September 08, 2017

How Municipalities are Making IoT Work for Them

It’s always exciting to talk about how the biggest cities in the world are implementing new smart city strategies. Chicago, London, Singapore, and many others around the world are taking leadership roles in the global IoT, with test cases and economic development strategies focused on the data and technology that is designed to improve citizens’ daily lives and increase the cities’ efficiency and services.

And, although that leadership is needed, smaller municipalities have pressing needs than might be addressed with IoT and smart city, but far less budget with which to implement them. Those challenges aren’t stopping the progress for the most forward-thinking communities. Instead, they are forcing them to be more creative and strategic.

In Ontario, Canada’s Region of Waterloo, the municipal government is working with eleven-x, operator of a Canadian coast-to-coast LoRaWANlow power wide area network, on a new smart city development project. In what they are calling the first IoT application of its kind in Canada, Waterloo and eleven-x are testing real-time automated data collection from the region’s water supply production and monitoring wells. eleven-x’s network is designed to enable connectivity with low cost devices and has been tasked with providing real-time communication of the status of key parameters for managing the region’s primary water supply sources.

“The value we gain in having well water data at our fingertips is tremendous for us in terms of decision-making,” said Eric Hodgins, manager of hydrogeology and source water for the Region of Waterloo. “The technology may allow us to connect our wells directly with our water operations management system and give us the ability to advance the way we monitor and manage this crucial resource.”

About 75 percent of the water supply for the region is derived from groundwater through a system of 132 large production wells extracting water from local sand, gravel, and rock aquifers. The region automatically captures data from a network of 585 monitoring wells to assess any impacts and provide information to manage its water supply sources. However, the data is only collected manually several times over the course of a year, which results in delays in getting status information for each of the supply wells. These delays restrict the decision-making ability of the region in terms of managing its water supply sources.

Eleven-x is enhancing its network with data logging devices to enable automated measuring and tracking of well water levels and temperature from select production and monitoring wells. Water data will be collected and communicated automatically on an hourly basis. Additionally, a newly added capability of event-driven real-time alerts based on pre-determined parameters, such as significant level fluctuations, will also be tested.

“Real-time updates on our wells will give us a better understanding of what is happening with our water supply sources and could really improve this key service we provide to the residents of our region,” said Nancy Kodousek, the director of water services for the Region of Waterloo. “The opportunity to reduce our costs is a real bonus.”

Far to the south, scientists for the City of Lakeland, Fla., have been manually monitoring lake levels to prevent flooding. That has been a time-consuming, resource-draining task, especially during the nearly four-month rainy season.

“Maintaining balanced water levels is critical to avoid flooding in residential areas and conserve enough water for the dry season,” said Laurie Smith, manager of the lakes and stormwater division for the City of Lakeland. “Our technician has to drive back and forth between 11 lakes and make sure the levels don’t get too high.”

To monitor water levels more efficiently, the city has turned to Sensus, a Xylem brand, to help it leverage IoT technology and advanced connectivity. The Lakeland team has deployed the SensusFlexNet system to create remote water monitoring stations at two lakes using the Sensus Smart Gateway sensor interface.

With Smart Gateway and the FlexNet system, the City of Lakeland’s scientists are now able to collect water level data remotely in real time. Technicians can identify when lakes are at risk for flooding and drive directly to the affected lakes to open or close the installed flood control structures, saving time and operational costs.

With the successful pilot of the solution at two of the city’s lakes, the team now looks forward to deploying remote monitoring at the remaining nine lakes.

Ken Briodagh is a writer and editor with more than a decade of experience under his belt. He is in love with technology and if he had his druthers would beta test everything from shoe phones to flying cars.

Edited by Ken Briodagh

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