Aerial view of highway

Location Intelligence, Spatial Data Analysis | Pitney Bowes

A smart city takes care of its people, bringing peace of mind.

As the world’s aging infrastructure continues to erode, so does its citizens’ confidence in the viability of much depended-upon assets. Is it safe to drive over that bridge? Can that dam hold up in another severe flood? Will that huge pothole create havoc on the highway? Can I risk driving through flooded streets after that huge rainstorm?

Government agencies are struggling to manage the systems, making repairs or even replacing the assets as need dictates. Often the response is reactive, as agencies are forced to catch up rather than anticipate infrastructure problems.

“An intelligent infrastructure asset management system can empower a smarter city before a situation even arises,” says Matt Tredinnick, Global Director of Product Marketing at Pitney Bowes. “Intelligent infrastructure can protect and predict rather than just manage. It can actually monitor the assets and, using location intelligence, can confirm the status of the asset and schedule the necessary action, whether repair, rerouting or replacement.”

A recent Forbes Insights report, Intelligent Infrastructure: How sensor-enabled devices, data streams and robust management system can build a low-cost smart city network, presents a four-factor case for intelligent infrastructure:

1. Safety: Aging drainage systems, for example, are key contributors to life-threatening road conditions.

2. Speed: The ability to act fast is an advantage of analyzing sensor data in real-time.

3. Cost savings: The Global Infrastructure Hub estimates $15 trillion will be required over the next 20 years to support the world’s growing infrastructure needs. “It’s absolutely vital to make shrinking budgets go further,” says Ian Slesser, Director of Product Management at Pitney Bowes.

4. Quality of living: Predictive capabilities can directly impact quality of life. A smart traffic light control system, for example, can work dynamically—changing the sequencing and timing of traffic lights—based on the number of vehicles in a specific location.

Dynamic, responsive management is key to a smart city

“A smart city has a personality,” says Slesser. “A smart city looks after its people and gives them peace of mind, helping them make smarter decisions. Give your city a personality and make it effective.”

Intelligent infrastructure is key to building a smart city network. Real-time data, based on accurate location intelligence, is essential to the smart city ecosystem. The process can also be daunting as age-old assets—and concepts—give way to the new technologies.

Slesser offers valuable advice to government agencies embarking on the smart city route, cautioning planners to not focus on a single asset (such as a clogged drainage system). Instead, build a pilot project around a problem the city is experiencing. “Focusing on a single asset just doesn’t deliver,” warns Slesser. Instead:

1. Understanding an overall problem is the priority.

2. Understanding your assets is next.

3. Connect the assets to create the smart city.

“Keep the problem connected,” he advises. “Behave like a 5-year-old. Keep asking why until it makes sense and you can see the conclusion—a connected solution.”

What about the $15 trillion costs?

Government agencies are looking for ways to fund investments in infrastructure. Public-private partnerships (P3s) allow private companies to operate and commercialize public infrastructure assets—or even to build net new assets in a mutually beneficial partnership between the two organizations. An example can be seen in the construction of telecommunications networks while reserving capacity for government agencies to deploy smart city applications such as IoT sensors for traffic flow. The result is a prime opportunity for government to monetize the telecommunications right-of-way for funding smart city initiatives.