How Rugged Tablets and the IoT Can Affect the Future of Utilities in Smart Cities

5-Ways-Rugged-Tablets-Benefit-City-Planners

As cities and communities shift closer and closer to an IoT enabled reality, utilities are one of the main sector poised to streamline their functions and become the most technologically advanced backbone available. Millions of metering and sensing endpoints are ready and waiting to be accessed by project managers, IT specialists, and operations and analytics personnel.

Rugged tablets connected to the IoT can deliver long-term investment protection for city planning initiatives, positioning utilities for success and profitability whether they are introducing new plans for an emerging area, expanding networks for growing city centers, or updating old and aging infrastructure to meet new compliance standards.

Surveying

GNSS enabled tablets can use data collated from maps and blueprints to accurately define the parameters and locations of previously set lines, cables, and pipes. This data can be used to help plan expansions or complete replacements without causing issues due to cut lines or planned routes for new utility related builds.

Inspections

There are not enough inspection professionals in place in most cities to do more than a cursory check years apart on the thousands upon thousands of utility lines. Rugged tablets can help digitize and collaborate information, allowing inspectors to get more value out of their time and increase their productivity and efficiency.

Repairs

Utility workers in the field work faster, better, smarter, and safer when they have reliable, technologically advanced tools at their disposal. Rugged tablets are portable, lightweight, and able to be carried one handed or in a shoulder harness as well as mounted in a vehicle or on a utility crane or lift. Repairs can be completed swiftly even in adverse conditions like a weather event or widespread outage.

Monitoring

Monitoring and managing the real-time and near real-time data from smart meters and IoT sensors now being added to utility communications can be simplified with rugged tablets. Data capture, transfer, and storage is streamlined with data flow prioritized to systems and personnel required to utilize the information.

Smart cities require a public sector equipped with the tools, software, and devices they need to analyze and improve the design and operation of city and county services. The answer is an adaptive, obsolescence-resistant computing platform facilitated by purpose built hardware and software. Together, they can launch the utility industry into a bright new future powered by rugged tablets and the IoT.

 

Smart Cities, Smart Devices – How Rugged Tablets are Updating Communities

Smart CitiesAs cities and communities expand, and require constant updating to remain viable, there is an ever present need for technology and innovation to keep pace. As cities get smarter, the public sector requires tools, software, and devices that can analyze and improve the design and operation of city and county services. Rugged tablets provide an adaptive, obsolescence-resistant computing platform which can be combined with additional software and hardware to create solutions to the challenges provided by city expansion.

Purpose built tablets provide long-term investment protection for city planning initiatives, with a low CAPEX and a high ROI. Whether city offices are faced with expanding utility networks or bringing existing buildings up to meet new compliance standards, rugged tablets can provide ways to assist on and off the field.

Utilities for smart cities can be updated, their performance followed, and bottlenecks or weaknesses swiftly identified using rugged tablets and appropriate software to track where the water or electrical lines are. Tablets are helping to find the water and electrical lines even in cases when original plans were lost, and updates are desperately required.

Building updates on structures affected by new ADA compliance can be developed and planned using tablets and scanning software to help determine flow and best positioning for ramps and walkways intended for mobility assistance. New buildings can be built with an eye to complete compliance from the beginning, and plans checked for efficiency using modeling software that anticipates the flow and speed of foot traffic.

For time sensitive projects, the full functionality of equipped rugged tablets for city planners can allow work to be done in the field without interruption; the full office processing and research power can be loaded onto tablets thanks to high processing speeds and connectivity, as opposed to a lower processing speed tablet that can gather data but must be taken back to an office setting and hooked up to transfer data and the main work performed on a desktop or laptop hooked into the mainframe.

Instead, teams can access everything that exists on the main processor from the field. While a data collector could formerly only collect the data, then once back in office have to upload it and do all the work, on a fully equipped and configured mobile rugged tablet, all data can be cross referenced with additional data from the headquarters, with a real time connection to city, county and state networks.

Since the tablet contains all of the programs that are required, and all files are accessible, significant work can be accomplished in the field and delays can be cut to a minimum. In harsh environments, rugged tablets maintain full functionality in the field, including when mapping in wetlands where moisture and mud can be a challenge. A rugged tablet dropped in the mud continues to function.

In addition to rugged tablets accessing headquarter data from the field, the office PCs can also reach out with remote access to tablets doing data collection in real time, this allows for full collaboration during project planning and execution phases and delivers real results with little or no downtime. City planners can work in tandem with project managers, construction and architectural teams, and inspection officers to complete projects on time and in budget.

 

Smart Tablets for Smart Cities: Introducing Edge Computing

Introducing-Edge-ComputingBy 2050, it is estimated that 70% of city dwellers will live in smart cities. Already many cities qualify as at least having begun this process by introducing one or more integrative options such as smart traffic lights, buildings, transport or waste collection to their city’s infrastructure.

The most important thing when handing over the keys of the city to automated and digitized processes is that there not be a breakdown. Most smart traffic lights and buildings operate via the cloud, meaning if the cloud connection and any backups fail all ‘smart’ things in the city could stop working. This could have devastating effects in transportation, waste management, and more.

City planners can combat the problems of cloud-hosted smart city technology with edge computing and mobile tablet tech. Instead of depending on cloud hosting via a fallible network connection – which even with multiple “failsafes” can still be made vulnerable – intelligence can be shifted to ‘the edge’: a set of smaller clouds that collaborate locally and can be accessed with mobile devices as needed.

Such a setup helps minimize the risk of an entire smart grid going down, and allow workers access anywhere, at any time, to insular systems that have the intelligence embedded in the technology instead of separated from it by virtual space and time.

If smart city applications have a user interface and a ‘layer of logic’ on a tablet, the device can be used to communicate with microservices whether they are stored in the cloud, on the edge, or in a combination of both places. Edge computing and the cloud backing each other up provides a layer of protection that brings intelligence closer in an emergency instead of taking it further away.

Smart Cities

An example of smart technology that uses edge computing would be city vehicles that are being tracked by a fleet management application. Smart tires can send data to the management app, delivering data on tread wear, air pressure, vehicle speed and handling, and more. Instead of sending data directly to the fleet management application, data is initially gathered through the edge – a small computer on board each vehicle, that wirelessly obtains data from the tire sensors and delivers it.

If the fleet application goes down, or the truck drives through a tunnel or a dead zone and the connection is interrupted, the on-board computer or telematics box can still continue gathering and saving data, and be remotely accessed or tapped into later by a worker with a rugged tablet.

API testing, human-centric testing, and code-centric testing can be combined with network simulation to enable multiple scenarios for troubleshooting and analysis purposes. IoT enabled test automation and a shift from the cloud to edge computing powered by mobile devices could be the future of smart cities in 2020 and beyond.