Rapid urbanisation and climate variability place ever-greater strain on city managers, especially in emerging markets. The smart city concept offers clear avenues to overcome obstacles through the application of technology. What is smart city management and how can it contribute to the more effective management of city infrastructure, especially in the case of water?
Rapid urbanisation is once again a defining feature of city management in a global paradigm of population growth, migration and climate variability.
According to the United Nations, cities house more than half of the world’s population, a number that is expected to rise to 75% by 2050. Most of this urban growth is concentrated in emerging markets in Africa and Asia. While Asian cities still remain the world’s fastest growing, the global share of African urban dwellers is projected to rise from 11.3 per cent in 2010 to a 20.2 per cent by 2050.
The importance of cities in developing countries cannot be over stated. In the Sub-Sahara African context, 143 cities generate a combined $ 0.5 trillion. This translates into 50% of the region’s gross domestic product (GDP). To migrants, cities represent spaces of hope and potential as they search for social and economic opportunity, or flee from conflict or environmental deterioration. For city managers and governments, unfettered urbanization poses numerous challenges related to capacity, resources, infrastructure and the provision of services.
Despite obvious challenges, urbanization offers great opportunity to contribute to human development. Opportunities for economic, social and environmental development will, however, only be realised if city governments are able to mitigate risks and manage growth. For this there is no better weapon than information, and in the age of smart technologies, raw information in the form of data is everywhere to be found.
Smart technologies can help cities meet their growth challenges through data acquisition and analysis.
A smart city is: “[A]n urban area that uses different types of electronic data collection sensors to supply information which is used to manage assets and resources efficiently.” Cities, as human habitats, have always generated mountains of data. The current opportunity, however, lies in the increased ability to capture and process this data at greater speed and scale through the application of smart technologies.
The key to smart city management is the increased ability capture, store, manage and interpret data produced by people and things. When processed and analysed, data can be transformed into actionable information that informs the monitoring and management of transportation systems, energy networks, water networks, waste management systems and buildings. The potential lies in helping municipal governments better respond to current challenges, plan for the future, and allocate resources responsibly.
As cities get smarter, they become more liveable, responsive and resilient.
Population growth and climate variability (whether flooding or drought) make water infrastructure and resource management vital, complex and multi-layered.
The term "smart water management" points to systematised approach to gathering meaningful and actionable data about the flow, pressure and distribution of a city's water and wastewater. It is moreover critical that the consumption and forecasting of water use is accurate and that information can be linked the actual performance and life expectancy of assets in the field.
The road to more informed water management starts with water and sewer master planning, and ends in the centralisation, presentation and analysis of real-time and historical data.
Water and sewer master plans are complex GIS data sets that model the entire water and sewer distribution network. Engineering software, like that of Stellenbosch-based GLS Consulting, harnesses complex mathematical algorithms to model the hydraulics of the network by calculating pressure and flow in relation to consumption. This information is then geographically depicted, along with the location of municipal water infrastructure and sources, on a digital map that is constantly updated.
Water-related engineering data can be centralised on a GIS-enabled infrastructure asset management web platform, such as IMQS Web, and further linked to a city’s financial asset register. The centralisation of financial and engineering data pertaining to water infrastructure makes current and future planning a more scientific process. With a holistic view of the entire water network, from water sources to infrastructure assets, it becomes possible to integrate other data sources, such as climate and socio-economic statistics, to build complex matrices that inform scenario building and risk management.
Increased use of online monitoring furthermore contributes to smart water management. By connecting intelligent equipment, smart networks and digital solutions, water utilities have a better understanding of what is happening in their systems in real-time, and can plan better plan for the future through accurate reporting capabilities.
Real-time data monitoring involves enabling monitoring measurements from smart monitoring devices placed throughout the water network. Sensors placed throughout a water distribution network, including reservoirs, offer direct insight into flow, pressure, temperature and water levels. Incidents can, moreover, trigger alarms that alert engineers to faults like leaks or bursts. When alarms display on an integrated asset management platform, an incident is not only linked to a specific geographic location, but also the information needed to stop the flow of water and fix emergency infrastructure failures.
Reporting services encompass a centralised reporting function to help create and publish relevant tabular and graphical reports, necessary to easily monitor KPI’s. When smart devises speak to an integrated GIS platform such as IMQS, data and alarms can be visualised in real time, or stored for historical analysis. In this manner engineers are able to better understand their water system with real-time accuracy, or identify trends over extended periods of time.
The potential for smart city management to offer real benefits to citizens and city managers is clear. However, the field is still disjointed, with many specialised technological solutions emerging that do not necessarily offer affordable end-to-end capabilities or speak to one another. The future of smart city solutions therefore rests on cooperation between providers and integration between technologies in order to offer real value to cash-strapped municipalities..
IMQS strives to build strong partnerships in order to provide real value to its customers. We moreover work hard to ensure that our software can integrate with existing ERP systems and emerging smart devices to afford our clients real value. This is not one way forward; it is the only way forward. This is why we believe IMQS to be your smart asset management solution.