Universal: Page 7 of 26

Mon, 2015-10-26 13:59 -- Jon DeKeles
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Instrumentation and control

Instrumentation is the bedrock of smart cities. It provides the key source of data that allows a city to make informed decisions on how to reduce costs and allocate funding. In energy, instrumentation may mean smart meters that measure energy flow. In transportation it may mean embedded devices in roads and highways that measure traffic.

Implement optimal instrumentation. The purpose of this target is two-fold. 1) We use instrumentation to gather information about city conditions. 2) We use control devices to take action remotely — for instance, to throw a switch or open a valve. Becoming smart is all about having the right data to work with to make better decisions. So the overarching goal is optimal instrumentation and control.

Optimal is the key word here. The ideal smart city will have exactly the devices it needs, exactly where needed. In many responsibility areas, optimal may mean a device at every end point. In water, for instance, it may mean a smart water meter at every customer premise. In other cases, it may mean a sensor “every so often” – as frequently as needed to generate enough data to provide a full picture of what’s going on.

Three issues are worth mentioning as they apply to instrumentation; these three will be addressed in more detail later in the chapter:

  • Privacy and security — Given the amount of data generated, cities must be absolutely vigilant about respecting privacy and implementing security.
  • Legacy devices — Your city may already have lots of data available without the need for additional instrumentation immediately. For instance, anonymous cell phone GPS data can tell you where people are, or how fast they are moving on roadways. Key intersections may already have traffic sensors. Streetlights may already detect ambient light. Water, power or gas utilities may already have smart meters. You may decide to add additional sensors – especially now that prices are plummeting – but it’s often possible to get started with the data you are getting already.
  • Connectivity — In smart cities, instrumentation needs to be connectible. Having sensors that need to be checked manually is not optimal – for instance, you wouldn’t want to have to send a technician to every water pump in your city.

Implementing optimal instrumentation creates the data critical to a smart city. It is also the first step in connecting city infrastructure to the “Internet of Things,” which is described next in the connectivity discussion.