KX and the Urban Institute: Enabling smart cities through data analytics

25 January 2021 | 6 minutes

by Andy Churchill, KX, and Simon Kaplan, the Urban Institute.

Market intelligence firm IDC predicts that global data creation will grow to an enormous 163 zettabytes (ZB) by 2025, a figure ten times higher than the amount of data produced in 2017. A driving force in this explosion of data is the rapid expansion of connected IoT (Internet of Things) devices. And the implications of such profound growth will impact how we plan, build and manage our cities and urban spaces.

Today, the Urban Institute [ui] is supporting administrations and companies in their journeys to digitization by providing technology that will be instrumental to the successful delivery of smart cities. For example, its next-generation smart data analytics platform, UrbanPulse, is capable of analysing massive amounts of sensor data from multiple infrastructures.

At KX, we’re powering the Urban Institute’s UrbanPulse data analytics platform, enabling it to process and analyse rapidly-growing data volumes in real-time, which aids the delivery of infrastructure benefits that are critical to the health of modern cities and their residents.

And we’re also:

  • Enabling data from millions of sensors to be collected, including one trillion records from the Sunshine Coast
  • Providing a scalable solution that’s capable of handling time-series data, including environmental, electrical, telemetry and network wifi data
  • Reducing development and management costs, as well as total cost of ownership (TCO), by facilitating data capture, management, visualisation and analysis on a single platform

The Melrose Park Project

The Melrose Park Project is a prime example of smart city solutions being built into the construction of a site. The 25-hectare brownfield site in Australia’s City of Parramatta will see the development of 5,000 new residential dwellings constructed over the next 10 years.

Prior to development work beginning, however, there were several potential problems. The location had become an informal dog walking area, and was used as a green space by visitors. Some city residents were concerned about high levels of noise and pollution resulting from the construction. And builders needed to comply with stringent regulations.

Combined, these issues made Melrose Park an ideal pilot project to explore how IoT solutions could measure current development planning and regulatory practices. So, 70 environmental sensors were installed around the construction site and surrounding neighborhood to monitor conditions including temperature, humidity, air quality, noise and stormwater.

The first priority was to gain a clear understanding of how construction would affect noise levels and pollution. This was followed by analysis of space usage and an appraisal of how sustainable site activities could be. The third phase saw technology and data used to improve site management practices, including quick detection of issues, such as the overflows of storm flow systems, so experts could react immediately.

However, despite the benefits it offered, the initial system used for the project proved to be relatively expensive and difficult to scale. So, the Urban Institute in partnership with KX joined the project and was able to help save vital development time and reduce infrastructure costs, while creating a range of performance benefits. And with less time spent on managing performance issues, man-hours were transferred to proactive responses to data-driven insights.

The future of smart cities

Cities today generate millions of data points from different areas. So each smart city initiative needs to be considered in its own context.

Many use cases will require immediate data capture, analysis and action to be successful. However, others are not as time-sensitive and may benefit from viewing trends changing over time. Whichever is the case, the aim is always to create a more liveable, sustainable place.

To achieve this, planners must move away from reactive approaches to urban management and maintenance that essentially put sticking plasters on long term issues, in favor of something more strategic and intelligent.

In practice, this means using data to inform iterative and predictive maintenance to prevent failures on critical infrastructure. For instance, deploying sensors in concrete when it’s being poured can provide unrivaled insight into the status of buildings and bridges. Including these kinds of ‘smart from the start’ initiatives make all the difference.

A prime example of this is Sydney Harbour Bridge, where more than 2400 connected sensors provide the capability to collect one trillion data points a day – enabling city planners to detect vibrations that might indicate a deterioration in the structure. While the bridge may be reaching its intended lifespan, it cannot be replaced for many decades. So, this kind of data-powered innovation will do much to prolong its lifespan.

The work in Sydney is one example that proves how analyzing the constant stream of organic data extracted from sensors is critical in keeping structures – and therefore communities, economies, and livelihoods – safe and operational. When this approach is scaled up to encompass entire urban environments, truly smart cities become possible.

COVID-19 lessons

The coronavirus pandemic has dramatically altered how cities work and how the people who call them home live. In the quest for ‘normal’, data is vital. Harnessing the power of smartphones allows us to track COVID in real-time, and the result of positive tests can be pushed to users immediately.

Removing human management costs from this and creating automated systems are both crucial in advancing new COVID solutions. Not only do they improve development and reduce costs, they cut time out of processes – vital when the virus always seems to be a step ahead of humanity.

Progress through partnership

The partnership between KX and the Urban Institute combines industry-leading data technologies and practical expertise to solve real-world problems, and to work with governments, universities and local authorities to further smart city projects.

One of the benefits of KX is that, once deployed, it can capture any type of data, at any speed, and analyze it against other sets in real time. This enables better capture and analysis of data, giving those who manage cities the ability to understand what changes will improve citizens’ lives, meet city regulations and enhance everyone’s understanding of how busy, complicated environments exist.

As more data is created, it will be increasingly important for us to understand how we can use it to positively impact society. KX and the Urban Institute will drive this, continually working to make cities better places to live.


About [ui]

[ui!] The Urban Institute is a Smart Cities/Internet of Things startup focusing on data analytics and smart services for cities. Its goal is to help cities deliver innovative smart services to their citizens. These services allow cities to do new things for and with their citizens; reduce resource requirements for service delivery; generate new revenue for the cities; or all of the above. The lifeblood of these smart services is data: existing data liberated from the many silos making up the city’s operations, and new data obtained through judicious deployment of new sensor technologies. Together, this data is the ‘potential energy’ that fuels the new services. [ui!] also provides the UrbanPulse, a real-time open data platform for smart city analytics. The UrbanPulse is the foundation of our smart services solutions.

Further reading

[ui!] blog Melrose Park: Smart Planning for Climate Responsive Neighbourhoods

The Sydney Morning Herald: Fitbit for cities: New technology to monitor health of Sydney suburb





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