Smart infrastructure is the backbone of a smart revolution, transforming the ways in which cities, towns and counties use technology and data to improve public life, noted Rep. Yvette D. Clarke (D-NY), co-chair of the 117th Congressional Smart Cities Caucus. Clarke and Co-Chair Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) held an event “Smart Infrastructure: A Smarter Investment in our Future,” earlier this year. Along with hearing updates to infrastructure bills under consideration, the group focused on real-world applications with insights from five experts. The event was moderated by Steve Crout, Director of Policy and Resilience Programs at the Smart Cities Council. The Smart Cities Council and WIA have formed a Smart Cities Policy Working Group.
Connectivity essential to smart cities
Jacobs is a global leader in designing and deploying a broad variety of every type of infrastructure in the world, as well as developing digital solutions to address a variety of needs, said Phil Boness, Director of Growth and Strategies for Jacob’s intelligent infrastructure initiatives. “Jacobs has developed a holistic approach in delivering what we refer to as connected, secure, smart places. We’re deliberately making reference to places as our clientele span all of the verticals across infrastructure including airports, railways, military bases, cities and so on. A deep understanding of the operational aspects associated with each of these verticals helps us identify and create solutions that bring tangible value to our clients, be it from resiliency, sustainability, equity or revenue perspectives.”
Jacobs’ first step is to assess the communications infrastructure required to create a connected environment. “We consider the communications infrastructure to be foundational to every smart city. Without it, the collection and analysis of data and actionable responses cannot occur. We’re leveraging the latest in fiber optic and wireless technologies to facilitate ubiquitous broadband coverage. Lately, we’ve taken full advantage of portions of the spectrum which the FCC recently made available for shared access.” Layered upon the connected infrastructure is both physical and digital security. In today’s climate, this cannot be overlooked or underestimated. Our approach to cybersecurity addresses vulnerabilities in both IT and OT (operational technology) infrastructure.” Finally, Jacobs works to develop specific intelligent applications that can be deployed in a phased manner. Data must be protected and analyzed, especially with the value and sheer amount of data that is collected.
Orange County, Florida
Orange County, Florida, Mayor Jerry Demings has a vision to build EPCOT, the Experimental Prototype Community Of Tomorrow, i.e., Walt Disney’s true dream, said Jeff Benavides, Chief Sustainability and Resilience Officer for Orange County Government. Part of that includes broadband, clean water, clean food, and clean energy. “We have a goal of 100% renewable energy, net zero carbon emissions by 2050.” In 2019, Orange County counted more than 75 million tourists visit – the equivalent of 65 tourists for one resident. This puts stress on wastewater and energy infrastructure. The county is working to extend water, sewer, and broadband services into some of the older and rural areas of the county, where residents may not have broadband connections or are most vulnerable to pollution.
The county is also ranked in the top three Electric Vehicle (EV) adoption markets. “Ten years ago Orlando wasn’t even on the map for sustainability and now we’re one of top recognized cities in the country.” Orange County also has won the Smart Cities Council Readiness Challenge.
Working with municipalities
Creating resilient communities needs to include efforts such as decarbonization, workforce enhancement and digital transformation, said Lisa Brown, Senior Director of municipal infrastructure and smart communities with Johnson Controls. Johnson Controls works with municipalities to bring confidence back to constituents, citizens and tourists by creating healthier buildings that are more secure, connected and resilient. “Governments did not get funding for COVID relief, which was heartbreaking, and quite frankly our infrastructure was deteriorating way before COVID-19.” In working with municipalities, the focus is on the safety and security of municipal buildings with clean air, better access control, a unified and intelligent resilient infrastructure to enhance sustainability and make progress toward net-zero goals. An overarching federal policy that brings that vision to state and local governments is a first step. From that vision, communities can begin to see what investments in physical and social infrastructure are needed. ”I think that there can be programs and policies put in place in order for people to get alignment and understand the true impact of what they’re doing for their citizens but also how it’s impacting the overall environment as a whole.”
