IT manager touts benefits of smart city concept
Marc Coyle would like to see Belleville become a Smart City.
The Manager of Information Systems for the city, Coyle says a Smart City uses technology and data to improve livability and opportunities for the city and its residents.
Smart cities have the potential to improve every aspect of community life — how people move around, how they live and play, how they earn a living, how they learn and are empowered to participate in society, how they interact with the natural environment, and how they create safe and secure public spaces.
A smart city is best described as an urban development vision to integrate multiple information and communication technology. Smart cities are able to assist with the managing and monitoring of city assets like water and waste.
“Smart City initiatives are an effort to make us more efficient and more effective in what we do and increase service levels,” Coyle said. “Like the on- demand busing that we recently introduced, that would be a Smart City Initiative. The LED lighting and the solar panels on city facilities are Smart City Initiatives. We can build on that to things like a water metering in a house that checks 24 hours to see what the water usage is and when you wake up in the morning and you see you’ve used 50 gallons overnight then you’ve got a leak in a toilet, so that can be very efficient and it helps everybody from an efficiency perspective and a conservation perspective.
“You could have a kiosk in a park that provides cellular service and from that we can glean how many people are using the park and with the partnership with the cellular company we can actually see how far from home those people are, at what times they’re using the park and also trigger an event if more than 200 people show up we know there is either a scheduled event or something is happening at the park, maybe someone should be notified and have a look and go down and see it,” he said.
“Another initiative is buses that have an app that shows where the bus is, very similar to an Uber so you know you’re not waiting around for nothing. Those are all Smart City Initiatives and that is part of a larger concept called an Intelligent Community which is the Intelligent Communities Foundation ( ICF), that’s where you formally engage all of your stakeholders to find out what the community is potentially lacking.
“We do some of these initiatives already, engaging someone formal like the ICF to review and assist us in making sure that if we don’t have enough skilled labour can we work with the colleges to create that skilled labour so that it is available. If we have people who need to have better English comprehension skills, can we go to the library and offer some classes on English so that they are better able to apply for a job or work in this community. The Smart City stays within the city’s boundaries as far as its services, the Intelligent Community engages every stakeholder in the community to try to find out where the pain points are and how we can work together to solve it,” Coyle said.
Right now Coyle said they are starting to engage much higher levels within the city. “With the senior management team we’re having a technology and innovation committee to review all of these initiatives and make sure we’re working together, so if an initiative is to be implemented for say Public Works where we do work order management and the automatic assignment of work, etc., we can determine whether that be extended to recreation so that they can also use that same work order management system. Instead of solving a single problem we’re now looking across the organization horizontally to see whether or not we can solve multiple problems and where we can take advantage of each other’s solutions.
Coyle says these initiatives will save either time or money.
“It’s rare that you get both, but it’s really about trying to find those synergies. The best example we’ve had recently is the election. We introduced new technology that allowed the voter to go in and have their card scanned at any poll they wanted, they presented a ballot and then they go vote. It was much easier, much cleaner, much quicker and all the results were in by 9: 05. So that technology introduced across that one issue made it easier to vote for everybody, more convenient, we had quicker results and that’s just because we adopted the technology and made sure it was appropriate for the application.
Municipalities pay the Intelligent Communities Foundation and they come and do an evaluation of the community and help guide them in areas where they think the city can make the quickest improvements.
Coyle, who is also a director with the Municipalities Information Systems Association Ontario branch and the treasurer for MISA Canada, said, “One of the nice things being involved with MISA, I’m able to get a really good view of every municipality, arguably coast to coast and see what they’re doing, where they get their wins and try to bring them back here and implement them.”
Another example is in Montreal where they are investigating radio frequency identification ( RFID) tags on all of their assets.
“So if you go to a park and every time you put a waste bin or a bench you put an RFID and then with a scanning device they can scan the park and find out what assets are there or are any missing. Plus you can attach to it when you purchased it, from who, what it’s made of, its life expectancy, all of these things and then you have a really good idea of what assets you have there at all times, and if one goes missing you can set a flag to say, hang on an ID went out, was that because one went missing, was it being serviced or is it missing and take steps to mitigate that.
“Our council hasn’t been exposed to some of these new technologies,” Coyle said. “It’s very impressive technology, it’s expensive but the prices are coming down as more people adopt it and that’s where we jump in as soon as it hits a price point effective for us, where the cost is outweighed by its efficiency then we can adopt it,” Coyle said.
Marc Coyle, Manager of Information Systems for the City of Belleville, wants Belleville to be a Smart City by eventually adopting and implementing technology and data to improve livability and opportunities for the city and its residents.