Smart city fundamentals

Mar 10th, 2016


By Tapleigh Niethamer, solutions marketing manager, smart cities at Schneider Electric

Cities are facing urban challenges of unprecedented scale, and will continue to do so into the foreseeable future. As populations grow, so too does pollution, resource scarcity, crime, traffic, emissions, and more. It is thus becoming a necessity that communities pre-emptively respond and preserve the integrity, attractiveness, and competitiveness of their cities by becoming smarter.

Setting a smart city vision and effectively moving towards it with a bottom-up, systems-based approach is critical to ensuring resource efficiency and security, as well as maintaining socially inclusive growth. Many cities have already started this process. By the end of 2020, analysts from Pike Research anticipate that annual spending on smart city infrastructure will reach $16 billion.

Schneider Electric’s Smart Cities business’ foundational approach is found in its white paper “The Smart City Cornerstone: Urban Efficiency”. By continually revisiting this text, the company anchors each customer project to well-proven principles that help it to work collaboratively to achieve successful outcomes.

In over 250 completed smart city projects around the globe, Schneider Electric has sought to apply these same bottom-up building blocks:
1. Set the vision and roadmap for an efficient, livable and sustainable city;
2. Combine best-in-class hardware and software to improve operating systems;
3. Harness big data integration for wider city operational and informational efficiency;
4. Add innovation to make a holistic and sustainable future a reality; and
5. Drive collaboration between the most well-suited global and local players, as well as across the entire smart city value chain.

Regardless of which aspect of its infrastructure a city chooses to start with, these principles can help ensure that the journey towards a smart future is mindful and holistic at each step.

Schneider Electric has applied this data-driven approach to help various cities of different sizes across a range of key municipal departments. Often, a city will choose the most pressing infrastructure issue to begin with, subsequently widening the scope of projects over time to incorporate more aspects of citizen priorities. The decision-making herein can be shaped by many factors such as staffing, resource constraints, infrastructural issues or funding challenges.

A remarkable case in point of a city choosing to make big changes over a large cross-section of infrastructure is that of Carson City Nevada’s Public Works Department, which worked with Schneider Electric’s Invensys subsidiary and Ecosystem partner, Wonderware PacWest, to deliver a major solution encompassing water, waste water, transportation, landfill, fleet and renewable power.

With a population of less than 60,000, Carson City’s challenges of doing more with less are exactly the same as those of much larger cities; such as increasing efficiency, reducing waste, and improving the utilisation and distribution of resources.

Also like some of the world’s most progressive cities, Carson City is blessed with administrators and public servants who are committed to ensuring their city is providing the best possible service for its citizens. The city’s Public Works department delivered an end result that reduced operational staff hours by 15 percent while integrating cross-functional management capabilities; a huge success for any city in the world.

Whether your city is ready for a city-wide project or simply one preliminary department at a time, focusing on the fundamental principles when beginning a smart city journey will dramatically increase your chances of a successful and transformational outcome.

The time to act is now. Our urban populations are growing rapidly and the pressure on infrastructure increases. The need to reduce the impact of cities on our environment will therefore only become more urgent.