San Diego Eyes New Apps As IoT Deployment Nears Completion

City officials are now looking beyond intelligent lighting to create a more fundamentally-connected city.

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A set of routines, protocols and tools for building software applications that specifies how software components should interact.

The City of San Diego, California later this year plans to select vendors to build internal and external applications around parking, bicycle counting, congestion and congestion management.

“We are harnessing the power of community to come up with ideas city leaders may not have thought of,” Deputy COO David Graham said.

San Diego is currently deploying 14,000 LED streetlights as part of a $30 million partnership with Boston-based Current, powered by GE. The 160-mile project covers roughly half of the city, and also entails outfitting 3,200 of those streetlights with intelligent nodes that collect data from the environment.

Austin Ashe, Current’s General Manager, Intelligent Cities

Austin Ashe, Current’s General Manager, Intelligent Cities

“We partnered with the city through a P3, and gave them LED connected control plus a smart cities program that is cash flow positive,” Current’s General Manager, Intelligent Cities Austin Ashe said. “The energy savings pay for the digital infrastructure upgrade.”

San Diego is expected to save roughly $2.4 million a year in electricity costs alone, Graham said. That doesn’t count the maintenance savings since the new LED bulbs last two-to-three times longer than conventional bulbs.

Graham said that the savings will be used to help finance the upgrade. “Not only do you have direct savings, you’re also looking at a 13-year payback on a $30 million deployment,” he added.

San Diego, Ashe said, could also see an 85-90% reduction in installation costs since it takes less than 20 minutes to make each node operational.

How It Works

San Diego’s IoT system relies on a hardware package called CityIQ. The package includes an Intel Atom processor and more than 30 optical, acoustic, and environmental sensors. The sensors collect temperature, pressure, humidity, vibration, noise, and lighting data which is relayed to the cloud as an application processing interface (API).

“There may come a day when people are sharing data locally, regionally and even globally.” — Austin Ashe, General Manager, Intelligent Cities, Current, powered by GE

A city can can derive a wide range of information from the cloud, such as when traffic congestion is at its peak, or which areas have the highest crime rates. It can also make the data available to residents through internally or externally developed applications (app) that can be downloaded onto a smartphone.

“You can think of City IQ as effectively putting a smartphone on a streetlight,” Ashe said. He added that the nodes can be updated wirelessly so that cities can collect new data sets as necessary.

In 2016, San Diego conducted a pilot program in which 40 of the nodes were deployed. Graham said that, after exploring parking optimization as a use case, the city determined that the sensor technology could be used more broadly.

“When you think about streetlights, you realize that they’re everywhere,” Graham said. “If you can upgrade them to save money, and then put sensors on them, you have an opportunity to understand the nervous system of the city.”

“Moreover, with those savings, you can invest in a multi-use platform for things such as reducing pedestrian deaths and fostering economic development,” he added.

San Diego is currently looking at a multi-use platform, Graham said. He noted that the city  must first build the software for it.

Today and beyond

San Diego has developed a number of apps since launching the partnership with Current. One is a “digital cane” that alerts visually impaired people when they proceed through a crosswalk. Another can send daily air quality notifications to neighborhoods where diesel-emitting vehicle traffic volumes are high. But, at a broader level, the city has access to a 24/7 stream of data for the first time.

Graham noted that city departments are now receiving information on congestion management. He added that, as a result of having a greater amount of traffic and pedestrian data, San Diego is also working on a use case that will allow it to eliminate traffic-related injuries and fatalities by 2025.

As the program evolves, Current will be able to look at a broad set of use cases and plan to compile segmentation data, Ashe said. He further noted that the company anticipates integrating API into the entire streetlight system in order to provide the city’s traffic management center with granular data.

Current will control how the data sets are prioritized when they become available, Ashe said.

Portland, Oregon and Seattle, Washington and the Port of San Diego are currently using Citi IQ. Notably, the company last month partnered with Finnish communications provider Nokia to deploy smart lighting infrastructure throughout Canada.

“In the future, there is an opportunity to connect everything in a city,” Ashe said. “There may come a day when people are sharing data locally, regionally and even globally.”

Graham noted however that users and city departments will have to become accustomed to having such a large amount of data about San Diego at their fingertips.

“Technology is the great enabler,” he said. “But people must also adapt in order for it to have the full impact.”

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