Using connected vehicle data to improve safety
We Journey, or WeJo, is a U.K.-based company but has its primary business operations in the United States, said Cheryl Adams, assistant vice president of enterprise partnerships at WeJo. ”We partner with vehicle manufacturers or OEMs. We collect location and vehicle data; we anonymize, standardize and package it into solutions for our clients and partners. It is our belief that our data would be very useful to smart city planning organizations.”
WeJo participated in a study with the Eastern Transportation Coalition that examined highways and primary and secondary roads before, during, and after Hurricane Sally. “This was back in September of last year and why it was especially relatable to me is because I was driving through it. I had to drive from my home in San Diego 2,400 miles alone to The Villages, Florida. You see my dad has dementia, my mom was seriously distressed, I had to get there. But because of COVID, I had to drive. So I’m aware of the impending hurricane I was driving along. Friends started calling me: `Cheryl there’s a hurricane. Get out of the way. Where are you staying tonight?’ I suddenly became paralyzed. … Little did I know at that time that WeJo would soon after be studying my path.”
Adams went on to explain some key takeaways from the study. “Data can provide designated evacuation routes in an event such as this. Connected vehicle data is viable and will only grow in size and velocity. We’re blazing new grounds to visualize real-time volumes, thus bringing intuitive values. The sheer size and velocity of the data will require efficient processing architectures. The bottom line is by implementing WeJo’s connected vehicle solutions, smart-city capabilities will allow for deployment of precious personnel resources in real time where they’re needed most, like when I was driving home to see my parents.”
In a separate study, WeJo partnered with Purdue University and the Indiana Department of Transportation on a work zone safety project. In 2019, work zone crashes contributed to more than 840 deaths in the U.S. This study identified hotspots where crashes were most likely to occur. For every 147 harsh braking events, there is likely to be one crash. Traffic data showed the Indiana DoT that just by adjusting lane closure barricade locations for traffic in the queue, there would be fewer crashes.
Finally, Adams touched on electric vehicles. “Have you ever wondered where you’re going to charge your electric vehicle (EV)?” WeJo said it could partner with planning organizations to study and recommend locations for expanding EV charging stations, ensuring underprivileged sites are not overlooked as the price for electric vehicles gets more affordable.
In general, a microgrid is simply a localized energy system with sources of generation increasingly more renewable, paired with things like battery energy storage and backup generation, said Samantha Childress, Solutions Architect Manager, Microgrids and Distributed Energy Resources at Schneider Electric. As natural disasters become more common, bringing that reliability and resiliency to electrical infrastructure
is important. “Frankly, every day we wake up and we are so reliant on our buildings for our jobs, careers, everything is very much reliant on that electrical infrastructure.” One of the ways that microgrids are making our lives easier and what Schneider Electric is focused on is taking capital – or the lack of it – out of the process on the front end of a project. There are new and emerging business models called “energy as a service,” where end users don’t have to take on the burden of that capital upfront. “Increasingly, we’re seeing public-private partnerships contribute to driving this energy as a service market, and it’s just a financial mechanism that helps get microgrids deployed faster.” This model enables a new electric future, where we can use those localized energy resources to contribute to sustainability goals, while also meeting resiliency goals.
Working together to understand and guard data
During a question-and-answer period, panelists discussed the need for sharing information across various entities is important because many different assets are interconnected, Crout noted. Municipalities need to make sure their cybersecurity practices are top notch, and get as much pre-packaged data so they can understand it, rather than raw data, Adams said. Most panelists agreed public-private partnerships can help cities get to smart. In Brooklyn, N.Y., NYU Langone Health is using CBRS spectrum for its own private network, but also leveraging that spectrum to help connect area neighborhoods for distant-learning opportunities, Jacobs’ Boness said.
You can watch the complete webinar here.