By Thomas Jackson, Vice President Corporate Strategy at Climatec.
In the 1850s, scientists were concerned with how to telegraph messages under the English Channel. One hundred years later biologists were figuring out the structure of our genetic codes. Computers used to fill whole rooms, and by 2001 they fit in the palm of our hand and connected us to the world.
Today our societal challenges center on how to power our ever-growing cities and, once again, science is making it possible. The City of the Future began to take shape when scientists started postulating about the Internet of Things – the simple idea that people, places, and things could all be interconnected by data transmitting devices, making our lives easier and turning our world into a more idealized version of itself.
Imagine: Your alarm clock waits five minutes to wake you, because it can tell that you’re still dreaming. While you drive to work, your car seeks out the best available parking spot for your office. Your daughter announces her intention to marry that young man you despise, and before you even know you’re having a heart attack… help is on the way.
These types of developments are no longer science fiction. The Internet of Things is rapidly being enlisted to create the City of the Future and cater to the 80% of Americans living in urban areas.
San Francisco was one of the first to seek out ways to use these new technologies. In 2012, San Francisco’s Public Utilities Commission sought to create a pilot smart grid program as part of a major street lighting retrofit project in the city. They envisioned a smart muni-grid that would consist of a combined and fully integrated high and low bandwidth wireless mesh network that could provide an open architecture platform capable of remote utility meter reading, electric vehicle charging stations, public information broadcasts, solid waste management, street parking monitoring, traffic signal control, and more – all while reducing the total energy use of the city. The specification was challenging. The city issued multiple global RFPs before they found the solution they were looking for. The key, it turned out, was advanced metering infrastructure technology.
Developed by Paradox Engineering, advanced metering infrastructure (PE.AMI) allows for smarter implementation of city services by making use of transmitted data. With PE.AMI, a node the size of a deck of cards is installed on top of an LED fixture, and presto…. the streetlight is transformed into a hub of information and data collection. Consider the possibilities:
- Waste Management. When the sensor in a nearby dumpster is triggered, a signal transmits through the PE.AMI network, alerting the City’s sanitation department that the unit needs to be emptied. The City saves fuel and man-hours by only attending to dumpsters that need emptying.
- Public Safety. Sensors connected to PE.AMI detect air quality, and automatically send warnings to nearby cellular devices if the environment is compromised by fire or terrorist attack. Loud noises like gunshots are detected and the coordinates of the sound are be transmitted instantly to law enforcement.
- Reduced Fossil Fuel Consumption. Citizens could enter a personal code at the base of a streetlight to access an outlet where they could charge their electric vehicles. The PE.AMI would monitor exactly how much energy they pulled from the grid and send a bill directly to their account.
- Parking management. PE.AMI monitors which parking spots are available and transmits the information to drivers. People go directly to the open spot and avoid driving in circles, thus reducing traffic congestion and CO2 emissions.
PE.AMI is a fully open standard based communication platform, granting full interoperability and therefore opening a virtually endless scenario of possibilities in terms of the services and applications it can support. This is the Internet of Things coming true.
On June 10 of this year, Intel announced its participation in a pilot program in the Silicon Valley to help communicate information about air quality and encourage sustainability by using a network of connected sensors throughout the city. The program is one of three that San Jose is implementing to monitor air pollution. Intel, and other tech companies, are looking to get in on the ground floor of an energy savings retrofit movement anticipated to generate $41 trillion in sales over the next 20 years.
By riding the wave of this swelling industry, it’s estimated that smart cities could increase their efficiency by 30% in 20 years while reducing emissions by 15%. Every employee that no longer has to physically check a utility meter, every streetlight that dims a bit at three in the morning, every lap around the parking lot that is avoided – it all means less energy used and fewer emissions, which saves money and improves the environment.
At Climatec Engineering, we’re partnering with the company that invented the PE.AMI to bring this technology to California. In many cities across the state, advanced metering infrastructure is already being employed to better manage newly retrofitted LED streetlights. The PE.AMI devices alert the city when repairs are needed, allows the city to ramp start and ramp down lights, dim lights to save energy, and even makes it possible to change the color spectrum of lights for special occasions. Cities are looking forward to saving millions while reducing pollution, and once the network is installed, it can be easily updated with applications that allow for extended functionality (such as utility meter monitoring and dozens of other enhanced city services). With this technology, cities can step into the future incrementally, at a pace that they feel comfortable with: this is possible because PE.AMI is truly open standard based and offers full interoperability, ensuring cities make a future proof choice that does not lock them to a single proprietary technology.
The Internet of Things, PE.AMI, energy storage, and more will be discussed at the upcoming MuniGrid conference at the California Science Center on June 26th. As a sponsor of the event, Climatec is excited to hear the about the many, real-world solutions cities are implementing to reduce costs, save energy, and improve the lives of citizens. We hope you will join us and be a part of the conversation. For more information, please visit http://munigrid.org/.