Tucson was one of 100 cities around the world chosen by IBM to participate in its Smarter Cities Challenge (SCC). Under this program, IBM provides the services of a team of its experts to work with staff on technology challenges facing cities. A team of national IBM executives spent three weeks (Feb. 25-Mar. 15) in Tucson providing City leaders and Tucson Water staff with their expertise and experience as part of IBM's Smarter Cities Challenge Grant.
The challenge posed to the IBM SCC Team by City staff was to develop a set of recommendations to:
- Improve customer service
- Capture failures, water usage and leaks in real time
- Continue to conserve and save water
- Reduce cost of energy to deliver water
- Apply best practices such as data driven management across other City departments
Following an intensive three weeks of interviews, tours, meetings, and analysis, the SCC Team presented their recommendations:
- Provide real-time data to Customer Service Representatives (CSR) and customers. This is intended to empower customers and provide CSRs with a single view of customer information.
- Implement an Automatic Metering Infrastructure (AMI) pilot project and accelerate AMI system deployment. Including a data collection and customer portal will enable more efficient readings than automatic meter reading alone.
- Lower energy costs and reduce water loss through water control optimization best practices by refreshing the Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) system with additional metering, optimization analytics, continuous water balancing strategies and data integration with other IT systems.
- Develop an IT master plan to enable data-driven management. This will support the previous three recommendations and ensure the systems work together. The plan can then be extended to the rest of the City of Tucson.
The major benefit to Tucson Water of participating in the SCC was that it provided an external, objective, and strategic evaluation of planned technology improvements, identified linkages between these capital projects, and helped staff identify a wide range of potential applications of “big data” for improved customer service and management information.