First year of CityNext pays significant dividends

Fri, 2014-08-22 06:00 -- Kevin Ebi

CityNext, the smart cities initiative from Council Lead Partner Microsoft, just celebrated its first anniversary and the company is using the occasion to highlight some of its key results so far.

The initiative brings together partners, solutions, devices and services into an integrated platform designed to bring city services and departments together and allow the roll out of smart city capabilities easier and at lower cost.

Saving valuable resources

One CityNext showcase is the work done to transform one of the oldest skyscrapers in Seattle, Wash., into one of the city’s greenest buildings. The 21-story Washington Athletic Club was constructed in three distinct phases from 1930 through the 1970s, so its climate systems weren’t cohesive or efficient.

Microsoft worked with its partner ICONICS to replace all of the legacy climate systems in the building with a responsive, energy efficient system. The system monitors building usage and automatically regulates itself based on needs.

First-year energy savings reached $200,000. That represents a 25% savings, and provided an efficiency boost that was 10% better than the target.

Microsoft also worked with ICONICS to improve the efficiency of water utilities in Scotland. All the systems – water collection, processing and distribution – are now linked, allowing for real-time monitoring and control and reducing incident response times. System managers can even use weather forecasts to make adjustments as necessary.

Improving healthcare and social services

Health and social services are another area where costs are climbing dramatically, and the CityNext initiative aims to help governments improve healthcare while containing or lowering expenses.

One example is Welfare Denmark, which used a variety of technologies to improve access to healthcare, especially for its growing aging population, a group for which traveling to a dedicated medical facility can be difficult. It created Virtual Rehabilitation, which lets patients do physical therapy at home.

The program combines Kinect for Windows, a motion sensor that’s perhaps better known from active video games, with Microsoft Lync, which provides video conferencing services. This combination helps ensure that patients are doing the rehabilitation activities correctly while allowing them to speak directly to a specialist. The result is that patients are recovering faster and more fully, while reducing rehabilitation costs.

Enhancing public safety

Public safety is also a top concern for cities everywhere. Microsoft joined with Motorola to help New Orleans overhaul its emergency dispatch system.

Police, fire, and emergency medical services are all combined in the central system, which provides first responders with a history of incidents at any given location and automatically routes their reports to the appropriate places. Responders can see the latest incident information on wireless tablets or on laptop computers mounted in police cars.