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How connectivity helped build St. Albert’s smart city foundation

Submitted by scc partner on April 26, 2017

The technologies that support smart cities generate massive amounts of data, and that data is an extremely valuable resource when it can be used to identify where improvements can be made to enhance sustainability and livability. But what do you do when there’s so much data it becomes unmanageable? The case study below describes how Alberta’s city of St. Albert collaborated on a Municipal Area Network Plan to achieve the citywide connectivity it needed to efficiently carry out its numerous operations, provide the services citizens need and set the stage for future smart city initiatives. It may be a solution you can adapt for your city. — Doug Peeples

By Keith Ponton, IBI Group

The City of St. Albert has an ambitious Smart City Master Plan, and citywide broadband connectivity is the foundation that will propel the plan into reality.

Years ago, during the construction of one the city’s main arterial roads, underground conduit was placed to enable traffic signal communication and coordination. At that time copper cable was installed to provide basic connections that allowed signals to be coordinated and promoted the smooth flow of traffic through the city. Recently though, the city faced a traffic jam on its own information network. Leased broadband connections between city buildings and fixed assets from multiple departments were not keeping up with the growth of data on the network.

The city engaged IBI Group to lead a collaborative effort to develop a Municipal Area Network Plan to support citywide objectives. As part of this work, we also evaluated the current state of commercial network services and provided guidance on network architecture and ownership options, along with providing reference case studies of other municipalities. Through this collaborative work with the city’s department leaders, we revealed the need for citywide connectivity to effectively and efficiently support many different priorities, such as:

Municipal Information Technology. Fiber optic backbones providing high-speed connections to municipal buildings supporting corporate applications and voice and video transmission. We found many departments were using or moving toward cloud-based applications and other applications requiring high-bandwidth to support their work. These applications supported several programs and services, such as registrations, municipal permitting, information sharing, security, remote/web-based meetings, and more.

Intelligent Transportation Systems. Traffic signals, including traffic video monitoring and management systems requiring a robust network infrastructure to support initiatives such as centralized traffic signal coordination and signal pre-emption to allow emergency and other vehicles priority passage through traffic. It was also recognized the future trends with connected and automated vehicles would have growing expectations on network capacity and performance. The same conduit that supported communication on copper wires years ago is being rehabilitated with fiber optic cable and will form one of the backbones to support the Smart City Master Plan.

Utility Data Collection. To improve the efficiency of the water utility and service levels to water utility clients, the City intends to automate the collection of water meter readings from over 20,000 water meters using wireless technologies supported by a fiber optic backbone. The data will also support new interfaces and direct notifications adding value from a citizen perspective as well.

Situational Awareness and Intelligence. Other departments have plans to implement sensors to track weather and other environmental data, pedestrian and vehicle movements, community noise levels, infrastructure and field conditions, sustainable energy generation, facility performance, and more. This information will also be integrated into analytical applications to support efficient and effective information-based decision making.

The City of St. Albert continues to pursue and support smart city initiatives designed to leverage new data sources, advanced analytics and business information, enhanced communication networks, sensors, performance indicators, and other technological or innovation platforms to make the city more financially efficient, prepared for growth, and responsive to the needs of its community.

“The development of a city-wide connectivity strategy is part of the foundation of St. Albert’s Smart City Master Plan. Thanks to IBI Group we now have a multi-year roadmap that will support the deployment of many of our Smart City initiatives and generate real benefit for our residents and businesses” – Travis Peter, Manager Smart City and Innovation, City of St. Albert.

Keith Ponton is a Senior Systems Consultant with IBI Group, focusing on telecommunications strategy.  A professional engineer and business executive with over 25 years telecommunications industry experience, he focuses on providing strategic guidance and advisory services to help cities shape their connectivity plans and support long term Smart City strategies.