Innovative utilities are playing an essential role in making cities smarter in the era of rapid urban transformations.
FREMONT, CA: Smart cities are here to stay, and utilities play a vital role in any urban scenario. Thus, a significant part of the transformation towards smart cities will have to do with the new utility initiatives that can deliver services as per the modern expectations. Municipalities are looking for technology-backed solutions that can drive the efficient use of resources and streamlined management that can minimize wastage. The utility industry now has the responsibility to reimagine its roles, redesign its processes, and realign its strategies to integrate with the overall efforts towards smarter cities.
From modernizing incumbent facilities to upgrading digital capabilities, utility companies have started the race towards offering attractive and feasible services to citizens. Although there is no particular definition for the term ‘smart city,’ it revolves around the concept of optimization. Energy and water supplies are two very significant areas for any city. Traditionally, these utilities have been handled using legacy engineering models. The advent of smart sensors, machine learning, and the internet of things have brought about many new dimensions to the way the industry works.
• Process Optimization
The energy aspect has undergone promising changes over the last couple of decades. Smart cities aspire for energy optimization and prioritize environmental friendliness. Infrastructural changes in energy production and distribution in the cities have significantly impacted these aspects. Smart grids are replacing traditional ones and making energy services seamless. Ensuring reliable and uninterrupted electricity is crucial to power the facilities in smart cities. Smart grids are enhancing the capacity of supplies by allowing the incorporation of non-conventional sources like solar and wind. Along with increasing capacities, these sources of energy also reduce emissions. Smart grids also elevate efficiency by distributing power based on consumption data. Predictive maintenance and real-time consumer support grants city authorities a lot of control in managing energy resources methodically so as to make substantial cost savings.
• Regulating Energy Distribution
A smart city is constituted of smart homes, and smart homes are built with smart capabilities. The utility industry has focused on the development and deployment of smart meters at large scales. Smart meters, just like smart grids, are vital to energy optimization. The advancements in network connectivity have given a major push to the technology which enables remote collection and control of user data. Utility firms can regulate and control energy distribution better with smart meters that provide highly detailed insights to service providers as well as to the users.
• Minimizing Cost
Every city has a vast network of street lights. Utilities can make these lighting systems highly efficient and smart with modern solutions. When adopted, lighting solutions can help city authorities make significant energy and cost savings. Apart from switching to LED lights, companies can incorporate sensors that will allow automated response to factors like weather and traffic to vary the intensity of lighting. Dimming the lights during less busy hours can impact energy consumption to a great extent. Street lights are also appropriate platforms for other functionalities due to their strategic location and well-distributed network. Some utility firms are designing smart streetlights that assist data collection, monitoring, and also act as telecommunication towers.
• Smart Water Sensors
As the global population rises and the dependence on cities increases, the world is bound to experience a shortage of water unless remedial steps are taken to minimize wastage and pollution of the precious resource. Hence, smart consumption practices are vital to make drive sustainability in modern cities. Developing infrastructure for the conveyance of water is an essential step in incorporating the ‘smart' aspect. Connected devices are enabling authorities to monitor and detect leaks in extensive piping networks across cities. Smart water sensors identify the exact location of leaks and alert consumers and authorities in real-time, allowing immediate repairs which cap losses.
• Integrated Water Management Systems
Water-related infrastructure like dams, canals, and weirs are critical to a smart city. These facilities are being retrofitted with advanced technological tools to create interconnected networks that are easy to monitor and control. Real-time monitoring capabilities enable quick and efficient management remotely. Solutions that provide precipitation forecasts are also playing a role in optimizing water consumption patterns of citizens. When municipalities add sophisticated rainwater harvesting to the conventional approach, smart cities are better equipped to make water supplies dependable. Thus, comprehensive and automated distribution and management of water resources are pushing the revival of best practices.
The development in technology has created unmatched opportunities for utility firms to innovate and deploy modern services and co-ordinate with smart city authorities to enhance living standards for citizens. By adopting these solutions, smart cities are not only scaling intelligent urban spaces but are also eliminating imminent hazards and disasters. Utility firms with a broader scope to think out of the box are upgrading their offerings to cater to the demands in the smart city market.