Corpus Christi upgrades water, transportation, waste systems with data

In a bid for sustainability, officials in Corpus Christi, Texas have brought in IBM to make the city's water, transportation and waste systems more efficient.
Written by Andrew Nusca, Contributor

They may not notice at first, but the 280,000 residents of Corpus Christi just got a major upgrade.

City officials in the Texas town announced on Monday that they have hired IBM to help them achieve their quest for sustainability.

The plan: install a digital communications infrastructure that allows the municipality to get a real-time look at what's going on in the sparkling city by the sea.

It's hardly IBM's first go at a project like this, having recently signed a deal with Dubuque, Iowa and Chesapeake, Virginia. (It also recently pledged $50 million in services for 100 "smart cities.")

Judging by the announcement, Corpus Christi officials are letting Big Blue look at virtually every system and service in town. Areas of focus include water and utilities, parks and recreation, waste and wastewater and internal administration.

Take the back-office blues for instance:

Before working with IBM, each city department had its own process for handling incoming work requests and ongoing maintenance, typically operating on a reactive basis, using paper and logbooks to track issues. Because there wasn't a central systems of tracking existing issues, budgeting and managing city resources was sometimes difficult. IBM software helps Corpus Christi city departments and managers know what is happening across the city, when it is happening and who is handling it across the city in real time.

IBM plans to implement a similar solution for the public, in the form of a speed boost for its city-wide "One Call Center," which handles complaints and service requests.

Before the deal, the city was recording calls on index cards (!) and manually entering them into a departmental spreadsheet. (As you might suspect, each department had its own system.)

Now, the city can create a work order linked to an address from its utility billing system, then prioritize them based on urgency and deploy help accordingly.

IBM has also been contracted to manage maintenance of the city's six wastewater treatment plants, two reservoirs, roughly 1,250 miles of wastewater gravity mains and water treatment plant with a 170 million gallon capacity. Improvements include real-time work order updates in the field via smartphones and basic insights.

To wit:

In one instance, wastewater staff found that nearly 33 percent of the departments effort was spent resolving problems at just 1.4 percent of customer sites.

The same intelligence comes to solid waste; now, the city can track its garbage routes and customer complaints about them. And the city can maintain its 300 city parks and 1,100 miles of roads on a regular cycle, newly able to track work performed over time and complaints about specific locations.

IIt's fixes like this that help a smaller city transition to a larger one, allowing officials to be proactive in running the city, rather than reactive.

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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