Smart Building

Smart Water Utilities Put IoT in the Pipes

Create: 08/22/2017 - 20:35
smart water utilities

While gas and electric companies have been quick to adopt smart meters, water utilities are marching at a much slower pace. About 60 percent of U.S. electric utilities rely on smart meters in comparison to the sparse 20 percent of U.S. drinking water utilities that have adopted the new technology. A report by the consultants at West Monroe Partners shows that water utilities’ adoption rate puts the industry about seven years behind the electric industry.

 Rather than evidence that water utilities aren’t ready for smart meter technology, the low numbers are evidence of other factors within the industry. In fact, 35 percent of the market has adopted Automated Metering Systems (AMS), and the majority (60 percent) is considering doing so soon. The report contributes the lower adoption rate to market size, as there are significantly more water utilities than electric utilities. Another barrier is cost. Installing a smart meter, based on the report’s stats, can cost seven times more than a regular analog meter.

For IoT solution providers, this market has entry points for smart meters and analytics. Water utilities are expected to spend upward of $2 billion on smart metering infrastructure between 2013 and 2020, according the report. When weighed together—the number of utilities (50,000-plus in the United States), the visible interest in smart technology, and the known benefits of early adopters make water utilities an interesting—and lucrative—play for solution providers.

Something in the Water

In terms of successful business use cases, Water Smart, a software-as-a-service analytics platform for water utilities has a proven model for helping cities become more water efficient. Based in San Francisco, the company works with water utilities to provide usage-based comparisons to subscribers within their water bills. In addition to showing monthly water usage and the previous month’s usage, utilities that use Water Smart can include how a household’s consumption compares to their neighbors’ consumption and to city-wide consumption. All data is anonymized and aggregated for a big picture view of water usage.

Smart Water data analytics

Photo credit: Water Smart

With Water Smart as a resource, cities are setting goals to reduce consumption and to be more efficient. They are finding that user awareness of water usage does have a real impact. When residents know their usage and can compare it to similar households, many are reducing their water consumption. Water consumption in Oakdale, CA, for example dropped 20 to 30%. The cities of Greeley, CO, and Roseville, CA realized a reduction of 4.1 percent and 4.6 percent, respectively. In Utah, the city of West Jordan has set a goal of 25 percent reduction of water consumption by the year 2025.

Stopping the Drip

Having residents reduce their consumption is making cities more efficient in their water usage, but smart meters and analytics can also help to identify leaks. Some estimates mark as much as 5.9 billion gallons of water each day is lost to leakage, poor accounting and other unbilled consumption. Machine learning and predictive analytics can quickly root out unexpected usage from leaks in the system. Turning off these drips and flows can considerably reduce both water waste and costly water bills.   

Miami-Dade County is working with IBM to tighten its controls on water usage, especially leaks. It started by implementing IBM Intelligent Water to track water leaks in parks, and the solution alerted park managers whenever a leak was detected. In the first year, the county saved more than $1 million.  IBM Watson is now at the center of the initiative.

Intel also has a play in smart water management, working with systems integrator Abbaco Controls in Malaysia to improve crop yields for rice farmers. Abbaco Controls relies on the Intel® IoT Gateway for system development and cloud analytics. Sensors track water levels, solar power system, actuator controls, temperature, humidity and more.  Farmers can now have an accurate status of water flow in real time. Since adding IoT, rice production has improved and imports have decreased, and sufficient water is available for other uses during dry seasons.

Testing the IoT Waters

To explore more water utilities opportunities:

  • See how systems integrator Abbaco is using Intel IoT gateway in Malaysia for water supply management.
  • Learn who is partnering with Water Smart.
  • Find out how water utilities are using IBM Watson.

Voice-controlled Furniture Can Transform Tiny Spaces

Create: 08/16/2017 - 18:23
Ori smart home furniture



Consumers and small businesses are adding all types of innovative IoT devices to make their environments more comfortable, convenient, energy efficient and less expensive. There are smart thermostats, power switches, power outlets, energy-generating solar window sills, multi-room audio/video, automated fans, air conditioners, locks, doorbells and garage door openers. Home surveillance systems capture everything outside from the curb to the front door along with indoor activities of the nanny, the kids and the pets. Office cameras can detect intruders and theft and make customers feel safer. Smart sensors monitor water, air, smoke, fog and other environmental conditions.

These various smart home technologies are poised for mass-market growth, as automation becomes the norm. Berg Insight predicts that there will be 73 million smart homes in North America by 2021. And the market will be valued at $138 billion by 2023—a compound annual growth of nearly 14 percent from 2017, according to Markets and Markets.

Going Big with Micro Living

Next up: smart furniture, as robotics-maker Ori in Cambridge, MA, is going big with its home automation technology. A spin-off from MIT Media Lab, Ori has developed voice-controlled furniture that moves about the room, rearranging itself to maximize the living and sleeping spaces in small apartments and condos.

