A "system of systems" approach to breaking down smart city silos

Infrastructure provides a critical connection to businesses, communities, people, and quality of life on a global scale. It drives economies across the world. To stay competitive, every nation must move people, goods, and data efficiently while delivering energy and water resources in a safe, reliable, and sustainable manner.

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To further explore this approach to unifying operational command-and-control within a smart city environment, visit our Smart City website to download the white paper

Infrastructure improvements

With increasing urbanization, mounting cost pressures, and demand for improved quality of life, there is now a global move towards infrastructure consolidation, upgrade, and continuous improvement.

This, coupled with large greenfield capital projects funded by private and public entities, complex energy management, rising operating costs, and advancements in technology, means there is now a greater need than ever for:

  • seamless integration between systems, sites, people, and assets
  • improved operational efficiency and reduced energy cost
  • adherence to various security, cybersecurity, safety, and regulatory compliance
  • not just delivering on service-level agreements, but exceeding expectations.

To accomplish this, infrastructure operators must extend their sights beyond traditional key performance indicators (KPIs) and monitoring real-time operations. They must leverage the latest technological advancements in data, analytics, advanced visualization, and workflow management capabilities to ensure sustainable innovation through digitalization.

Getting in the way of this vision are several common infrastructure challenges:

  • application silos: operators often have multiple departments and functions, but to remain competitive they need a holistic view of all end-to-end operations at any given point in time
  • information exchange: with multiple applications and systems, it can be difficult to have full visibility, which makes critical decision-making even more complicated
  • siloed IT/OT: siloed applications means that the information technology layer does not interact with operational technology (OT) systems used to monitor events, processes, and devices. This makes it challenging to make effective adjustments in operations and to respond quickly when crises arise
  • availability and utilization of assets: operators often have poor visibility into the availability of assets and therefore how to utilize them optimally or extend the useful life of the assets without further capital investment.

Due to rapid urbanization, many cities have old and aging infrastructure with high replacement costs. Converting existing infrastructure to smart infrastructure is the key to improving city operations, and it is directly correlated to the quality of life improvements.

Some of the drivers for smart cities include:

  • increased use of public transit
  • the need for increased visibility of building plans, for example, to help firefighters mitigate losses
  • the requirement to reduce energy consumption through smarter buildings and more efficient power and water delivery
  • the need for better traffic management to reduce congestion and improve emergency response
  • wise land usage decisions need to be made, for example, to help locate schools and community facilities, in order to maximize the use
  • water and wastewater management must be constantly innovated and maintained for public health
  • the drive to improve citizen experience to help adhere to most-livable city indices
  • the ability to connect and exchange information between departments and functions is critical to making more informed decisions.

For smart cities to be efficient, they must be able to connect, collect, analyze, and act from disparate data sources.

Firstly, a smart city connects and collects information about itself through sensors, other devices, and existing systems. Next, it communicates that data using wired or wireless networks and databases. Thirdly, it analyses that data to understand what is happening now and what is likely to happen next. Finally, it must act based on this intelligence.

Transformative approach

A transformative integration approach is required to span across various applications, including facilities management, utilities, telecommunication, transportation, health, and e-governance. The most effective approach, then, is to not just connect all these disparate functions but to collect, analyze, and then act on unified and holistic intelligence with the help of real-time data.

With smart cities, the objective is to enable city leaders to better serve citizens and businesses. A command and control center based on an integrated, “system of systems” approach can be used to leverage information from various data sources to anticipate and resolve problems even before they are presented, coordinate various resources and processes to operate seamlessly, and generally make more strategic decisions.

In the increasingly complex world of infrastructure, technology is a powerful unifying asset. The integrated, system of systems approach aims to provide a truly holistic approach to unify disparate and complex systems and data challenges.

Doing so provides a centralized infrastructure that supports operations and customer information systems across the entire value chain. Combining information technology and operational technology, and having a system that communicates effectively means

  • the reduced total cost of ownership through better system integration and by leveraging investments already made in systems and applications
  • improved asset utilization and availability of assets with minimal downtime
  • improved predictability of asset maintenance
  • improved customer experience through the digitalization of processes, information, and communication
  • lower implementation costs with a hardware-agnostic, unified platform.

A system of systems integration approach can break down data silos, promote cross-functional collaboration, and optimize the ability of cities to make faster, more informed decisions and speed crisis response.

To learn about our solutions and how other smart cities are improving their operations, visit our website