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Markham launches new smart city pilot project to improve infrastructure, monitor water flow and flooding

By DONOVAN VINCENTHousing ReporterWed., Feb. 6, 2019

Markham has teamed up with Bell Canada and IBM for a pilot project that will use smart city technology to monitor municipal buildings as well as detect problems such as flooding caused by storms.

Markham announced on Wednesday the launch of the Smart City Accelerator Research Program, which will utilize Bell Canada’s broadband networks and IBM’s data and analytics technology. IBM’s sensors will be placed on and around municipally owned buildings and equipment. Sensors on water mains and hydrants, for instance, will be able to provide real-time data about water system conditions.

The City of Markham says the pilot project with Bell Canada and IBM will allow the city to better keep tabs on water levels and manage flood risks.
The City of Markham says the pilot project with Bell Canada and IBM will allow the city to better keep tabs on water levels and manage flood risks.  (MIKE BARRETT / METROLAND)

Other sensors measuring temperature and humidity will provide data that will steer decisions about how best to manage city operations and facilities.

The city says it will be better able to keep tabs on water levels and manage flood risks using sensors placed on manhole covers and in rivers.

Energy use in city-owned buildings can be monitored and analyzed with sensors, with the goal of using that information to improve energy use, Markham says.

Markham is putting $200,000 into the six-month pilot, which begins May 1.

Read more:

Markham mayor says city to be a ‘living lab’ for Bell, IBM smart city research

IBM and Bell are providing equipment and expertise.

The program will use Bell’s Smart City platform, a system of advanced and interconnected applications that combines technology from Bell and a wide range of partners including IBM, BeWhere, Echologics, BlueSurge and Sensor2Cloud with Bell’s broadband fibre and wireless connectivity.

IBM’s technology will help aggregate data gathered from Bell’s various monitoring systems and combined with Markham’s open data system, will provide a “consolidated digital dashboard” from which the city’s operations will be viewed.

“We’re hoping the (smart city) data and the knowledge we gather through this pilot will lead to better management of our assets in our community,” Markham Mayor Frank Scarpitti told the Star Wednesday.

“At the end of the day we are looking to reduce costs for our taxpayers and provide better service and better fiscal management of the assets we have,” he added.

He went on to say that technology allows the city to gather and analyze large volumes of its data. The city’s IT department, operations, water works, asset management, finance department and senior managers are involved in the pilot.

This integration between IBM’s technology and Bell’s broadband networks and applications “brings the best of these two industry leaders” in delivering Markham’s smart city program, said Nathalie Le Prohon, IBM Canada’s telecommunications leader.

Increasingly, cities, including Toronto are turning to the use of embedded sensors in traffic signals, buses, garbage trucks, public buildings, etc., to gather data. Proponents say this data can be utilized to make cities run more efficiently.

Scarpitti said Markham already uses sensor-equipped textile recycling bins that provide an alert when the bin is full, and building automation systems that monitor and optimize building heating and cooling.

Donovan Vincent is a housing reporter based in Toronto. Follow him on Twitter: @donovanvincent

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