Ori has built a wall-sized, software-controlled robotic furniture case that includes a bed, nightstand, closet and storage shelves on one side and a combination TV stand, bookcase and fold-out work desk on the other side. The system is about 8 feet tall and costs approximately $10,000.

While Ori currently sells its robo-furniture module and software to large-scale urban housing developers, it intends to eventually target individuals who dwell in small spaces. The company is piloting its connected furniture system in 10 cities across the United States and in Canada. Ori’s first intelligent furniture system will have an initial production run of 1,200 units, according to the company.

The modules have already been installed in dozens of luxury apartment buildings around the country, including the 495-square foot luxury studios in the Channel Mission Bay development in San Francisco.

“We are bringing the world of robotics and technology into architecture and real estate, making systems that can make a space feel much bigger,” said Ori CEO and Founder Hasier Larrea in a recent interview with CTV News. Larrea says his company set out to extend the convenience of connected smart devices, such as smart speakers, light bulbs, thermostats, doorbells and garage door openers to larger furniture. He added in the interview, that “when you look at the smart home, it’s all based on peripherals. We’ve been forgetting about 90 percent of the space.”

Programmable Bedtime

If a user sets Ori to “bed mode,” the modular system can transform a living room into a bedroom in less than 30 seconds, gliding on wheels over the floor as a queen-size bed that was tucked underneath the module appears. At the same time, the TV stand/entertainment unit side rolls into the living room. When going into living room mode, the Ori rolls the other way, but it can also leave enough space to allow access to the closet and other storage areas.

Ori Smart home furniture


The unit can be controlled multiple ways. It can move using a side-mounted Ori touch controller, or with a mobile phone app, or by voice commands using an Amazon Echo. The Ori—named partly for the Japanese art of origami paper folding—can also be programmed to transform rooms automatically at certain times, such as bedtime.

Join the Smart Furniture Movement

First Killer App for Smart Cities: Street Lights

Create: 08/09/2017 - 19:33
IoT Smart City Lights ScottMadden

Photo: ScottMadden Management Consultants

As municipalities grow and urban population expands, city officials are feeling the pressure to invest in IoT pilots and programs. By adding embedded intelligence to its assets, cities can create a working framework of modern, cost-effective technology that gathers data and can ultimately improve the quality of life of its citizens.

In addition, every city, regardless of size, wants to have the moniker of being a smart city. With transportation, energy, safety, water and air quality issues that could all benefit from smart technology upgrades, the first question is often, “where should we start?”

Saving Energy, Saving Budget

In a new report, “The Smart City Opportunity for Utilities,” energy consultancy ScottMadden in Raleigh, NC, notes that cities need to look no further than one of the initial components of their existing energy network: the street light. The report states that street lighting projects are a popular entry point into the smart city conversation because of the enormous potential to deliver a strong—and rapid—return on investment.

Here are a few of the reasons listed by the ScottMadden analysts that show why street lights can pave the way for other citywide IoT projects:

  • Street lights represent a substantial portion of city energy budgets, up to 40 percent.
  • Smart street lights can save 50 percent to 70 percent of this cost by dimming when activity is low, which means the city saves big money. These savings can be used to reduce city expense and to fund future initiatives while offering the utility a chance to increase its asset base at the expense of energy costs.
  • Networked LED lights can provide not only energy savings, but information about outages or other anomalies in the energy network.
  •  Lights can be remotely dimmed to reduce energy usage. Networked lights can also be managed by smart devices that adjust lighting in response to traffic patterns and help identify roadway hazards.
  • Networked lighting systems are also seen as a viable platform on which solution providers can build future sensing, data gathering and communications capabilities. For example, networked lights can communicate with video cameras, parking sensors, environmental sensors, weather sensors and more through the same network infrastructure.

The report notes that smart cities ready to start pilots need to first identify the workable funding mechanisms, which can include municipal borrowing, public-private partnerships and integration with federal programs. Next, cities need to create alignment and collaboration among private and public stakeholders and secure the support of their citizenry. Then, cities need to find the right technology partners and solution providers who can design, launch and manage the improvements.

Seeing the Light: ROI

As a solution provider for a smart city, part of your value is providing the expected return on these investments, demonstrating how it will be measured and clearly outlining how the changeover to IoT technology will yield energy cost reduction. 

The ScottMadden report notes that smart city investments and street lighting pilots are already accelerating at a rapid pace, with a constant flow of U.S. cities and cities around the globe announcing initiatives, particularly during the last year. Some examples of cities and regions that have launched IoT initiatives with street lighting upgrades are:

San Diego: The city partnered with Current, a Boston-based firm powered by GE, and invested $30 million to deploy the world’s largest IoT sensor platform this summer. San Diego plans to transform its street lighting in a connected digital infrastructure, allowing the city to collect real-time sensor data across the city. That data will be used to develop a myriad of energy, safety and transportation-related applications.


