‘Pluggable’, ecosystem-oriented, projects can work in concert to exchange data, inform staff and citizens, and optimize the operations of infrastructure across a city. For example, advanced notice is the first step toward better preparedness and recovery operations for natural disasters, but what about during the emergency when public safety is paramount? There’s often a lot of confusion, communication challenges and location issues. Where are our first responders deployed? Are they deployed to the appropriate areas? Do we have them spread too thin or not widely enough? An ecosystem building-block project can be to deploy a city-wide network — for instance Low Power Wide Area Networks (LPWAN) — so that personnel and equipment can be instantly located and environmental monitors give you real-time updates on conditions. This means you reduce response time for emergency callouts and improve the safety of personnel and the public. ThoughtWorks has delivered solutions using this type of technology to a number of commercial companies that want to track field staff for scheduling reasons or isolated, dangerous conditions to monitor their safety.
Coastal communities often fall victim to devastating floods that destroy infrastructure and temporarily unhouse thousands of people. An Oxford startup, Oxford Flood Network, is working to improve flood protection around the UK through the use of Internet of Things (IoT) sensors and TV whitespace. Another pluggable ecosystem solution is a citizen-focused initiative that aims to monitor water levels in local areas through the deployment of open-source, wireless water sensor networks in remote locations. Sensors are installed everywhere, from bridges to underneath floorboards, with the subsequent data collected so that the Environment Agency and local authorities can act quickly when water levels run high.
In transitioning to an EV fleet, there’s an opportunity for cities to create an open data system of shared infrastructure, between buses, cars, charging stations and power sources — and to use that data for better city planning. ThoughtWorks worked with a China based electric grid power company that wanted to build a clean energy network for the country’s EV fleet. This pluggable ecosystem solution allows charging software to connect to the telematics box (T-Box) in vehicles and to the driver’s smart device (e.g. iPhone). Battery levels are shared in real time and the power grid is able to accommodate its workload by adjusting the unit price to encourage more EVs to recharge when power is plentiful. In the future, a city’s vehicle batteries can be repurposed into local electricity grid storage, potentially saving money for a city.
As cities resolve to move to renewable energy, they should consider how clean sustainable power can be made affordable and generate revenue. ThoughtWorks helped an organization in India realize their vision of bringing clean energy to low-income off-the-grid households by developing a custom SMS-enabled revenue system, transforming energy expenditure by the government to reach some citizens, into an asset purchased by billions of citizens.
A waste management pluggable solution is also possible. ThoughtWorks built a next generation bidding system for Madras Waste Exchange, a waste trading system in India. The open, but securely accessible software solution, or “platform”, allows recyclers to post data about the sale of existing waste stored in Recycling Recovery Centers and enables green manufacturing business players to access extended producer data throughout the product lifecycle.
Cities should also look at how increasing networking, data, intelligence and automation of services, processes and machines can increase employee productivity and efficiency. Ensure that your municipality partners with a technology company that is experienced, capable, and has the breadth to handle the diversity of these types of technologies. The partner should not only be versed in deploying efficiently across the municipality, but in the transfer of project information to the municipality’s employees.
Our next pluggable solution is for an energy demand response provider. ThoughtWorks built a real-time data system to analyze IoT sensor data from building HVAC systems. The data system determines the root cause of any performance issues and proposes recommendations that drive profitability, sustainability, and transparency. This allows facility operators to improve tenant comfort, reduce equipment wear and tear, reduce energy use, and impact the bottom line. An open data system about shared city infrastructure can do the heavy lifting and drive high-value results.