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Funding and Security Key in Becoming a Smart City

To become a “smart city,” municipalities must be committed to a circular economy and interconnected digitally across the value chain.

With the majority of natural resource consumption and waste generation coming from urban areas, city governments are recognizing the need to focus on circular economy principles. Businesses also are beginning to understand the value of circularity conversations and implementing initiatives to become “smart cities.”

A smart city is an urban area that uses different types of Internet of Things (IoT) sensors to collect data to manage assets and resources efficiently. To become one, municipalities need to be committed to a circular economy and interconnected digitally across the value chain.

For these connected entities to function properly, there must be safety of collected data, according to Catherine Sheehy, head of advisory solutions for UL Environment & Sustainability (UL), a global independent safety science company based in Northbrook, Ill.

“To enable security of transactions, governments and their service providers need to share information securely, without compromising on efficiency or longevity,” she says.

Preparing for any smart and connected project requires multiple stakeholders to come together across a community.

“Community leaders should define what they want to achieve with the project (in writing ideally); list and engage the stakeholders that may have an interest or role in the project (and cast a wide net); and develop a plan that provides roles for the stakeholders, accountability for the deliverables for the project and sufficient funding to make it all happen,” says Michael Paddock, CEO of Grants Office, a national grants development services firm based in Rochester, N.Y.

Paddock says his company’s focus is more on how cities can pay for smart cities deployments—whether in fleet management or other technology.

“Grants are generally flexible enough to support the bandwidth requirements that the city can justify for its project, and, in many cases, cities may also use that connectivity to further expand its smart cities initiative beyond just the original focus,” he says. “For example, a new grant-funded 5G connection that supports a Smart Justice tablet/field reporting initiative may also provide enough bandwidth for the public health agency to enhance its Lyme disease symptom tracking system. … Grant funding may also cover the equipment, personnel and services that the city needs to bring its project fully into reality.”

Establishing the right metrics to measure its performance in the context of an overall innovative material management plan is critical to the success of any waste management program, whether or not it is accompanied by IT implementation, explains Sheehy.

Gary Monetti, founder and managing director of Monetti & Associates Consulting LLC, in Edgewater, Md., says a needs analysis must be conducted within the city’s planning committee and public works department to understand its budget, top priorities, goals and objectives for intelligent waste collection.

“… We would develop a key set of requirements. Once that is completed, we can start to look at what technologies make sense both from a performance and cost perspective,” he says. “We would look at public versus private network implementations and what spectrum options are available. We would also look at the latest developments across the various standards bodies to help develop a technology roadmap and strategic vision.”

According to Sheehy, the five top essential technologies for a smart city include sensors, mobility data collection, lighting, a “municipal assistant” to help manage tasks and schedules and establishing appropriately placed “beacons” for data collection—typically on “street furniture” like park benches and public art—that must have a power source and fiber connectivity and must be fitted with wireless networks to work.

“From a security point of view, privacy is obviously a sensitive issue,” she says. “For local government leaders, it’s important to consider how the system is going to be used and how it might be used into the future so that the appropriate policies are in place around both technology use and, importantly, the data that the technology is collecting. The discussion around specific technologies and related communication options are topics that should be considered once a good policy framework in place, not before.”

Smart waste management is part of a larger smart city investment, and local governments need to take this into account when considering how to deploy waste automation systems.

“Security is, of course, important, but ensuring that other systems you want to deploy work with your smart waste collection is just as important,” says Sheehy. “From this point of view, policymakers and other stakeholders who are considering how best to incorporate these systems—and address the many related issues and concerns—will need to reach out to organizations and people with broad expertise in these areas to help map out a plan and ensure that decisions made today are not problems for tomorrow.”

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