Wireless water meters backed by real-time analytics. Smart wastewater management to proactively identify pipeline condition. An app to help locate public parking spaces. Alexa to provide government services via intelligent personal assistant. And a town hall testing IOT technologies to update aging infrastructure.
Welcome to Cary, a town in the suburbs of Raleigh, N.C. that’s quietly leading an infrastructure overhaul, embracing innovative technologies to provide cost savings and also improved services to its roughly 160,000 denizens – a number projected to grow to more than 170,000 by 2019.
Cary, a town in North Carolina, is quietly updating its aging infrastructure with innovative solutions. (Click below for slideshow)
The town’s growth has been steady, and that affects infrastructure, says Dan Ault, the assistant town manager and chief innovation officer.
“Cary was a boom town and really started building out exponentially in the 1980s, so the bulk of our infrastructure was built in the 1980s and then the 1990s and early 2000s. We are faced with the town’s infrastructure all aging out at the same time,” Ault says.
“Whether it is water service leaks, water main breaks, potholes or HVAC service disruptions, everyone wants to be on top of it ASAP.”
Cary’s FY 2018 capital budget totals $68.6 million and has funds to support over 100 utility and general infrastructure projects. To help keep infrastructure budgets under control and to boost efficiencies, the town relies on smart technology, predictive analytics, analysis of operating data, the Internet of Things (IoT) and other tools.
The town, for instance, installed an Aquastar wireless water meter system for 60,000 customers in 2010. Tools from analytics provider SAS power the system. The setup provides hourly readings and is on track to save $10 million above the cost of the project. The unit’s analytics component enables the early discovery of water leaks for further cost savings. The system’s accurate water usage data ensures the town will spend the right amount on future infrastructure needs.
“The meters at houses collect real time, or near real time, water use and the system gets a reading every hour, and then sends back those readings four times a day so citizens can see, track and understand their water consumption on a web portal,” says Jennifer Robinson, a Cary town council member. She also serves as SAS’ Director of Local Government Solutions.
Besides helping residents discover water leaks, the unit’s analytics can help the town in its conservation efforts, Robinson tells Icons of Infrastructure.
The town also uses water billing data to evaluate the impacts from emergency repairs and main breaks.
“By using water billing data from our automated meter infrastructure system, we can determine alternatives to sustain water service through secondary feeds while a pipeline is out of service for repairs,” says Jamie Revels, P.E., Cary’s Utilities Director. He says Cary officials also track water billing data by sewer basin, which allows a high degree of analytics to track impacts attributable to inflow and infiltration in the sewer basin.
Technology provider Sensus supplied the town’s automated meter infrastructure for potable water meters “Certainly, SAS analytics are available to generate reports and provide analysis of meter data,” adds Revels.
On the water data front, Cary has operated a wastewater system flow monitoring program for more than 10 years. The town plans to upgrade the flow monitoring program to provide real-time data that would be coordinated with its SCADA system, (Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition). The flow monitoring data is used to update long-range master plans and determine which pipelines are performing well and which ones need additional capacity.
“The flow monitoring data is used to calibrate wastewater system modeling that is subsequently used to evaluate the long-term impacts of future growth and development in our service area. Real-time data provides valuable inputs that can be used to track wastewater system performance during high flow events,” Revels tells Icons of Infrastructure.
The town’s SCADA software is from Wonderware, a product offering that is widely used for industrial automation and control. “We are planning to implement an overview system by Inductive Automation, which will provide the capacity for greater remote access to SCADA data by field staff, engineers, etc.,” Revel says.
The Cary Town Hall Campus downtown has space and equipment for testing smart and IoT technologies. The town hall has the typical infrastructure that cities have, such as a parking deck, a community center, huge AC units with chillers, etc. Public and private partnerships at the campus enable testing and displaying solutions.
Trilliant, the provider of enterprise-wide Smart Communications Platform for connecting the IoT, is a campus partner. The firm is testing the following technology at the site: a consumer-friendly app to find available parking places, facility-management tools such as attendance tracking to better leverage resources and staff, community apps to engage citizens, work order management, and Alexa to provide government services via intelligent personal assistant. Trilliant is also deploying smart street lights and online parking monitors. Through the partnership Trilliant is offering free outdoor Wi-Fi and its systems will provide notifications when trash and recycling bins are full.
The town has also created a Living Lab that offers smart city technologies to improve the lives of citizens. IT and networking provider Cisco has introduced the Cisco Kinetic for Cities platform at the lab. Through the platform, town officials can actively monitor the number of available parking spots at the town hall — particularly spots for the handicapped — to gauge use and help with planning. Through the platform, town officials can introduce smart-city technology to citizens during elections and community events.
“Data is a valuable resource that empowers government officials to make informed decisions that can result in saving time, money and lives. Given its value, the collection and use of data should be a major consideration when doing infrastructure projects,” says town councilmember Robinson. She urges local government officials to determine whether sensors or meters can be installed to collect data when embarking on a project. She says the data can often be used to understand usage or consumption, predict future impacts, optimize performance and maintenance, and accurately anticipate future needs.
Robinson says data can be collected on all types of facilities such as water, sewer, and stormwater systems, road intersections, rail crossings, bridges, greenways, performance venues, and community centers. She adds that the challenge going forward for local governments is to break down data silos by sharing data across the organization. “When data is brought together, the organization can find new insights, give departments greater ability to make informed decisions, and foster collaboration between departments.”
Robinson emphasizes the need to have the data in the right setup. “Data integration means cleaning data as it is brought together so that you have ‘one record of truth.’ It also means putting governance rules into place so that future systems generate data that is formatted correctly and the right people have the right access to the right data.” She adds that it is important to give staff easy-to-use analytic tools that enable them to explore the organization’s data.
Go here to download a Becoming a Smart City white paper that has more details.