4 Tips to Make Your City Smart

December 4, 2015 • Blog Post • By Todd Wasserman, HPE Matter Contributor


  • Hewlett Packard Enterprise and Swansea University partnered on a smart city program to help the Welsh government cut 80 percent of its greenhouse gas production by 2050
  • Dr. Amip Shah, who leads Internet of Things research at Hewlett Packard Labs, shares some advice for other cities looking to take on similar projects

Swansea University and Hewlett Packard Enterprise prepare for the future


If you're looking to improve the environment and use energy more efficiently, cities are a great place to start. Today, some 3.6 billion people live in cities and by 2030, that number will grow to five billion - about 60 percent of the worlds population.


Technology plays a major role in planning for this exponential population growth. This was the thinking behind the "smart city" movement and the impetus for a three-year research collaboration between Hewlett Packard Enterprise and Swansea University in Wales.


The tech giant and university sought to explore the development of next-generation cities and help the Welsh government cut 80 percent of its greenhouse gas production by 2050.

Sensors and energy efficiency


One of the chief technologies deployed in the effort has been the use of sensors to measure energy efficiency. These sensors are tiny but powerful. Dr. Amip Shah, who leads Internet of Things research at Hewlett Packard Labs, puts it into perspective: "We could easily squeeze a dozen sensors, along with its own fully functional computing system, into a single Altoid tin."


Since launching the partnership, researchers at Swansea have been pulling data from about 200 sensors to measure power consumption in two buildings at Swansea Universitys Bay Campus. So far, in certain scenarios, energy savings of 20 percent are possible. In other partnerships, HPE has also successfully monitored water and gas consumption with similar benefits, pointing to the partnerships potential.



In some testbeds, much of that savings came from what Shah calls "low-hanging fruit". For example, the lights were often left on in some buildings even though they were empty. But others werent as obvious. "We have also uncovered more complex things like optimizing mechanical equipment to ensure air conditioning systems are run most efficiently", Shah says.


Prof. Amit Mehta, principal investigator of the project at the College of Engineering at Swansea, cited another example from the Swansea testbed: "In one of the buildings, during July and August, there was a fire alarm failure that turned the entire floors lighting on. This problem persisted for at least a month until the fire alarm was fixed and was picked up with our algorithms."


Huge amounts of data


The sensor readings at Swansea are collected every 30 minutes and the team employed a fundamental data analytics-based approach. Overall, between HPE and Swansea, the technology has been tested to work at more than 20 trillion sensor readings. For projects involving large volumes of data, the team has relied on HPEs Haven data management and analytics platform to collect data, store meter readings and identify anomalies.

Best practices


While the work between Swansea University and HPE is still in progress, Shah had some advice for other cities looking to take on similar work.


  1. Start small. "Rome wasn't built in a day and its unlikely that smart Rome will be built overnight", Shah says. By taking on easy fixes like turning the lights off, you can identify and iron out issues that become a much bigger problem on a larger scale.
  2. Plan for scale. While identifying these smaller solutions, its also crucial to think big. Too often, weve seen someone use technology that doesnt scale up so that initial investment goes down the drain, Shah says. Make sure that early technology choices will support expansion - even if its more costly upfront, the rewards will be worth it down the road.
  3. Have a clear objective. Theres a temptation to look at a smart city program as a sort of research project, deploying sensors everywhere in hopes of finding one bit of data that will revolutionize everything. However, Shah advises that a smart city project should have specific goals, such as saving water, saving energy or monitoring air quality. All of these are doable, Shah says, but tackling these one at a time - while keeping in mind that the end-state will probably require all of the above will make things more manageable.
  4. Engage early and broadly. Often, the challenges people face in smart city programs arent technological but cultural or political, thanks to the wide range of stakeholders in urban development. "Privacy, security and legal considerations all need to be thought through up front", Shah says. "For these issues, theres no cookie-cutter solution; every city and community will be unique". To be successful, smart city programs need to involve these key groups to make strategic decisions early on.


Taking the macro view, the Swansea program is small, but it has the potential to be replicated in cities across the world. As we figure out what it takes to make cities smarter, were creating the potential to make billions of peoples lives better in the long run.

HPE helps transform governments to be more efficient, agile and resilient, helping them improve quality of life, drive economic growth and create sustainable communities that are ready for an ever-changing future.


HPE CEO Meg Whitman: Heres to a More Connected Future

Blog Post