City Turns to the Cloud to Control, Monitor its Collection System

South Bend, IN, has become one of the first cities in the world to manage its water systems in the cloud, through use of IBM's Intelligent Operations Center (IOC) for Smarter Cities software-as-a-service (SaaS).

South Bend, IN, has become one of the first cities in the world to manage its water systems in the cloud, through use of IBM's Intelligent Operations Center (IOC) for Smarter Cities software-as-a-service (SaaS).

South Bend is the fourth largest city in Indiana with more than 500,000 residents. The University of Notre Dame is helping the city with research and early development of a system which helps proactively manage combined sewer monitoring and control. Like many municipalities, South Bend is faced with an aging sewer infrastructure and challenged with protecting its citizens and the environment.

The IBM IOC for Smarter Cities service, in concert with locally based business partner Emnet, a Notre Dame research program spinoff, has improved South Bend's ability to predict the potential overflow of wastewater, helping reduce wet weather overflows by 23 percent and virtually eliminating dry weather wastewater overflows from 27 down to one in its first year of operation. The new system also allowed South Bend to improve storage and water conveyance performance while avoiding $120 million in infrastructure investments and helping the city avoid more than $600,000 in potential government fines.

By hosting the service on the SmartCloud, IBM is removing the up-front cost and complexity for South Bend which saves on IT infrastructure costs. This model allows cities to pay for software-as-a-service out of their operational budgets, enabling faster procurement than if they were required to fund new IT infrastructure from capital budgets.

South Bend also plans to extend its new capabilities beyond the Public Works Department to support other city services and to promote cross-department integration and communications, including mobile device access to key data.

"Anticipating and preventing incidents before they happen is key. Viewing all our aggregated data in real-time via the IBM SmartCloud will help us predict where incidents can occur and safeguard our citizens," said Gary Gilot, Member, Board of Public Works, City of South Bend. "We have had huge measurable benefits and with IBM's continuing partnership with the city, Notre Dame and local entrepreneurs like Emnet, we will produce more."

As an additional benefit of the new system, South Bend is now able to better predict and respond to basement backups in low-lying areas. Using its new residential basement "heat map", the city directs utility cleaning crews to areas where they are most likely to be needed. Through its new monitoring capabilities, the city has also been able to reduce the flow of water through its wastewater plants by 10 mgd by keeping river water out of the system.

Notre Dame Research

South Bend's wastewater management project began when engineers and scientists at Notre Dame designed an embedded sensor network with distributed logic on battery powered, credit-card-sized computers. Graduate students in Notre Dame's research program formed Emnet, the start-up company that commercially developed the physical sensor network, CSONet.

When South Bend began using the cloud-based service, Notre Dame was granted access to the IOC software free of charge through the IBM Academic Initiative for teaching and research purposes.

Training commenced as a joint effort so that city, IBM and university staff and students could collaborate on additional applications that could benefit South Bend and other cities. For example, this private/public/academic think tank could mine data for cross-departmental intelligence and leading indicators for resource reallocation to reduce crime, detect traffic issues, improve transit, increase collaboration with schools and more.

With the cloud-based system, utilities and multiple government agencies have access to the information on a map with simple color coding. Using this dashboard, they can share information and make smarter decisions.

Creating New Skills

Digitizing and managing smarter municipal services will require a highly trained workforce. South Bend Public Works and IBM are working with Notre Dame to build a curriculum based on the Smarter Cities concept. The goal is to produce future city leaders with superior technology expertise.

"We hope to educate a new generation of professionals that blends technology with business, engineering and city management expertise to transform and integrate business and government practice as the world becomes more interconnected and instrumented," said Robert Bernhard, Vice President of Research at Notre Dame.

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