Water gushing out of a pipe

Analytics will help cities manage water supplies, repair aging infrastructure

Managing the water supply is a growing challenge for cities as they support larger populations. Saddled with aging infrastructures  and other economic problems, city planners are seeking more effective ways to budget for capital improvements. City leaders also want to predict needs across departments to ensure proper services are always available.

IBM is addressing these areas with new features in its Smarter Cities software, delivered in the form of cloud-based analytics, the company says.  The latest version of the IBM Intelligent Operations software portfolio applies predictive analytics to help cities become more efficient, budget for capital improvements and improve the effectiveness of water utilities, said Karen Parrish, IBM’s vice president of industry solutions.

New capabilities in the IBM Smarter Cities Intelligent Operations software include:

  • Permitting and event management correlates activities throughout the city to analyze permit patterns, predict problems and provide services. Agencies can manage and share information ranging from coordinating parking, traffic and sanitation workers for special events to building permits for new development projects. 
  • Water efficiency analytic capabilities will let city workers predict pipe failure and optimize pressure in distribution networks to reduce burst and leaky pipes, conserve water, save money, prevent service disruptions and improve quality of service.
  • Infrastructure planning software helps city planners create budget forecasts and unified plans for important capital improvements.

Cambridge, Ontario, for example, is using IBM’s new infrastructure planning software to scan millions of pieces of information to perform what-if analyses to help make better decisions.  The city has 250,000 infrastructure assets with a total value of $1.6 billion, including more than 300 miles of roads and more than 1,200 miles of underground water mains, sewage and storm pipes. Algorithms in the planning software will process infrastructure data and predict which assets will fail and when. City planners can look across all departments and decide, for example, whether a sewer pipe should be re-lined or replaced entirely, or if a roadway should be resurfaced at the same time.

“We should only have to dig up a street once to fix all of its underlying systems,” said Mike Hausser, director of asset management and support services with the city of Cambridge.  City officials expect to save $100,000 annually using the infrastructure planning software.

A lot of the cloud deployment discussions IBM has had with city leaders focus on cost-savings. But IBM is trying to help city planners think about the cloud as a way to transform the way their cities operate and deliver services to citizens, Parrish said during an interview.  The cloud allows cities to adopt a pay-as-you-go approach to transforming city services, making it possible to begin with small projects and scale across departments using one integrated software system available as a service.

Waterfront Toronto, a large waterfront revitalization project in the city of Toronto, is using the IBM Intelligent Operations Center as a service on the IBM SmartCloud to integrate multiple data sources and create real-time visualizations.  The goal is to deliver insights and create opportunities for social collaboration, Parrish said. 

The Waterfront Toronto community portal and platform includes IBM Connections social collaboration tools that residents can use to easily connect with neighbors, businesses and service providers as well as view city-wide data on mobile or desktop devices to keep a finger on the pulse of events, news and activity across the community.

About the Author

Rutrell Yasin is is a freelance technology writer for GCN.

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