Smart cities are here today -- and getting smarter

Big Data, mobile, sensors, social media are already in use, but security and privacy are issues.

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A survey of people who used the portal showed that 77% said it increased their understanding of water usage, and 61% reported making a change to a water appliance or in the ways they used water.

The smart-meter system monitored water consumption every 15 minutes and communicated with the IBM Research Cloud. Data collected included weather, demographics and household characteristics. Using the cloud, the city analyzed the data to trigger notification of potential leaks and anomalies.

Participating households were alerted about any potential problems, and were able to get a better understanding of their consumption patterns and compare their usage anonymously with others in the community.

DBQ IQ, Dubuque's water management dashboard, lets volunteers save and compare information about their water usage and, the city hopes, raises their "water IQ."

In the fall of 2013, in response to feedback from the pilot, Dubuque began offering a more simplified water portal from Neptune Technology Group called DBQ IQ.

"Citizen interest was in [getting] more direction and interpretation of what their data was showing," says Chris Kohlmann, information services manager for the city. Citizens "want notifications based on deviations from their trends or exceptions and anomalies in their data," he says.

When combined with the city's paperless utility billing and online payment process, "DBQ IQ offers [an] online one-stop shop for customers to interact with their water usage information from the same website where they are paying their bill," Kohlmann says.

Another pilot program called Smarter Travel, which was launched in 2011, uses a smartphone application developed by IBM Research and RFID technology to collect anonymous data on how, when and where participants travel within the community. IBM is analyzing the aggregated data. The city and its transit partners will use the findings to implement practices and policies to improve mass transit within Dubuque.

More study is underway at the county and regional levels, Kohlmann says. The data, gathered from 1,000 City of Dubuque volunteers who opted into the transportation study, will be used along with additional data gathered by the city's public transportation system regarding ridership and use of the transit system.

The goals are to analyze movement patterns and model transit demand. The results will help create a route design that maximizes ridership while minimizing cost and average commute time, he says.

If new transit routes are implemented, Kohlmann says, operating costs are expected to decrease while the city's ability to meet public transit demand should increase.

South Bend, Ind.

One of the initiatives here involves improving water management. The city's sewers were built to collect both sewage and storm water and can, as a result, overflow and pollute the St. Joseph River during heavy rain. So South Bend turned to local technology company EmNet to develop a way to keep sewers from overflowing.

In 2005, EmNet created a system called CSOnet (Combined Sewer Overflow Network). It includes wireless sensors, which EmNet installed under manhole covers to monitor water levels in sewer pipes. The sensors can open and close "smart" valves in the system, enabling flow to be directed into pipes where capacity is available.

South Bend CityVoice

CityVoice, a new app for citizens of South Bend, Indiana, helps gather feedback on vacant and abandoned properties. People can call in and leave voice messages, and vote online whether a given property should be repaired or removed.

The sensors also send the flow data via radio transmission to a central monitoring station, where wastewater workers can see when problems develop.

As part of the water management effort, South Bend is using IBM's Intelligent Operations Center for Smarter Cities software-as-a-service. The cloud service allows public works officials to view aggregated data related to water management in real time, to help predict where incidents will occur.

South Bend has invested $6 million to implement the smart sewer system, and has reduced wet weather overflows by 23% and practically eliminated dry weather wastewater overflows in its first year of operation.

In comparison, simply expanding the sewer system via the conventional approach would have cost the city an additional $120 million in capital expenditures.

"The biggest benefit is actually what we don't have to do" to address overflows, says Pete Buttigieg, mayor of South Bend. "The technology let us avoid an incredibly expensive capital project," reducing costs in what is already the biggest public works project in the history of the city.

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