How to start a smart city device and asset mangement project

This information provided by Smart Cities Council Global.
Wed, 2020-02-19 06:42 -- Philip Bane

From the Smart Cities Council -  A recent survey by the Smart Cities Council of Virginia cities and counties (all 139 of them) found that a fundamental use-case for data sharing was managing assets and devices. This is partly explained by the economic necessity of keeping existing assets operable and partly explained by growing cybersecurity threats. Regarding maintenance, the Brookings Institution has pointed out in several reports that American cities were significantly increasing their operating expenditures for infrastructure and asset maintenance as opposed to the capital expense of building new infrastructure or acquiring new assets.

Jarrett Campbell from AVEVA shows how a smart water utility extends the life of existing assets – all lessons that smart cities can duplicate         

Thanks, Jarrett, for this hard work.

 Let’s start with the big question- making it all work together


Interoperability as a best practice – many water utilities and cities have legacy systems monitoring assets. It is not unusual to have procured one solution a decade ago and still be using it, while at the same time, seeking newer solutions with more current technology. This often leads to systems not being able to talk to each other (it is like one system speaks French, the other English and you have no translator available.)

One of the leading smart cities in the world – Barcelona solved this issue by consolidating data from all these disparate systems seamlessly – thus showing the user a complete, consolidated picture of its operations. Make sure you understand this issue before you start your project.

Specifically – what are the steps to managing your city assets?

There is plenty of information about why you should be managing assets and I have put that in below – but let’s start with how you start this kind of project. And if you want more detail – read more here.

  • Inventory assets – you need to know what assets you want to connect to start with. If you can complete this inventory city-wide, that is very valuable; but starting with one department may be all you can do …and you should do that.
  • Inventory legacy systems –your city or your department may have attempted to solve this problem before. Knowing what systems are already in place and how they work will provide you with insights when you seek to have different systems communicate with each other (the interoperability requirement of your plan as mentioned above.)
  • Important, stakeholder engagement – as you are inventorying your assets and legacy systems, talk to other departments in your city …and take the time to talk to your local utilities. These other departments may be attempting to do the same thing you are, or may have already done this. We can guarantee that one of your local utilities have or are in the process of undertaking this very project. We call this stakeholder engagement and recommend it as the number one task when starting any project.
  • Prioritize against city needs - Yes, a city has a lot more types of different assets then a water utility, so there has to be some prioritization as to what situations will have a greater impact on city operations. AVEVA recommends starting with a risk-based maintenance approach. The city decides what it seeks to prioritize based on what is more important to the city meeting its responsibilities. So, a ‘city-needs’ analysis drives the approach.
  • Automate with condition-based maintenance solutions – cities can replicate a common water utility strategy which involves what is called condition-based maintenance solutions.
    • This approach requires connecting city assets to sensors and instrumentation that can read performance and provide alerts to city personnel.
    • The city defines what should produce an alert. AVEVA brings decades of experience in this regard and can show a city what other cities and utilities are doing in similar situations. This decreases the amount of time required to perfect a city using condition-based maintenance solutions.
  • Mobilize city workforce – with a condition-based maintenance solution in place, the next step is to get those alerts to your city workforce so they can respond appropriately given your stated goals. AVEVA offers connection to mobile devices so that city workforce can receive and respond to alerts. Even more importantly, AVEVA offers ‘step by step’ checklists and functions that enable your workforce to enter data, scan barcodes and upload pictures. Your workforce is thus fully empowered to respond and react in accordance with agreed processes.
  • Reduce asset cost– another benefit from this approach is that it allows you to lower the cost of maintaining an inventory of parts. (See City of Toronto example)
  • Learn – having the data will now allow your system to learn and improve automictically (based on AI and machine learning.)

 So – now that you know how – why?

One mission or many?

AVEVA works with many water utilities and cities globally. Water utilities and water network operators have a very simple mission:  Deliver safe and reliable water service to their customers. The public works department of a city often has similar range of responsibilities as a water utility; but overall, cities have many more missions. The Council’s Readiness Guide identifies twelve.

 Water utilities and cities face the same issue – disconnected assets lead to trouble

 In 2020, both water utilities and cities have similar issues with their workforce retiring (thus losing institutional knowledge) and even with some IoT solutions in place, over 40% of their assets digitally disconnected. So, with many assets connected with older IT systems and a desire to connect all your assets, what can a water utility teach a city with the same problem?

Today’s challenges

The primary mission for a water utility is being challenged by the same trends that cities face today:

  • rapid urbanization,
  • increasing regulatory restrictions and sustainability goals,
  • water source stress,
  • a generational change in workforce,
  • increased security concerns, and
  • diminishing available capital for improvements.


IoT solutions for water utilities can work for cities

Fortunately,  technology enablers, again identified in the Council’s Readiness Guide can assist a water utility and a city securely connect these assets, reduce trouble-shooting and extend their useful life. These enablers include:

  • instrumentation and control
  • connectivity
  • interoperability
  • security and privacy
  • data management
  • computing resources
  • analytics


How does a water utility use technology enablers?

With asset management solutions, water utility personnel receive alerts (real-time information) that tells them when an asset is at risk of not working. Thus, they can respond quickly to the circumstance and prioritize their efforts to prevent failure, thus avoiding future trouble. A city has more varying types of assets at risk. At the same time, cities want to empower their people to act before assets or infrastructure fails.  So, asset management solutions can work for a city just like they do for a water utility, thus avoiding the cost of replacement and keeps city residents safe (and happy.)

Learn more
To discover more about how a comprehensive approach to asset performance management can help you get more from your existing assets today – register for this 'cities helping cities' collaborative planning program at which I will provide some insights as one of the Council's experts.

 About the Author:


W. Jarrett Campbell, Ph.D., is the Global Industry Marketing Director for Smart Infrastructure at AVEVA where he is responsible for helping practitioners understand the value of AVEVA's engineering and industrial software solutions for the Smart Cities, Water and Wastewater, Data Centres, Transportation and Smart Airports, and Building, Facility, and Campus Management markets. Jarrett holds a Doctor of Philosophy degree in Chemical Engineering from the University of Texas at Austin and completed his undergraduate studies at Georgia Tech. He has 20+ years of experience in applying and marketing industrial automation and software in the Semiconductor, Machinery, Oil & Gas, Chemicals, and Power Industries and holds over a dozen patents in the manufacturing and industrial automation fields. Dr. Campbell was recognized as a Certified Strategic Alliance Professional by the Association of Strategic Alliance Professionals and has collaborated in the Smart Infrastructure market with companies like Microsoft, Cisco, and IBM. In his spare time, Jarrett's hobbies include Home Automation, Cycling, Soccer, and Pop Culture.