How data made Blainville's roads safer (and saved $200,000)

Thu, 2016-06-23 12:34 -- SCC Partner

Winters in North America can be challenging for some cities. The cold weather drives-up energy consumption costs and snow accumulations can bring road networks to a halt.  The 53,510 citizens of Blainville, a city located in the greater Montreal area, understood this all too well. They receive an average 85 inches of snow every winter.

Winter road maintenance is a series of complex logistical operations which impact citizens well-being, city finances, local economy and the environment. Cities can spend millions of dollars in a single day of snow removal. Public Works officials must plan, execute and coordinate activities with city representatives from Public Transportation, Public Safety and Citizen Relations departments. Dozens of vehicles, tracking systems, employees and subcontractors work collectively to plow, de-ice, and transport all of the snow. These connected vehicles produce a significant amount of data (location, speed, direction, quantity of salt used, etc.) created by different telemetry and GPS tracking systems, each with their specific protocols.

Managing this influx of disparate data from multiple sources can become quite problematic. The main challenge is breaking down in real-time the silos created by unintegrated systems and incompatible data formats while connecting to the city’s existing systems (Computer Aided Dispatch, Complaints, Communications, etc.) to get a complete overview of the operations. The key to this, is finding a common space to access, consolidate and visualize the data without compromising it or changing any of the systems in place.

Blainville chose JMap, K2 Geospatial’s map-based integration platform to help them solve this challenge. Integrating JMap, allows the city to seamlessly connect its systems, to consolidate its data sources and visualize on a map every component linked to its road maintenance operations. Public Works officials now have a more efficient way to control, adjust and supervise operations in real-time. They can track on-going snow removal progress, access subcontractor activity history, reports, and receive alarms based on geo-fences and communicate street conditions to their citizens.

Mapping out the information simplifies the coordination and increases quality control of winter road maintenance activities. This new way of representing and documenting information leads to a better understanding, reporting and analysis of on the field data. The ability to effectively track cleared streets, identify the responsible subcontractor and the exact time of completion allow officials to improve citizen service delivery while keeping a tight grip on costs. For example, officials realized that some streets were plowed after the de-icing operations had occurred. Tons of salt, spread out to de-ice the pavement, was being cleared off the roads and pushed onto citizen properties. Officials can now quickly detect and correct these situations that were generating citizen complaints, creating potentially dangerous driving conditions, wasting resources and damaging the environment. 

In the first year alone, this new data management strategy helped Blainville save $200,000 worth of de-icing salt, lowered emissions from useless vehicle movement, improved citizen services and provided safer driving conditions. Today the city applies this strategy to all its Public Works operations, from the weekly street cleaning to seasonal road maintenance activities.