Oct 28 2020

Smart Cities Connect 2020: Resolving Big Data Challenges Key to Smart City Success

The town of Cary, N.C., cites stormwater management project in push for uniform data sharing.

The town of Cary, N.C., experiences about 43 inches of rainfall annually, according to Weather Atlas. The resulting stormwater can soak the region, flooding roads and damaging infrastructure.

To manage the potential challenges of stormwater, Cary instituted a project with three other municipalities and the state of North Carolina, demonstrating the vital importance of data sharing to the success of smart city projects, town officials said Wednesday during several online panels at Smart City Connect 2020.

Located in the Research Triangle area of North Carolina, Cary benefits from technically proficient partners that can lend resources and insights to any smart city project, said Cary CIO Nicole Raimundo. When Cary first began to adopt smart city applications about four years ago, the town deployed solutions for lighting and parking, as many cities do. These projects taught Cary the importance of sharing information between applications.

“At the end of the day, we really learned the importance of a platform strategy. We didn’t want to have siloed systems where we couldn’t pull out the data,” Raimundo said. “It’s going to be much faster and easier for us to deploy technologies throughout town if we share data between departments.”

With the right architecture in place, the town will be able to move data quickly from one system to another. That lesson has stuck with Cary as it has expanded its reach into the region.

    Standardization Is Critical to Sharing Data with Partners

    Cary Smart City Program Manager Terry Yates emphasized the importance of educating city personnel on available resources. When attempting to solve a problem, staffers may go searching for the latest new application without realizing the city already owns a solution. Furthermore, “we've worked out the data management and security” aspects of the solution, Yates said.

    Managers soon realize the benefits of integrating with the common platform as well, as data used to resolve their issues may complement city projects elsewhere.

    “As soon as that data comes into your architecture, standardize it so it can be ingested into all of your platforms,” Yates said. Cary collects data with Dell Boomi and distributes data to users through Salesforce. The town stores documentation on all of its productions in a central location using Box.

    In the case of stormwater, floods “don't have municipal boundaries,” Yates said. The Triangle region shares data through Cary’s platform, which can then automate a response to conditions. Should floodwaters reach a certain height, the platform automatically alerts public works to close the road, for example. Yates likened the platform to a Fitbit for the region.

    Raimundo emphasized the importance of avoiding data silos and educating departments and other municipalities on how data links together across systems.

    “One department usually knows one piece of it — beginning, middle or end — and doesn’t really know what happens to it after,” she said.

    MORE FROM STATETECH: Take an in-depth look at how Cary, N.C., uses the Internet of Things.

    Many Projects Depend on Effective Data Collection and Sharing

    Water level and flood monitoring clocked in at No. 3 on a list of top 10 smart city use cases for the Internet of Things, according to a presentation by Rob Silverberg, Dell EMC CTO of Digital Communities.

    Here are the top 10 global smart city use cases in cities that have fully or partially deployed them, as cited by Dell Technologies:

    1. Connected public transport - 74%
    2. Traffic monitoring and management - 72%
    3. Water level and flood monitoring - 72%
    4. Video surveillance and analytics - 72%
    5. Connected streetlights - 68%
    6. Weather monitoring - 68%
    7. Air quality and pollution monitoring - 68%
    8. Smart metering for water - 66%
    9. Fire and smoke detection - 66%
    10. Water quality monitoring - 64%
    Getty Images / djperry