CGI's Government Practice

The whole is more than the sum of its parts

We have all heard the famous quotation by Aristotle, which has been used in many other scenarios: from football teams performing better than what was expected from their collection of players, through to us as human beings.

The same applies to future cities and the Internet of Things (IoT).

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For quite some time now, future cities funding and projects have been a great test bed for proving how IoT technologies can be used within a city environment. This has taken the form of projects to manage street lighting, public transport times, waste collection, parking, etc. But very few, if any, cities have yet to join up the plethora of projects to have them act as an integrated and interactive city-wide environment, generating overall benefits that exceed those being generated by the individual projects alone.

 

Some cities, such as Glasgow, Bristol, London and Milton Keynes, have already implemented comprehensive data hubs that gather data from hundreds of different data sources, allowing analysts to understand things like traffic flow and facility usage patterns. At this stage, however, those insights are not being used in an “automated feedback loop” to then manage the city assets, for example, using data from one asset type to trigger an action on another. This may be because IoT within cities is still being looked at as a series of projects rather than as an integrated strategy.

Larger cities or regions are usually managed by multiple councils and it's not unheard of for different councils to come up with their own solutions to the same problem, or to only look to solve the problem for their locality, ignoring how others are impacted by people and traffic from surrounding regions.

One approach to how these problems could be solved is by leveraging something such as a city enablement platform: a platform that brings together all assets and data to allow regions to interact with each other and leverage the data held within the data hubs each has already invested in.

Let's look at an example of how this could work and where issues are already being monitored, such as air quality, traffic flow, public transport capacity, etc.

By utilizing a platform with the components illustrated above, data feeds are connected to the enablement platform for real-time analytics. From this, they can then flow into the data hub for further batch analysis. Based upon air quality, traffic flow and public transport data being compared to a set of thresholds and rules defined by the previously run batch analytics, a city can implement dynamic speed management, dynamic traffic routing, additional public transport capacity or air quality-based congestion tariffs, all of which could yield large financial benefits to the city, as well as improved quality of life for its citizens and commuters.

So, By starting off with a mindset and the foundations to consolidate data streams over time, cities can generate far bigger benefits than starting with a piecemeal approach and then trying to stitch them together at a later date.

This Microsoft video describes how CGI uses IoT to help cities proactively use data to manage assets such as buildings.

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