Erwin A Rezelman, President & CEOPlummeting resources, choking pollution, long traffic jams, and ineffective governance are the verticals of our cities today. The concept of “smart cities” that was conceived as a part of IBMs’ Smarter Planet initiative in 2008 could hold the key to reverse this phenomenon. Many nations are progressively experimenting with this concept to create cities with efficient resources usage, sustainable economic development and readily available essential services. Urban Integrated, part of The Urban Institute group based in Germany, entered the U.S. in mid 2014 aiming to help cities manage their resources efficiently and embrace the concept of smart city.
Passing of a European law for cities to comply with environmental standards such as reduction in carbon footprint and increased use of renewable energy has roughly translated as a backdrop for “smart cities”. “However in the US, this space is a bit different; there’s no such uniform law” informs Erwin Rezelman, President & CEO, Urban Integrated Inc. Nonetheless, cities in the U.S. face similar challenges-congestion, traffic, energy, pollution. The modus operandi of the company is to start with the problem, analyzing its metrics and then working backwards towards the solution.
UrbanPulse, the solution rolled out by Urban Integrated is a cloud-based open platform that runs on Microsoft Azure. “UrbanPulse is about providing the pulse of the city; pulse of the streets, of transportations, of environmental readings” explains Rezelman. The platform integrates data streams from a wide array of sensors and generates data capable of providing predictive as well as real-time analytics. UrbanPulse’s diversified deployment makes it a solution truly meant for smart cities; it could be a dashboard that a city management avails in order to manage their city, it could be information for the citizens to lead a superior life or could be data for businesses to make important decisions. The concept of smart cities, albeit reminiscent of sci-fi, is however, possible leveraging current technology arsenal such as IOT and Cloud.
It’s not technology that makes a city smart, but the availability of information to the users in a useable package
Germany, where nuclear power plants are shutting down by 2018 is expected to lose about 40 percent of its power supply. Urban Integrated, working with the local utility company in Saarbrücken created the “holon” i.e. a district within a city less dependent on the power grid. The strategy was to increase power generation through solar panels installed in homes based on a peer-to-peer energy sharing model; households could buy or sell excess energy generated within the district. This significantly reduced the burden on power grid and increased resilience. This eliminated investments of millions for creating new gas turbines and also enabled energy requirement predictions with approximately 98 percent accuracy. The company considers a similar approach for the U.S. which could facilitate cities to function smoothly with more population pouring in.
The Open platform is an edge that distinguishes the company from its counterparts. The solution’s Cloud base makes it ubiquitous and available at a fraction of the cost compared to establishing infrastructure that performs the same tasks. The company holds an agonistic view regarding the source of data or provider of technology which places them well within a “smart” setup. Commercializing of the data streams is where Urban Integrated is helping cities offer a better service and gain a new, non-tax based, revenue stream. “In effect we become data brokers”, said Rezelman.
Expanding their presence in the U.S. cities, the company is currently in talks with a towns in Silicon Valley, on integrating traffic, parking and environmental sensors. The company’s expertise gained through successful project implementations in 12 European cities can very likely work towards helping the US cities sustain life in a symbiotic manner.