Kimberley on the road to smart city technology

Wouldn’t it be fun to track snow plowing online?

Picture this.

Kimberley. Top of Townsite. A dark winter morning in say, February.

Your alarm goes off and you throw it across the room, cursing the universe.

You stumble into the kitchen for the rejuvenating elixir of the gods and open the curtains to stare outside.

And it has snowed. Oh, it has snowed. It’s going to take an extra 15 minutes just to shovel your way to your vehicle, and who knows what shape the streets are in. Has your street been plowed? And if it has, will you be able to get through the windrow?

If only there was a way to know which streets have been plowed.

But there is. This winter the city of Orillia, Ontario introduced an online app that allows residents to track when local roads are plowed.

Using coloured lines on a map of city streets, the Orillia Snowplow Tracker indicates the timeframe when roads in Orillia were last plowed. The map resets each day at midnight, erasing the coloured lines of the previous 24 hours.

The Orillia Snowplow Tracker was developed as part of Bell’s Smart City platform, which works towards providing the city with a more a centralized view of data, operations and infrastructure to enhance the city’s service to residents and collaboration across city departments.

Boston has been using similar technology for a couple of years.

Since 2014, the city has monitored up to 700 trucks using an analytic tool called SnowCOP (for Snow Common Operating Picture). Developed by the city and a consulting company, and with the help of GIS technology, SnowCOP tracks where each truck is in real time.

Every minute, GPS trackers on each truck ping its location to the central command centre at the public works office, and that information gets recorded and visualized on a map of the city’s 30,000 streets. Streets that have been visited by a snow plow appear green, while those that the trucks may have missed appear red.

It’s all part of smart city technology. A smart city is a municipality that uses information and communication technologies to increase operational efficiency, share information with the public and improve both the quality of government services and citizen welfare.

Examples would be a smart parking meter that uses an app to help drivers find available spaces. You can also pay digitally. Smart street lights dim when there aren’t cars or pedestrians on the roadway. Providing free wifi hot spots is also part of smart city technology.

I spoke to Kimberley CAO Scott Sommerville and asked about smart city technology, specifically the snow plowing app.

He says no, the city doesn’t have that app, relying instead on experienced operators and long-established routes and systems which are reviewed and incrementally approved each year.

However, Kimberley does use some smart city technology, such as technology to monitor the water supply network (FlowWorks) and to monitor the SunMine.

In the near future, the City will be using analytics to assist with prioritizing capital projects.

The new car-charging station is a start towards a smart-city infrastructure to promote electric vehicles.

The access to free wi-fi (Ki-Fi) is a smart-city initiative from a few years back, as was working with Telus to provide optic fibre-to-the-premise.

“We conducted a feasibility study on solar power for our facilities, and it was determined that the Aquatic Centre made the most sense to put solar panels on the roof,” Sommerville said. “We use traffic counters to monitor the number of vehicles that travel on certain roads. We are looking at embedding temperature sensors in certain roads to determine when they are icy.

“We utilize video-conferencing to minimize travel expenses for meetings and educational opportunities. Our new planning website offers some innovative data-sharing technology.”

In summary, Sommerville says Kimberley is on the verge of becoming a Smart-City and building the technological infrastructure to enhance services into the future.

So Kimberley is on the road to Smart-Cityness. But I want that road plowed and tracked online. I realize that the snowplow tracking is probably more suitable for much larger cities. But I want to play with that app. I want to track snowplows.

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