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How municipalities of all sizes can use IoT technology to preserve existing infrastructure

A city street is flooded from a burst water main. This is a visual example of the kind of problem, arising from aging municipal infrastructure, where Smart City IoT solutions can help

Cities are facing unprecedented challenges as they cope with the effects of urbanization, climate change, and aging infrastructure. According to the Canadian Infrastructure Report Card, more than 35% of Canada's municipal infrastructure is in fair, poor, or very poor condition, increasing the risk of service disruption and failure.1 Ontario’s Financial Accountability Office paints a starker picture, with 45% of the province's infrastructure needing repairs to the tune of over $50 billion.2

Fortunately, there are ways for cities to extend the life of their existing infrastructure, to reduce repair costs and make the best possible use their already-tight budgets.  

Internet of Things (IoT) technology can help cities monitor the condition and performance of their infrastructure – such as roads, bridges, water pipes, sewers, streetlights, and buildings – and provide timely insights and alerts that allow for proactive and preventive maintenance. Often, this means fixing a small failure before it becomes a significant downstream problem. 

Here are just four areas where IoT infrastructure improvements can provide tangible benefits and return on investment: 

  • Predicting the need and location of repairs before they become a big problem. IoT can help detect leaks in water pipes before they cause damage or waste, and operators can make repairs early – and at a convenient time. This can reduce water and operational costs, while minimizing service and traffic interruptions. 
  • Improving safety and carbon footprint. Smart street lighting, for example, can remotely adjust brightness based on weather conditions and time of day. This can reduce energy consumption, maintenance costs, and light pollution – all while enhancing visibility and safety. 
  • Improving city services by enhancing efficiency and quality. A smart garbage bin program uses container sensors to measure fill level and automatically schedule pick-ups as needed. This can optimize collection routes and reduce fuel costs without compromising on cleanliness of streets.  
  • Mitigating the impact of natural events. Water capacity management uses field sensors, water system modelling and predictive analytics to forecast flooding events – improving emergency response capabilities, reducing potential for property damage and protecting residents and wildlife. 

For a real-world example of how sensor technology is helping municipalities, read this article on the leak detection solution implemented by Medicine Hat. By attaching detection nodes to fire hydrants throughout the city, officials have been able to detect leaks before they become a problem. Click here for more information on the work Bell is doing to help municipalities preserve and monitor their infrastructure. 

1. Canadian Infrastructure Report Card: Monitoring the State of Canada's Core Public Infrastructure.
2. Financial Accountability Office of Ontario: A Review of Ontario's Municipal Infrastructure and an Assessment of the State of Repair. (