IBM Makes Cities Smarter with Location-Based Analytics

By Darryl K. Taft  |  Posted 2011-02-28

IBM Makes Cities Smarter with Location-Based Analytics

LAS VEGAS-At its Pulse 2011 conference here, IBM is slated to announce that it is working with cities around the world to help them gain new efficiencies by visualizing and analyzing their physical and digital assets in real time.

Indeed, as part of its Smarter Cities initiative, IBM is announcing smarter cities projects in Cape Fear, N.C., and Waterloo, Ontario, among other cities, as well as new results from an IBM First-of-a-Kind Research project in Washington, D.C.

Increasingly, cities are leveraging the power of location to bring efficiency to their operations and improve the customer experience, IBM officials said. They are using IBM software to get both a bird's eye view of their city infrastructures-roads, buildings and waterways-as well as insight into their operations underground or on the street-the pipes, wires, streetlights, electrical meters, storm drains and other assets that make up a city's infrastructure. Some cities are using embedded sensors to detect faulty pipes or broken streetlights to automatically generate a work order for maintenance staffs.

"Cities around the world are getting smarter everyday by monitoring and analyzing the data in their streets, pipes and buildings," said David Bartlett, vice president of Industry Solutions at IBM, in a statement. "We see that these real-time analytical technologies are driving a new level of intelligence that helps cities-big or small, new or old-to gain more efficient, sustainable operations."

IBM's Tivoli business unit is leading the way in providing software to drive such initiatives, particularly with its Maximo software. Cities around the globe monitor and map systems using IBM Maximo Spatial software with geospatial information from IBM business partner Esri.  For example:

  • With digital history delivered in real time to smartphones, workers in the field can act quickly and efficiently to resolve and even prevent problems by seeing exactly where a water main is and its relationship to other underground infrastructure.

  • IBM analytics can uncover hidden relationships such as pinpointing the cause of recurring issues and pockets of inefficiency-such as one water main that causes expansive seasonal flooding-to prevent issues before they impact service.  

  • Repair crews address problems from a spatial perspective such as optimizing the driving route of their service trucks to reduce time on the road, prioritizing critical jobs and arming themselves with the detailed history of infrastructure to speed repairs.

First-of-a-Kind Project


Meanwhile, the District of Columbia Water and Sewer Authority (DC Water) has been working with IBM on a First-of-a-Kind (FOAK) project using advanced analytics to create a smarter water system that analyzes data on valves, storm drains, service vehicles, truck routes and more to optimize its infrastructure. With some pipes and other assets that date to the Civil War, maintaining high levels of service while replacing older infrastructure is an ongoing challenge.

Now in its second year, the objective of the IBM First-of-a-Kind pilot project is to realize the following benefits from a combination of IBM Asset Management and Analytics technology and services. Among the benefits:

  • Field Services trucks can be automatically routed to optimize work management. DC Water anticipates productivity gains of 20 percent or more in effective completion of work orders as well as up to 20 percent reduction of fuel costs related to fewer truck rolls and reduced "windshield" time.

  • Revenue loss from defective or degrading water meters will be significantly recaptured because the analytics behind the advanced metering infrastructure delivers more timely identification and replacement of those meters.

  • DC Water will be able to identify assets most critically in need of repair using predictive analytics, so aging infrastructure replacement programs can be more accurately scheduled, preventing costly incidents that reduce service quality, such as outages and water main breaks.

Among other cities, IBM is working with the Cape Fear Public Utility Authority (CFPUA) of Wilmington, N.C., to improve the efficiency and sustainability of its water and sewage systems using location-based intelligence, leading to improved service for its 67,000 customers.

As a coastal community that is regularly impacted by a popular tourist season, severe weather and 100-year-old water lines, Cape Fear needed a smarter way to manage its stressed infrastructure, IBM said.

With the new IBM smarter water system, Cape Fear officials can now map nearly 1,500 miles of main lines and 143 pump stations to see in real time the county's water and sewer line problems, the company said. Managers and teams on location can then prioritize what issues to address first and better identify the source of such issues. Work orders are now automatically generated when out-of-norm conditions exist.

"Having geographic intelligence allows us to not only have a real-time view of our entire operation to optimize our teams and improve the efficiency of our work but also to drill into the significant details on history of that equipment, and the relationship to the overall community," said Nancy Gallinaro, chief operating officer for the Cape Fear Public Utility Authority, in a statement. "This is especially critical in a time when we are faced with aging infrastructure and the challenges associated with a struggling economy."

To further speed its response time, Cape Fear moved to a paperless system, enabling teams to update the status of their work in with IBM's Maximo software using their truck's computers and air cards. Additionally, thanks to IBM software, turnaround on pump station run-time meter reading collections was reduced from four days to 30 minutes. Prior to the IBM solution, CFPUA relied on manual processes for meter readings and work orders, and had a decentralized preventative maintenance program in utility services, leaving parts of the organization's process manual and reactionary.

IBM software is also at work in the city of Waterloo, a municipality located in southern Ontario and one of three cities in the Regional Municipality of Waterloo. With a population 120,000, the city of Waterloo has become the technology hub of Ontario.

The city of Waterloo recently deployed Maximo Spatial to geographically view and update all of the city's water-related assets-from drinking water to storm and waste water and the facilities that make up the water department, IBM said. The city of Waterloo is leveraging location capabilities to create more efficiency in its system that services more than 120,000 users and more than 33,000 thousand assets, including gravity mains, manholes and pressurized mains.


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