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How Communities Are Using Smart Building and Smart City Technology

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According to Frost and Sullivan, eight elements make a city “smart”: smart buildings, smart energy, smart mobility, smart health care, smart infrastructure, smart technology, smart governance and smart education, and smart citizens. Increasingly, city leaders are looking to the Internet of Things (IoT) and advances in technology to make their cities – and their citizens – work more efficiently and cost effectively. Smart building technology and sensor data analytics are being instituted in everything from lowering energy consumption to rethinking traffic flow to ordinary infrastructure maintenance.

Businesses, too, are adopting smart technology and sensor data analytics as a way to create better workspaces and improve employee productivity.

Dallas Innovation Alliance’s Smart City Technology

Because large, metropolitan cities like Dallas continue to grow in population, they are limited on how much their current infrastructure can expand. As a result, city leaders have to rethink, re-engineer and rework how cities are using their current infrastructures. This consideration led Dallas to create the Dallas Innovation Alliance, which will require a cooperative effort from the city's industrial, commercial and municipal leadership to build a pilot smart city project that will result in a case study for the future of smart city rollouts across the city and region.

This smart city project will focus several of the elements required for smart-city designation, including smart energy, smart buildings, smart infrastructure, smart technology and smart education. Although the project is still in its early stages and budget issues are being worked out, Trey Bowles, founder and CEO of The Dallas Entrepreneur Center, said the goals are efficiencies, cost savings and revenue growth.

“Smart energy will help reduce costs by effective use of energy distribution,” Bowles said. “Smart infrastructure, such as sensors, small cells, and kiosks, can help by capturing data points, which can be analyzed and turned into new revenue opportunities or cost savings. For example, more effectively directing traffic will cut down on CO2 emissions, or smart parking solutions will let people more quickly reserve, find and park their vehicles.”

Smart Building: San Francisco Office of DPR Construction

When designing its new San Francisco office, DPR Construction wanted a building that was not only highly efficient and sustainable, but also took advantage of the latest smart building technologies. The ultimate goal was to create a work space that was a certified zero-net-energy building. To do this, according to Eric Lamb, executive VP with DPR Construction, DPR’s San Francisco office design incorporated efficient HVAC and electrical systems, and it took steps to offset energy consumption with the installation of photovoltaic and solar thermal systems on the roof.

“To help further optimize operations and building efficiency, DPR Construction also uses the Honeywell Command Wall, part of the Honeywell Command and Control Suite, to easily visualize building operations and boost performance,” said Lamb. “The Command Wall, a sci-fi-like operator interface built with the intuitive, consumer-friendly simplicity of tablets and smartphones, integrates with Honeywell EBI, and features map-based visualization and navigation, along with integrated workflows. Pulling data from EBI, it presents information in an easy-to understand way while providing context for more informed decision making. Users can access an enterprise-wide view and also easily zoom into specific areas to quickly understand and react to issues and opportunities as they arise — empowering DPR Construction to continuously optimize building strategies to drive toward its zero-net-energy goal.”

The overall project was completed in 2014 and met Net Zero Certification in December 2015. The ongoing goal is to meet this certification on a yearly basis.

“DPR Construction’s San Francisco office is the first commercial building in the city of San Francisco to be net-zero energy certified by the International Living Future Institute through its Living Building Challenge program,” said Lamb. “Thanks to its highly sustainable design and its use of the most innovative technologies to ensure optimal energy performance, DPR’s San Francisco office produced 17 percent more energy than it used in its first year of operation.”

City of Ottawa’s Smart City Technology Services

Community leaders in Canada’s capital city looked at what others major cities were doing to become smart cities. What they discovered was that most cities use a top-down digital approach: Digital initiatives and smart technology services begin by purchasing very expensive infrastructure, putting it into place, and then pushing out smaller, use case implementations downstream. Ottawa’s leaders wanted to take an opposite approach and employ a bottom-up approach. Working with the team at Flybits, the initial goal of the project was to utilize existing infrastructure to communicate relevant traveler information based on a motorist’s location and situation, in a safe, reliable and convenient fashion. The ultimate goal is to become a fully connected smart city.

The smart city project focuses on travel management and traffic with the goal of developing a crowd-sourced digital ecosystem that citizens and city entities such as retailers, museums, transportation hubs, and law enforcement, etc. could use to connect and share information. As part of its larger plan to build a connected city, Ottawa built a contextually aware mobile app with the Flybits context-as-a-service solution, called Ottawa Nav, and launched it in 2013. The app is a free commuting tool that delivers up-to-the-minute, customized road information to commuters for iOS and Android devices.

“The Ottawa Nav application maps the city into zones, associating contextual data with every location. As commuters move throughout the city, they receive useful and relevant information in real time based on their location, travel preferences, and other contextual inputs,” explained Hossein Rahnama, the founder of Flybits.

