Bellevue works to design smart city dashboard to monitor data

The city of Bellevue is working to design a “dashboard” to help monitor and analyze city vitals from one sprawling platform, improving the way a city runs and interacts with its citizens.

Bellevue earned a $75,000 grant through the White House Smart Cities program, and has teamed up with CH2M engineering and Kansas City, Missouri to innovate and come up with a blueprint which will allow cities to collect and monitor data from multiple departments within the city.

Chelo Picardal, Bellevue’s chief technology officer, said what her staff and partnering agencies are doing could change how cities operate.

“Smart Cities is driven by where cities are changing,” she said. “We are looking at how mature we are in terms of smartness in looking at this data.”

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) launched the “Global City Teams Challenge” during the White House Smart Cities Week. In that challenge, certain cities were tasked with forming “superclusters” with other cities and organizations to tackle projects which would be too big for any one of the entities.

Picardal said that Bellevue is hoping to tie in advanced water metering technology to the Dashboard project. The metering technology had been on the Utilities and city council agendas for months and it could fit in with the project’s goal, she said.

“If we are reacting to water leaks, for example, we might be able to see an uptick in water usage that isn’t normal and predict a pipe issue,” Picardal said. “The advanced water meters are specific systems which could do this.”

Collecting enough data so problems can be pinpointed before they occur is one of the dashboard’s distant end goals.

Picardal said the biggest challenge her team sees going forward is exactly what they want to accomplish with the dashboard.

“Now that we’ve started on the path of identifying where we are going to start, there are so many opportunities to look at,” she said. “Our wish list is longer than our resource list. We don’t want to pursue one and then it doesn’t pan out.”

Andrew Lee, deputy director of the Utilities department, has been instrumental in collaborating with the technology department in getting the first facet of the dashboard going.

CH2M had multiple departments working with the city.

“We are honored to partner with NIST, our City of Bellevue client and other cities in creating efficient, accessible communities that will provide long-term benefits for citizens and other stakeholders for Bellevue and potentially other cities around the world,” said Joseph Danko, global managing director for CH2M’s Urban Environments &Sports group and leader of the company’s Great City Solutions program.

While Picardal admits a real blueprint for other cities is years away, the project has so many facets, it will be built upon a little at a time. Her department, with guidance from city council, identified six areas the project will focus on: water, transportation, energy, buildings, public safety and connectivity.

Ken Thompson, CH2M’s deputy director of Intelligent Water Solutions, said that by bringing these components together, it could save money and be more efficient.

“Often cities install smart lighting, parking, water and other systems in a vacuum that are costly to integrate together later on,” he said. “Together, we’re creating a citywide platform with a vision for the future that breaks down silos, improves efficiencies, and provides substantial benefits for residents.”

With integrated technology like staff hopes the dashboard can become, new challenges arise. Security will have to be bolstered to protect privacy of residents and staff.

“Technology is not easy,” Picardal said.

Bellevue received a Replicable Smart City Technologies grant from the National Institute of Standards and Technology. These grants enable cities and communities to work together on innovative smart city solutions. Other cities working on other programs include Portland, Ore., Atlanta, Columbus, Ohio and Newport News, Va.

“Based on the city’s strong Smart City program and goal to develop an integrated and interoperable framework to meet community goals, Bellevue received one of four Replicable Smart City Technologies grants from NIST that enables 11 cities and communities to work together on innovative smart city solutions,” read a release from the city. “NIST is providing strong leadership at the federal level by working across different agencies to enhance national support for smart cities and creating an international coalition to develop an Internet of Things-Enabled Smart City Framework. By studying real-world smart city applications and architectures, this coalition will identify pivotal points of interoperability where emerging alignment on standards can enable diverse, yet interoperable smart city solutions.”

Picardal said she was honored to be working with a team and city that has been acknowledged for its forward-thinking mindset.

“I represent a team of preofessionals that are very dedicated toward this,” she said. “We are proud and honored to be working on this.”