Plans change. Ideas morph. Technology evolves. For the last 24 months at CGI, I’ve been lucky enough to work on an innovative application called CGI SensorInsights360 for cities, and watched it turn into something very exciting and very different from the fitness tracker it began as.
I’d like to take you on this journey, and demonstrate why it’s important for companies to fund ideas, even if they sometimes end up going in a slightly different direction than intended.
What is SensorInsights360 for cities?
SensorInsights360 is IP that CGI has developed in the UK and Australia. As the name suggests, it is designed to collect, ingest, collate and produce insights from sensor data.
I’ve been involved from pretty much day one. It started out as an idea submitted to our innovation committee in Canada, at which point we were given some seed funding to develop the initial proof of concept. The focus then shifted to the UK and Australia, where I entered the picture as part of the team looking at client opportunities.
The original vision was as a fitness tracker for an entire city – collect data on the environment in order to increase levels of activity, health and wellbeing. But it quickly became clear that the potential of the technology extended beyond this single use, and could be leveraged to improve the experience for consumers in the broader commercial market.
At a high level, SensorInsights360 collects data from static Internet of Things (IoT) devices – like temperature sensors, air quality sensors, decibel meters and cameras - that data is then ingested into a central application.
At this point supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) is used to monitor and control environments, and set off alerts and alarms where necessary. These environments can include everything from critical infrastructure (the pumps and pipes of a water network), to city streets, to inside the four walls of a business.
The insights gathered inform initiatives to reduce costs, increase efficiencies and assist with strategic or tactical planning.
The technology behind SensorInsights360
When you simmer the current iteration of SensorInsights360 down, its aim is to assist in the decision-making process. There’s quite a range of reporting and analytics that can come out of the SensorInsights360 application – we’re only just scratching the surface.
With its superior data insights, the SCADA capability is a real strength: there isn’t much room for error when monitoring and controlling a critical infrastructure network. You need to configure the application within normal operating parameters, so that it can act as the circuit breaker if data comes in from outside of that threshold. At that point you might alert an operation centre or a control room and trigger an operational response.
We can easily take this idea from critical infrastructure to the cityscape. Imagine an asthmatic citizen with a mobile app that sets off an alarm if air quality goes below a certain threshold. Imagine overlaying pedestrian traffic data on a map, and using that to make more quantitative decisions on urban planning.
A couple of our earliest use cases are, firstly, working to improve the collection schedule of bins. Sensors detect patterns of usage, and even dramatic changes in temperature, like if a bin was set on fire. This data can then be used to inform where bins need to be installed, removed or have a modified collection schedule from a planning perspective.
Another example is using SensorInsights360 to monitor heaters in public housing. Under utilised heaters where occupants maybe under financial stress or malfunctioning heaters can lead to undesirable humidity and rising damp, which costs public housing authorities hundreds of thousands of dollars and potentially harms occupants’ health.
SensorInsights360 detects slight humidity anomalies, arming the housing authority with all the information they need to implement preventative maintenance.
The potential of SensorInsights360
One of the major benefits of SensorInsights360 is that it is device and platform agnostic. Data can be ingested from a range of device types, and the application interfaces into commonly used reporting platforms like Tableau and PowerBI. If a client wants to implement it in their own environment, they can.
Originally the target sector was city councils, who saw value in a fitness tracker. Then we shifted into the Utility sector. However, we’ve since proven SensorInsights360’s worth in so many other areas. The only limit really is our imaginations.
The path forward?
In terms of the most likely and exciting path forward, I’d say smart cities. There are well over a billion IoT devices in the UK alone, and in Australia over 70% which is more than five million homes now have multiple IoT devices. That figure is growing rapidly, and with the advent of 5G that growth will exponentiate.
We’re going to be able to collect a huge amount of data. Now, the focus is quickly turning from collecting to analysing it - picking out the meaningful bits and deriving value. Artificial intelligence and machine learning are set to play a major part in that.
There is a wealth of opportunities for talented individuals to get involved with SensorInsights360, with everything from enhancing the web and mobile application, to working on the back end, project management, service delivery and client support.
We’ll be working with clients to help them understand where their return on investment will be, whether that’s reduced costs, increased efficiency, or more difficult to quantify things like strategic planning.
All in all, I see SensorInsights360 as an encapsulation of the innovative mindset of CGI. The company didn’t have to grant the idea seed funding, but it did, and as a result we’ve developed IP with seemingly endless potential.
Interested in SensorInsights360? Click here to learn more!