San Diego Smart City LED lights

Photo: Current, powered by GE

San Diego will upgrade 25 percent of its outdoor lights, including those in its historic Gaslamp district downtown. Current will upgrade 14,000 city light fixtures to its Evolve™ LED luminaires. According to early estimates, the fixtures will save San Diego $2.4 million per year in energy costs. Each fixture is equipped with an advance controls system, LightGrid™, that allows city managers to dim, brighten and check maintenance on the lights remotely through a single dashboard.

The sensors will be powered by the AT&T LTE network. Intel IoT technology will be inside the nodes to help extract metadata. Intel’s Atom® processor E3900 and Wind River software will enable the platform to run intelligent analytics with the light fixture and extract the data.

Washington, D.C.: The District has moved to networked LED lights and sensors and is already seeing the benefits. A recently completed pilot project delivered smart street lighting, sensors and a pubic gigabit Wi-Fi network to a three-block area, which reduced lighting energy costs by 50 percent.

IoT street light banner


Chattanooga, Fresno, Peoria and Pittsburg: The major appeal of moving to smart lighting in each of these cities isn’t just to save energy. These areas are all using smart lighting technology as a tool to help fight crime, assist in emergencies and better serve their citizens. Learn more about the full technology rollout in each city from a report provided by the Smart Cities Council North America.

The Utility of IoT to Smart Cities

Solution providers who are interested in smart city technology and want to learn how to position the benefits of IoT to municipal buyers can download the full Smart City Opportunity for Utilities report from ScottMadden management consultants. 

Next-generation Surveillance Systems Capture Forensic Details

Create: 07/07/2017 - 17:14
Forensic Wide Dynamic Range technology

Photo: Axis Communications



Small and medium-sized businesses and homeowners now want to see—clearly—what’s going on around them 24x7. They need your expertise to build an intelligent solution to help traditional security and surveillance systems watch over multiple locations simultaneously using remote cameras and centrally located monitors.

A common problem among network surveillance systems is the ability of the camera to capture detail in dark or obscured lighting situations, such as garages or stairwells. That is starting to change, as Sweden-based camera manufacturer Axis Communications announced it is bringing its Forensic Wide Dynamic Range technology to several of its network cameras.

The new technology enhances the ability of the camera to capture detail in difficult and variable light conditions. Surveillance operators will be better able to see forensic details in challenging lighting conditions, such as doorways or interior spaces with windows that have bright areas juxtaposed with extremely dark.

Capturing Details in the Darkness

Axis Communications Forensic WDR is an enhanced Wide Dynamic Range (WDR) method of video capture that focuses on achieving “high forensic value,” according to the company. WDR is a term that is commonly used for the balancing of very dark and very bright areas in a fixed scene. Also called High Dynamic Range (HDR) in the surveillance industry, the aim of the new technology is to capture forensic details at all times, as the light changes with movement.

“Until now, the WDR methods on the market have not been able to add sufficient forensic value to ultra-high resolution cameras or surveillance scenes that feature a significant amount of movement,” said Ryan Zatolokin, Senior Technologist, Axis Communications, Inc., in a statement.

Photo: @AxisIPVideo on Twitter

Axis Communications will add Forensic WDR to six of its network cameras in the AXIS P32 and AXIS Q35 lines. The AXIS P32 models are available through Axis’ standard distribution channels at a retail price ranging between $779 and $1,099, depending on the model. The new AXIS Q35 cameras will range from $1,099 to $1,249 and will be available in the third quarter of 2017.

As WDR video technology improves, the demand for DSS is starting to boom, with major growth in the areas of digital network equipment. IT convergence in the video surveillance industry is also happening, along with a strong rise in the market for edge-based analytics. Overall, the video surveillance market is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 25.2 percent globally in the next several years, according to forecasts from Axis Research Mind.

Goodbye, Decoy Cameras

The importance of having reliable surveillance camera technology was reinforced by a situation in the San Francisco Bay Area. Until this month, the BART trains for commuters had a combination of working cameras and decoys with blinking lights, which administrators said were installed only to deter vandals. In 2016, a criminal incident occurred on a train that resulted in a passenger’s death. Because that train only had a decoy camera, BART police had no video evidence, and the crime remains unsolved.

Axis Communications Forensic Wide Dynamic Range

Photo: Bay Area News Group

The transit district rectified the situation in late June, giving the BART system a $1.42 million surveillance system upgrade. It replaced all its decoy cameras with working digital surveillance technology. The new video systems on the trains include four digital cameras on each car and DVRs with housing units, costing $463,749, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

BART uses a robust network of high-end security cameras on its platforms and inside stations that are monitored by security administrators in real time. While the video footage on the moving trains will not be instantly accessible, police can retrieve it from the digital recorder (when needed) on each train car.

Lights, Camera, Action

If you want to learn more about the next generation of IoT surveillance technology, see the details and specs on the Axis Communications surveillance cameras with Forensic WDR.

Find out about the Axis Partner Network for system integrators.  


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