This smart city project, and the city’s bottom-up approach, was much more cost-effective because it did not require them to purchase expensive infrastructure, Rahnama added. “They were able to start small, test it, and then increase the use cases and investment once it proved its worth.”

So far the smart city project has been a success. There has been considerable adoption by citizens as well as by other city entities that have connected their services to the ecosystem, making the city more connected and smart. According to Rahnama, the technology is now being introduced to cities in Europe.

Smart Energy: The Presence Pro Energy Pilot Program for Oahu

Electricity is expensive in Hawaii. It costs two to three times more than on the U.S. mainland because the state imports oil and coal for 90 percent of its power generation, according to the Energy Information Administration. To help customers save money on electric bills while cutting down overall energy use, The Presence Pro Energy Pilot Program for Oahu was launched in 2014.

“The program was open to Oahu residents who owned a smartphone or tablet, had home Internet and had more than six months of energy history at the same residence,” says Gene Wang, CEO of People Power, the company that was awarded the contract to develop the program. “Program participants received two Monster 100MC Power Plugs and the Presence Pro Energy app—a $300 value—at no cost for the one-year energy conservation engagement program.”

A unique function built into the Presence app provides residents with electric usage information to promote energy conservation and efficiency efforts and help residents save money and energy on their electric bills. “The app provided participants with their historical energy data so they could see how their lifestyle changes were affecting their bill at the end of month, creating a gamification effect that motivated users to compete with themselves to save more money each month,” says Wang. “Throughout this engaging process, residents began to see the effects of their diminishing power use on their energy bills and became interested - even passionate - about managing their home energy for the first time.”

This Energy Efficiency Program was a $1 million 50/50 matching grant, so People Power received $500,000 while providing $500,000 in labor, hardware and other expenses. The project was completed in spring of 2015, and highly engaged participants are seeing energy savings of up to 10 percent, while high energy consuming homes saved even more.

Manhattan Beer Distributors’ Smart Building Technology

Manhattan Beer Distributors (formerly Phoenix Beverages) is one of New York’s largest beer distributors. But when it moved into an old Brooklyn warehouse, it was discovered that the existing electrical lines were inadequate for the level of power needed. The company decided that the necessary electrical upgrade should be a cost-effective solution that could provide the massive power requirements the company needed to keep individual storage rooms climate-controlled for optimal beverage temperature, a large forklift recharging station, and the ability to keep the building heated in the winter and cooled in the summer. Manhattan Beer Distributors turned to Tecogen and its InVerde (CHP) units, which achieve efficiency by recovering the waste heat from the natural-gas powered generator and repurposing it for the building’s heating and cooling needs – saving money for the customer while providing a complete smart building on-site energy solution.

Typically, Tecogen customers are not entirely grid-independent, according to Bob Panora, president and CEO, but this particular project gave Manhattan Beer Distributors independence from the local grid utility by using an on-site 600kW CHP plant featuring six Tecogen InVerde CHP modules.

“The six units operate via interconnected smart Microgrid, allowing for robust system redundancy,” explained Panora. “This Microgrid capability means the building has a consistent and reliable source of power and heating and cooling, ensuring building resilience. In addition, when compared with a more traditional energy solution, the incredible efficiency of the CHP units helps cut the building’s carbon footprint in half.”

The project, which was completed in 2010, is expected to save over a million dollars and reduce carbon emissions by more than 3,100 tons annually.

Next page: Smart Savings with Smart Technology

Fowler Property Acquisition’s Savings with Sensor Data Analytics

Fowler Property Acquisition manages multiple properties’ landscape and watering needs across a number of different markets. “In order to maintain site aesthetics for rental and resale value, we needed an easy way to keep our landscapes in pristine condition while simultaneously decreasing operating expenses,” says Dave Seiler, EVP, Multi-family Division at Fowler Property Acquisition.

That’s why the company turned to HydroPoint’s WeatherTRAK smart water management platform, which not only provides landscape irrigation efficiency (lower water usage, elimination of water waste, and reduction of leaks and breaks), but also provides advanced monitoring and reporting to show effective savings and a projected ROI, using sensor data analytics. WeatherTRAK smart irrigation controllers are installed on 44 properties (a total of 107 controllers), with a goal of increasing that number to 60 properties by the end of 2016.

“We have a strategic business plan to invest in green initiatives where there is strong ROI,” says Seiler. “As we acquire new assets, HydroPoint's team completes an ROI analysis for us to determine which properties have the best paybacks.”

According to Seiler, WeatherTRAK platform’s Budget Manager provides accurate site performance and monitoring results. “This feature was particularly helpful for one property, which showed a financial savings of $22,000 in the first year, which in turn improved property values. In 2015, we saved over 54 million gallons of water, and project a savings of 91 million gallons in 2016,” he says.

