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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Development of the smart sewer system "is happening in the spirit of our efforts to be a beta city that's willing to try different technologies if there's a chance they can benefit the community," Buttigieg says.

Another project, launched in August 2013, is the South Bend Open Data Portal. It provides municipal data in areas such as social services, code enforcement cases and abandoned properties.

"We're creating a huge amount of data that people should be able to get their hands on," Buttigieg says. "We're making the data readily available and easy to work with." One aim is to provide data sets and insights that any government worker, citizen or organization could potentially benefit from having, such as a company looking for a new location for an office.

South Bend housing data online helped to develop CityVoice, a new application for gathering feedback on vacant and abandoned properties.


In July 2013, Seattle launched its High-Performance Building program, which allows real-time tracking of energy efficiency to help reduce both costs and carbon emissions. The "smart buildings" partnership among the city, Microsoft and the Seattle 2030 District (a public-private collaborative of downtown Seattle property owners) aims to reduce power consumption through real-time data analysis.

The pilot program uses analytics software and cloud services from Microsoft to gain deeper insight from data generated by building management systems, sensors, controls and meters. Microsoft's Windows Azure cloud provides storage for multiple terabytes of real-time energy data; its SQL Server 2012 processes the data for real-time analysis; and Microsoft SharePoint Server 2013 provides a reporting portal where building managers can monitor building energy usage and efficiency.

The project is part of Microsoft's CityNext initiative, a global effort by the company to offer more than 40 city problem-solving scenarios enabling cities to operate more efficiently.

Seattle smart building progress
Progress to date in Seattle's High-Performance Building program, which allows real-time tracking of energy efficiency to help reduce both costs and carbon emissions. Source: Seattle 2030 District.

Currently, integration partner Accenture is running scaled analytics in four buildings, with two buildings currently online and two others about to join in. The plan is to expand the program to as many as 500 buildings within Seattle's 2030 District in the next few years, according to a spokesperson in Seattle's office of economic development.

The goal is to generate savings of between 10% and 25% of existing costs for both energy and maintenance expenditures, and to help the Seattle 2030 District achieve a 50% reduction in building energy use across the entire downtown by the year 2030.

The program will create "building information systems" to capture and centralize real-time data from the equipment that runs buildings' heating, cooling and lighting systems. The idea is to analyze data to identify and report items that could lead to inefficient equipment performance and energy waste. Building staff can use this data to adjust elements in each room of a building -- such as lighting, temperature and the position of window shades -- to maximize energy efficiency.

The pilot is funded in part by an "i6 Green Challenge" grant from the U.S. Department of Energy and U.S. Economic Development Administration that supports the testing of next-generation energy efficiency technologies.

Pilot participants -- including the University of Washington's School of Medicine, The Boeing Co., Sheraton Hotel Seattle and the City of Seattle's Municipal Tower -- will share performance results. The idea is to increase public awareness of the potential for IT to help achieve energy efficiency and carbon neutrality.

"We think our smart building project will not only enhance Seattle's energy conservation efforts and open new economic opportunities, but also serve as a model for other cities," says Brian Surratt, deputy director of Seattle's Office of Economic Development.

The city hopes other property owners will see that there's value in adopting these technologies, Surratt says.

Cloud capabilities are important to the project because of the enormous amounts of data involved, adds Charlie Cunniff, strategic advisor in the Office of Economic Development. "Dealing with terabytes of real-time data, performing trend analysis on that data and adjusting specific pieces of equipment in real time requires serious data processing -- a perfect application for the cloud," Cunniff says.

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