many different forms, though a common thread is that all smart cities strategically connect technology with initiatives and outcomes that drive increased livability, workability and sustainability. This intentional approach to technology adoption allows cities to improve community services such as energy and clean water delivery, sanitation, transportation and public safety in more resourceful ways.
If data is the lifeblood of a smart city, then the Active Network is the heart. OpenWay® Riva is an active network solution where the smart grid meets the Internet of Things (IoT). It serves as an open communications platform for cities and utilities to support energy, water and other smart city applications for today and tomorrow. The Active Network continuously analyzes data and takes action at the right place and at the right time to produce the best outcome. By distributing data analytics, intelligent endpoint devices, such as electric, water and gas meters or sensors, can work together to identify issues, act or send insights to decision makers in real time.
The network connects people to technology and their surroundings. By providing a single, connected platform for everything from utility smart meters and distribution sensors to urban infrastructure, such as streetlight controls, security cameras and air quality sensors, users benefit from deeper visibility and control. This results in proactive responses that create safer neighborhoods, increased economic development and less wasted resources.
Many utilities are already leading the way in deploying interoperable communications infrastructure for the smart grid. Some are even extending the benefits of connectivity through collaborations with other municipal departments and organizations in the private sector. By broadening the scope of a traditional smart grid network versus an active and inclusive IoT network, utilities have found ways to leverage synergies between public and private initiatives, ultimately improving services to customers and increasing the value of network technology investments.
For example, in Spokane, Washington, Urbanova has created a proving ground for smart city technologies to design cities for the future. Urbanova focuses on applying replicable, scalable and sustainable technology and data solutions to improve urban life. Initial projects include a Smart and Connected Streetlights Pilot with air quality monitoring, Shared Energy Economy Model Pilot, smart cities research grant and a people-centered analysis project with Gallup.
The Active Network provides the foundation for Urbanova’s connected devices and smart city applications, including the streetlights pilot. Urbanova aims to increase energy efficiency and public safety through the intelligent management and control of streetlights. The new generation of streetlights not only use less energy compared to predecessors, but they are also remotely controllable so that lighting conditions can be adjusted and optimized to improve public safety or urban ambiance.
The pilot also features a human-scale urban air quality R&D component, with sensors measuring the quality of the air and other environmental factors to assess air quality’s role in a healthy city. The sensors will provide real-time information about how environmental factors like wildfires affect air quality and pollution in urban environments at any given time. Decision-makers can then use these insights to send air quality alerts, effectively increasing public awareness, health and safety for citizens.
By utilizing an interoperable IoT network, cities, utilities, partnerships and organizations like Urbanova can harness data to gain insights, empower people and solve urban challenges in new ways. Smart cities can reach a whole new level of productivity and efficiency, and are better equipped to turn growing pains into opportunities for innovation. This is a vision of the vibrant city of the future. The first step is building on a solid network foundation that is capable of sustaining future generations to come.