Like many municipalities, the city of Carlsbad has deployed connected water meters to reduce costs of sending crews out to read meters manually.
But these smart meters provide something perhaps more valuable than operational savings. They generate digital data on water use.
The Carlsbad Municipal Water District began running analytics software on that data to spot spikes and anomalies in consumption. For a time, a staffer would call residents to let them know their usage had surged.
The result was 16 million gallons of water saved in just six months, said David Graham, Carlsbad’s chief innovation officer, at Qualcomm’s Smart Cities Accelerate 2019 conference this week.
“That doesn’t exactly drive revenue for the city. We get more revenue the more water people use,” said Graham. “But it drives a better customer experience, and ultimately in California we want to reduce water usage across the board.”
The benefits and challenges of smart cities technologies were the focus of Qualcomm’s Smart Cities event, where more than 550 people, including representatives from 400 companies that make smart cities technologies, attended at the company’s Sorrento Mesa campus.
For Qualcomm, smart cities technology is part of its strategy to bring the wireless connectivity not only to smartphones but also to many other things including roads, energy and water grids and smart streetlights.
Faster, more flexible 5G networks, which have begun rolling out globally, have been tailored to eventually connect as many as one million devices per square kilometer — paving the way for a vast expansion of connected sensors, cameras and infrastructure.
For cities, connecting and analyzing data from connected street lights, water meters, energy grids and environmental sensors has the potential to improve safety, ease traffic jams and preserve scarce resources.
“At an intersection, which is really one of the most dangerous parts of driving, you can actually manage it with a combination of cars communicating with cars, cars communicating with the infrastructure and the infrastructure, with video, having the ability to understand exactly what is going on,” said Jim Thompson, chief technology officer of Qualcomm.