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Smart city: A pragmatic approach

There’s no doubt technology plays a big part in our lives. Being connected simplifies a lot of what we do and how we live. There are voice assistants, for example, that connect to devices in our homes. We have smart thermostats that automatically adjust heating and cooling based on occupancy and our preferences. Even energy meters outside of our homes are smart, providing instant readings of our use so we can be accurately billed and understand our use patterns while the utility can more intelligently manage its assets.

Technology clearly has its benefits, but it is the outcomes and business case that drive any consideration for technology adoption.  

As the general public becomes more familiar with – and expects – connectivity, it only makes sense the communities in which we live do the same. You’re likely familiar with the term “smart city” – and municipalities are beginning to get on board, benefiting from Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) technology to improve how they operate, save on costs and deliver services to citizens. 

A recent example of a Canadian community looking to be more connected is the City of Cowansville in south-central Quebec which, like many cities across Canada, is constantly looking for ways to increase its sustainability efforts and help improve the lives of its residents. 

Starting with smaller changes

While it has strong ambitions, Cowansville decided to start with one piece of their services – street lighting. With its existing street lights, the only way to know if one burns out or is defective is to wait for a customer notification or drive around and physically check them all – a fairly time-consuming and costly process that is still employed by the vast majority of cities in the Americas!

The city started to test LED lights as an alternative, but wanted to find a solution that would allow it to move at its own pace, without having to get rid of sodium lights that were still within their useful asset life. 

So, last year Cowansville made the decision to start its smart city evolution by investing in an IIoT platform with the bandwidth and capability to grow with their needs over time This implementation enables the city to prepare for smart lighting in phases, with the ability to control existing lights in phase one. Then, once the network is established, Cowansville could deploy LED lights for additional benefits. 

Some of the benefits the city and its residents will see include the following:

  • Empowered asset management: Staff will be alerted immediately if a light is close to its end of life so they can replace it before it burns out; they’ll also be notified if there are any issues. For example, if a lamppost tilts, falls or is damaged because of an accident, weather or other problem, a live alarm (in their control room / command centre) will sound to notify the city’s team. 
  • Intelligent controls: The city will have the ability to remotely control the lights – helpful in the case of an emergency, or when a special event might require more lighting for citizens’ safety.
  • Customer experience: By being able to manage lighting more effectively, the city will be able to save both electricity and service costs while providing better services. 

Implementing an intelligent IoT platform empowers municipalities to add more smart technology when they are ready and as business cases evolve, such as environmental sensors that monitor air quality, traffic sensors, vehicle charging, or water meters. Smart lighting is a small, but crucial first step towards increased savings, safety, operational efficiency and an improved customer experience.

Steven Lupo is the managing director – Canada at Trilliant®. He leads the company’s Canadian operations and brings more than 20 years of successful business experience leading both early-stage and established energy management, utility services and smart metering/grid businesses. With more than 35 years in the Ontario and Canadian marketplace as a leading innovation and technology company, Trilliant empowers the energy industry with the only purpose-built communications platform that enables utilities and cities to securely and reliably deploy any application – on one powerful network.