Starting to build a smart city infrastructure ecosystem
American cities need new infrastructure – particularly when it comes to their ability to deploy new technologies. But how does a local leader facilitate this type of construction? A new paradigm of thinking is needed.
To sustain this shift, few people question the need for data… and lots of it. With robust data collection methods, cities can create models in 3D or 4D space that converge information technology (IT), operating technology (OT) and engineering technology (ET) to allowing a deeper understanding of infrastructure assets and the infrastructure ecosystem of the city or community. This is known as the “digital twin.”
The Digital Twin
A digital twin allows a user to understand and model asset performance. The fourth dimension is time (or schedule for construction). Digital twins are continuously updated with data from multiple sources – which is what makes them different from static, 3D models.
Bentley Systems is a leader in digital twins for infrastructure across the spectrum of industries. Recently, IT research and consulting giant, Gartner stated that “CIOs must understand engineering technology as well as OT and IT, and the connections between the three to guide their companies’ journeys toward achieving digital business goals.” This conclusion is big news and long-awaited confirmation to the engineering world of the value and need for reality models.
Bentley’s software called Context Capture can generate a “reality mesh” of terrain, without a full land survey. In addition, images of infrastructure assets can be converted into a reality mesh that can be categorized, inventoried, and used to plan condition-based maintenance. Simple workflows can be added to the digital twins to record changes in the field to keep information current and provide a sound basis for the next maintenance procedures. Then, the software can leverage artificial intelligence and machine learning to improve maintenance and operations processes, enabling the digital twins to improve the asset, system or city management for the long haul.
Once data is collected and digital twin is built, Artificial Intelligence (AI) can be applied and cities can be propelled into a safer, cleaner, and healthier future that efficiently and accurately anticipates the needs of citizens, local businesses and stakeholders in an interconnected ecosystem of infrastructure. A true working model of how electricity impacts mobility or water purification and distribution. Or, how radio and cellular communication impacts law enforcement and the safe operation of the electric system.
But, these models start with good design, construction, operations and maintenance data about your infrastructure.
Data… and More Data
Drones or Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) are changing the nature of data collection today. Drones are inexpensive and ubiquitous. Commercial drone payloads allow several types of photogrammetry, infra-red and Light Detection and Ranging (LIDAR) technology.
Cities and communities can use drones to capture data to build the digital twin of an asset like a water tower, bridge or fire station, a system of infrastructure like street lights, traffic signals or roads and streets, or the entire city for use in modeling the ecosystem of infrastructure.
Another technology that will give our transportation and city-planners vast amounts of data is Smart Pavement from Integrated Roadways.
The system is a traffic-rated, precast concrete section embedded with digital technology and fiber optic connectivity to transform ordinary roads into smart roads. Each interlocking slab incorporates accessible and upgradable digital technology that connects vehicles to the internet and provides real-time information to drivers about traffic, road conditions and accidents. Much like the touchscreen on a smartphone or tablet, sensors in the pavement can “feel” the positions, weights and velocity of every vehicle on the road, providing superior navigation and telemetry for Level 4 autonomous vehicles and capturing valuable traffic and usage data.
The system provides enhanced connectivity to vehicles on the road while the road will connect cities and communities with seamless, high-speed data transfer becoming the next Information Super Highway.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is the “new electricity” and data is the fuel (for generation) says Kai-Fu Lee in his provocative new book AI Superpowers, China, Silicon Valley and the New World Order.
AI is simply defined as the ability of a high-speed computer to imitate intelligent human behavior. Human Machine Learning (HML) is a part of AI that provides algorithms to systems (think city infrastructure like roads/bridges, street lights, water, wastewater, stormwater, parks, facilities, etc.) to identify patterns in data through an interactive process without being pre-programmed. Sound complex? It’s being done today.
Voda is a new AI-driven water consulting business started by water utility and IT experts. They have developed algorithms to provide accurate pipe breaking estimates with their proprietary DaVinci ML software.
Using artificial intelligence to assess complex data sets specific to city utility and third- party data (ex: satellite images, soil, land use), Voda develops pipe break predictions customized to a city or community and then delivers useful, visual reports to truly and accurately justify a repair or upgrade investment plan and rate case based on strong empirical data. Voda’s accuracy to date is impressive.
Several emerging technologies are ready for use in communities across America if city leaders are to accept them and position for real 21st century opportunity. Technologies like digital twin models and artificial intelligence capitalize on the value of low cost, ubiquitous data are ready today.
Many savvy city and community leaders are positioning their communities for these emerging technologies today, and informed and savvy citizens expect as much.
Mike Beehler is the COO of Mike Beehler & Associates, LLC and author of the new book, “The Science of the Sale.” Mike is a registered Professional Engineer in Ariz., Fla., Hawaii, Tex., Colo., Kans., Ga., and Ala., and a Fellow in the American Society of Civil Engineers.