City of Chula Vista Commits to Smart City Technology

The City of Chula Vista and the Port of San Diego are in the process of redeveloping more than 500 acres of land and water at the edge of the San Diego Bay, including a conference center, resort, hotel, residential units, retail, mixed use commercial, and several acres of community parks and pedestrian and bicycle paths.

The smart city project came about as a result of certain agreements that were put in place to guide redevelopment of the Bayfront area. An environmental settlement agreement was developed following 100-plus stakeholder meetings and input from dozens of individuals and organizations, according to Rick Azer, associate vice president, Smart Integrated Infrastructure with Black & Veatch, the firm hired to evaluate energy technologies, energy efficiency, and foundational smart city infrastructure. The Bayfront’s environmental settlement agreement requires the City and Port to achieve a minimum 50 percent reduction in energy use and building design, he added. “The City also wants to evaluate foundational infrastructure required to support the Bayfront’s innovative smart city applications. These applications will help the City use resources more efficiently, optimize delivery of City services, and increase community engagement.”

The City of Chula Vista established a budget to fund the development of a Smart City Roadmap.  Some of the projects included in the budget and overall plan are energy initiatives such as renewable, distributed generation, efficiency measures, and communication improvements that will focus on the wireless and fiber communications and network architectures to support current and future smart city applications.

“The project is progressing in real time,” says Azer. “So far the results are impressive in that they indicate the vast potential to incorporate energy and communication technologies into the Bayfront environment.”

Kansas City, Missouri’s Smart Sensor Data Analytics

Kansas City’s mayor, Sly James, is a proponent of using technology to drive jobs, better citizen experience, and innovation in the city. So city leaders worked with Cisco to come up with the initial Smart and Connected City (S+CC) solution. This includes City Infrastructure Management, which allows mobility enhancement through kiosks and apps, a development data portal, and a network platform to allow for ease of scalability.

“A major goal for this project is to create the ability to layer in even more applications in the future, and continue to bring in more partners to promote growth of the technology ecosystem already existing in Kansas City,” says Munish Khetrapal, managing director of Smart Cities and IoT at Cisco. One example of Kansas City’s smart city initiatives, Khetrapal pointed out, is Sensity and City Infrastructure Management -- outdoor street lights will be connected with sensors that then operate on a Cisco network, helping to create energy efficiencies for the city.

Also, Khetrapal added, with the upcoming installation of digital kiosks, residents and visitors will have the capability to access relevant, local data about nearby shops and restaurants updated to apps on users’ mobile devices.

Next up in the smart city project is the launch of a new streetcar line. “We expect initial services to be available with the opening of the new streetcar line, with the aim to complete the core framework in four to six months. Initial services include Wi-Fi and other smart city applications,” Khetrapal says.

Kansas City plans to invest nearly $3.8 million over the next 10 years, a total that is exceeded by $12 million in investments from other partnerships.

City of Westminster Saves with Mobile Smart Technology

The City of Westminster was looking for a way to do condition assessments through a field application for manholes in its wastewater system, explains John M. Nolte, infrastructure support services lead, City of Westminster, Public Works and Utilities.

“We worked with a vendor that built an application utilizing iOS to perform field inspections of the manholes that would relate back to the Accela Asset Management program,” he said. “This program allows the field worker to visually inspect the manhole for features such as size, material, whether it was buried during an asphalt repair, whether it is in working order and the overall condition. The worker can also record any observations noted such as whether parts of the manhole are broken or misaligned and can submit a service request to fix these issues.”

The initial budget included the cost of the application, but the city quickly saw a return on its investment, thanks to the amount of time employees saved and the lack of miscommunication and duplication of services. “Prior to the application, the mobile worker would fill out a form and bring it back into the office, where an administrative assistant would have to enter the data and create the service request,” Nolte stated. All in all, the technology has allowed the wastewater crew to work more efficiently and has cut down on internal paperwork.

TLC Network’s Real-Time Smart Technology

Cities and buildings aren’t the only places using smart technology. TLC Network brought the concept to its studios for a show called “Love at First Swipe.” The goal was to put the control of the show’s content in the hands of the host, live and in real time.

“The interface had to be easy for the host to use on the fly as he decided which images he wanted to highlight on the large 70-inch flat panel display that was part of the live set,” says Tim Dieffenbaugher, with On Controls, which provided the technology.

Dieffenbaugher explains that the On Controls tech team created thumbnails in the interface so the host could easily tap to create an “action,” flawlessly and lightning fast, so the show wouldn’t slow down. Also, the app required a minimal learning curve; the show’s host was using it in minutes. Another critical asset of a software-based smart technology solution is the capacity to change certain aspects of the interface on the fly to accommodate the needs of the host.

Twenty-two episodes of the show have already been filmed, with everyone declaring the technology to be a success.

Sue Marquette Poremba has been writing about network security since 2008. In addition to her coverage of security issues for IT Business Edge, her security articles have been published at various sites such as Forbes, Midsize Insider and Tom's Guide. You can reach Sue via Twitter: @sueporemba

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