By Laurent Auguste
With more than half of the world’s population living in urban areas, cities have proven to have the winning model.
But the massive influx into cities leads to higher population densities, greater complexities and increased pressures on local resources, such as water.
In the future, successful cities will be those that have created local and global access to Big Data as sources of new game-changing dynamics. New city models will turn the passive pipes of city infrastructure into active ones, transcending their current use and freeing up yet untapped value.
Consider city water systems. Imagine enabling the pipes to communicate with treatment plants and learn from customer behavior as never before.
Well positioned smart sensors, real time collection of relevant data, advanced analytics and understanding of household consumption patterns can lead to optimization of water production and distribution of energy.
In Lyon, France and Tidworth, UK, for the first time, Veolia has combined its unique global network of knowledge and best practices in water systems operations with IBM’s leading data computing and analytics to establish a new platform for managing water resources that takes into account all of this type of Big Data.
Additionally, by benchmarking cities and their water, energy or waste management performance indicators with those of other similar urban areas, cities can use Big Data to compare best practices, improve and even predict future needs. Veolia’s work with the New York City Department of Environmental Protection is a good example of this.
By breaking down the usual silos among water, energy and waste management within a city, the ability to share customer data and synchronize maintenance can deliver even more benefits to both citizens and city finances. Water or waste system energy consumption and production can be adjusted to address peaks in power demand. Methane gas can be recovered from landfills to generate energy to power wastewater treatment plants and support the production of marketable fertilizers – sources of new economic value and reduced environmental footprint.
All of these approaches in turn can be used to impact the economic dynamics within cities, encouraging innovative use of data such as the creation of new apps. Further, by making more information available to citizens for more transparency and awareness, citizens can become more active players locally, influencing cities to maintain their competitiveness and attractiveness.
Veolia’s ambition is to act as an economic and social growth partner for cities by developing access to resources, and helping preserve and replenish them. Working with cities to embrace the potential of Big Data and think holistically about their resources is an exciting journey, and our partnership with IBM makes it a promising one!