Smart Cities, Smart Procurement

Cast iron is a traditional material known for longevity and strength-it’s not generally associated with the information age. However, in a smart city, traditional castings can become the vehicle for modern innovations. Traditional municipal castings can be transformed into internet-of-things (IoT) devices. A smart manhole, trash bin, or bollard watches its environment and reports. Is trash piling up? Is the storm sewer overflowing? Are construction sites active after hours? Armed with this information, cities can optimize maintenance schedules. Real time alerts mean they can dispatch teams when the sensors detect user-programmed threshold events, before emergencies occur. As a response to these new possibilities, Reliance Foundry is launching a new smart cities initiative. Our engineers have been innovating to integrate the quality products we’ve always made with modern solutions to municipal issues.

IoT and Cloud-Based Software

Smart city sensors provide real-time data via cellular networks to cloud based software. This software then allows device monitoring from anywhere. Clients have maximum flexibility to view and arrange data, with both city overviews and drilldowns to specific devices. Event thresholds, data retrieval periods, and software views are all configurable.

These dashboards do not need continuous human monitoring. If a sensor’s thresholds are passed, the software will alert by SMS and/or email, as well as showing an alarm in the dashboard.

Get alerted to impending sewer overflow

LEVAWARE: Surface level monitoring

Our surface level monitoring system prototypes are currently being deployed locally. Some of the applications they may be used for include:

  • Monitoring sewers for potential overflow events
  • Stream, creek, or river water level rise
  • Flood breach of embankments
  • Snow load monitoring
  • Trash bin levels
  • Water levels in irrigation systems

Where cities once relied on sporadic maintenance checks and citizen reporting, LEVAWARE watches in real time. City engineers can track the level of any rising and falling surface. Cloud-based software will alert when levels get too high or too low, depending on application. Sensors can be installed to work in low-light or daylight at a distance from surface from 0 to 195 feet (60 meters).

Dashboard of software showing levels of individual device water & battery
Dashboard of software showing levels of individual device water & battery
Closely monitor a single location — like this water level sensor in a manhole

IoT detection of flooding and sewer overflow

Our client surveys reveal that flooding and overflow are of top concern for cities. Major events can be prevented or prepared for through remote monitoring. LEVAWARE products are engineered for various rugged and hazardous applications, including underneath manhole covers to watch for rising sewer and storm water levels. Further prototyping is underway for bridges, flood boxes, and other structures to keep a continuous watch on ocean tides and river levels.

Intelligent waste management

Liquids do not pile up in erratic peaks and valleys, but solid materials do. Surfaces may be at several layers — as in a trash bin where a single piece of paper juts up from the rest. Intelligent scanning can detect the sizes of peaks and valleys within the sensor area. Real-time analysis of sensor data can detect the difference between a full waste bin and a single piled area.

Irrigation system monitoring

In many instances, municipalities are looking to prevent overflow or build up. The LEVAWARE system is equally able to track falling surface levels and alert when they drop below tolerance. Currently, prototypes have been used to monitor reservoirs used for irrigation. Again, either liquids or solid materials can be tracked.

Dashboard of region showing many audio bollards and their current levels
Dashboard of region showing many audio bollards and their current levels
See a whole region at a glance.

AUDIOTRACE: Track decibel levels

Cities must deal with intermittent noise complaints as user groups come into conflict. Noise bylaw infractions can be hard to investigate and resolve with regular manpower.

For example, conflict can be common around construction site noise. Residents may report construction teams exceeding allowable noise restrictions. Often the complaint is that the company starts too early or works too late. If the issue has resolved by the time a bylaw officer arrives, there is little the city can do. AUDIOTRACE software will allow the city to observe these problem areas at the time of reported conflict.

Other scenarios that may find AUDIOTRACE monitoring useful include:

  • nightclubs or other venues
  • pile driving noise levels
  • industrial production volumes

AUDIOTRACE sensors are designed to fit into unobtrusive bollards that take little space and attract little notice. Such a system offers ongoing decibel monitoring without requiring a city worker to be on site.

Via the cloud-based dashboard, clients can check audio levels at any time. Custom decibel thresholds can be set. If these thresholds are breached, an alert appears on the dashboard and is sent by email or SMS. Thresholds can be set on a schedule that follows local bylaws, with different acceptable noise levels during daytime and nighttime hours.

When the set threshold is breached, the audio bollard captures a short segment of the noise and sends it with the SMS or email alert. This allows city staff to decide whether the noise in question is part of the issue under investigation, or if it is from a brief event, like a car backfiring.

Both a visual history of the decibel levels around a bollard, and the audio clips captured when the bollard goes above threshold, aid in investigation of noise complaints.

AUDIOTRACE in the field

Despite the digital components, installation of the AUDIOTRACE system is simple. The electric components can be battery powered for remote locations where there is no ground wiring. Convenient, easy surface mounting allows for quick installation.

Future developments in our smart city line

As we innovate our Smart City line we are focused on function more than form. Yet our company is known for creating beautiful decorative spaces and site furnishings. Our IoT offerings will be no different.

Additional decorative or custom enclosures, be it bollards or wall attachments, will soon be available.

Additionally, our engineers are working on:

  • Mechanical field installation
  • Software integration with local weather
  • Additional flexible views of data
  • GPS capable monitoring for movable applications
  • GIS (ESRI) integration
  • Tide level monitoring
  • Stream, river, or creek level monitoring
  • Snow load monitoring
  • Solar power options for above-grade applications
Future cities can use technology to support sustainable, green infrastructure

Cities of the future

Often descriptions of “future cities” are in one of two camps. On one side are techno-futurists who anticipate the Smart City. On the other side are placemakers and environmentalists, describing a community-centered model focused on climate resilience and human connection.

These visions are not in opposition, however. A smart city with an IoT approach can help provide mediation between city services and on-the-ground issues as they arise. Those may be infrastructural, as in the case of water overflow, or relational, as in noise conflict between groups. Making places people want to be requires practical management of these small details as well as an overall vision. The smart city can make those details simpler and less costly to manage.

Originally published at https://www.reliance-foundry.com on December 4, 2020.

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