Smart Cities: Strategic Focus on Real-time Infrastructure Control Systems

Executive summary Complex legacy city infrastructures present an obstacle for cities struggling to provide better service to their citizens. Government spending patterns demonstrate a tendency to focus on IT while operational technology is overlooked. This paper examines the importance of a strategic approach to real-time platforms and flexible operational teams. This helps reduce costs, optimize investments, mitigate emerging staffing crises, and enables a more resilient, efficient city

Smart Cities: Strategic Focus on Real-time Infrastructure Control Systems
  • Client

    Schneider Electric

  • Services

    Industrial electronics solution

  • Technologies


  • Dates




For most growing cities, service continuity and citizen safety are two ongoing challenges. Although city managers may passionately want to improve the quality of life of their citizens, a city is only as good as its underlying physical infrastructure (i.e. power and water systems, safety systems, traffic management, etc). Citizen expectations are satisfied when responsive and highly available city services are accessible to them in an easily consumable format. Achieving such a level of responsiveness requires operational real-time control over the city and its systems. Crafting this type of solution would incorporate the city’s physical assets, the service workforce, the changing landscape of the environment, and the movement and behavior of citizens. To achieve real time actionable decisions, visibility of the city situation in the NOW is required. This visibility must be coupled with the ability to enable the workforce to act upon systems in order to control fluid situations. The value of the physical infrastructure relies on real-time control in order to maximize payback from the initial capital investments. A real-time control system is a computer system combined with instrumentation (sensors) that operators rely on to keep services running. Real-time control systems feed data to dashboards and to enterprise resource planning, asset management, and reporting systems in order to enable better and faster operational decisions. Traditional city government spending patterns demonstrate that attention is often paid to ITcentric actions while operational technology (OT, the core physical infrastructure technology) is overlooked. In fact, both IT and OT need to integrate in order for city-wide strategies to spread benefit across multiple departments. Most cities already own many control systems that are dedicated to specific tasks (like power monitoring, traffic control, and water purification). For example, a city may have multiple water treatment plants performing similar function. However those separate plants often deploy systems from different vendors that do not communicate to each other. A city may also own a portfolio of buildings each with its own proprietary building management system. These on-premise systems often lack sufficient networking capabilities, making it impossible to access them remotely, and to consolidate important data. Thanks to advancements in technology, these legacy systems now represent a potential source of advantage for cities capable of analyzing and relating data from these individual “silos” of systems. A real-time platform is what enables the systems operators within city infrastructure departments to gather that important data and convert it into information that helps to avoid crisis situations that disrupt services. As cities work towards achieving a higher degree of operational excellence, there is no “one size fits all” formula. The transition must be managed as a journey, not a project. A real-time control platform serves as a framework for enabling advanced operations. A number of issues have been identified that need to be addressed in order to facilitate improvement of city services.