Guest blog: The new foundation for ‘smart’

The scope of the smart city has evolved. The new ‘smart’ integrates people, places and things, drawing together data on all three categories to drive real transformation in citizens’ lives. ‘Smart’ is built on data at a foundational level, on assets and infrastructure. Bring together real-time data assets, make it accessible via mobile devices and smartphones, and you have a powerful, detailed overview of your region: a strong foundation for ‘smart’.  

Some of the UK’s councils are trailblazing this approach:

Aberdeenshire Council manages assets including streetlights, bridges, roads and drainage ditches. To track the status of these assets and improve employee collaboration, the council migrated to intelligent infrastructure management software. They have a mobile platform that uses smartphones and tablets to enable the real-time flow of information between headquarters and field workers. Inspectors use this in the field, recording any asset flaws they find and feeding that information into the software. A public portal allows residents to log in, note problems they’ve found with council assets, and point out the problem area on a map.

Dashboards record the status of more than 90 types of assets helping Aberdeenshire move toward a “street scene” view. This allows the council to see not just its assets, but its assets in relation to each other – helping to build a smarter region.

Dorset County Council is also using a smart approach to its asset management. Staff need visibility into maintenance and conditions of the roads, as well as drains, signs, gullies and verges. The council wanted to improve the productivity of staff in its infrastructure management division and achieve a faster response to inquiries from the public.  It needed a system that would support mobile working, with better mapping and better reporting. Now, with infrastructure management software, residents report concerns online, inspectors immediately receive an alert, and the mobile platform enables them to access all relevant data in the field.

North Lanarkshire Council wanted to improve visibility into asset management activities; improve the productivity of its field officers; and accelerate its response to enquiries from members of the public. Reporting graffiti, for example, had become a long drawn-out process with the interval between receiving an enquiry and logging it into the system taking up to three or four days.

To address this, the council rolled out a mobile intelligent infrastructure management platform. Using the new system enables officers to stay out in the field, and the new platform has resulted in an accelerated response time for resident enquiries. Field officers now spend more time on inspection and maintenance, and they, along with contact centre representatives and supervisors, all have access to detailed information on asset status.

In the graffiti example, all public enquiries that come into the contact centre now immediately reach the handheld mobile device of the appropriate field officer. Officers see details in the system and can connect to a map that helps locate it. The officer can upload ‘before’ and ‘after’ pictures and a description of the job. As soon as the officer hits ‘update,’ employees across the council see that the graffiti has been removed.

These local governments are building a strong foundation for ‘smart’, by using mobile-connected platforms to increase visibility of their assets. Data on these assets helps them identify trends, patterns, make predictions and drive analytics-informed decision making. This insight is the true foundation councils need to build a smart future and make a real difference to their citizens’ futures.

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