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City of Utrecht fully committed to remote asset monitoring

ICT Group develops Central Operating System as basis for remote monitoring and control of assets

A city has a lot of installations. Many cities are looking for ways to manage and control these assets intelligently, in order to reduce energy consumption and increase uptime. The city of Utrecht is using the Central Operating System for sewer installations, developed by ICT Group, as a blueprint for the remote control of lighting, market boxes, shore power boxes and other ‘assets with a plug’ in order to realize the smart city ambitions.

Rijk van Ravenswaaij is an information manager in the Installations team of the management of public spaces section, where mainly electrical installations in the outdoor area are managed. His job is to provide administrators and other stakeholders with all the information they need. “Installations are all assets that ‘have a plug on them’,” he explains. “Like other municipalities, we are also looking at how we can make our city more sustainable. Reducing the power consumption of these installations is an important part of that.”

“Not only does the technology work perfectly, we are also very satisfied with how the implementation process went and with the way ICT Group cooperates.”

Rijk van Ravenswaaij, Information manager at City of Utrecht

Central control of sewage installations

Even before this vision for smart city Utrecht was developed, a project was already underway to bring the 950 sewage installations under one Central Operating System. In 2016 ICT Group won the tender to further develop the Central Operating System and connect all previously decentrally controlled sewage installations to it. Thereafter, ICT Group became responsible for the management and maintenance of the system.

“The Central Operating System has now been running for a number of years to complete satisfaction,” says Van Ravenswaaij. “Not only does the technology work perfectly, we are also very satisfied with how the implementation process went and with the way ICT Group cooperates. It is a proactive company; not everything has to come from us. If they see an opportunity for improvement, they will suggest it. In addition, they work well with our other cooperation partners. We don’t have to get in the middle of that. In doing so, they save us a lot of time.”

Remote monitoring of public lighting

This good cooperative relationship gave rise to the idea, together with ICT Group, to develop a Proof of Concept for public lighting based on the blueprint of the Central Operating System. Van Ravenswaaij explains: “The city of Utrecht has 60,000 lighting columns. We would like to have more insight into the status of these light points so that we can plan maintenance and management in a more targeted way. We also want to know what the power consumption is. In time, we would like to control the lighting dynamically: brighter lights early in the evening and less bright lights in the middle of the night, for example. Because the Municipality of Utrecht is accelerating the rollout of LED lighting, now is the perfect opportunity to combine sustainability with making the lighting smarter. It’s not that far yet, but we want to be ready for this step.”

Open system

There are several turnkey systems available in the market. This is a choice that the municipality of Utrecht deliberately does not make. “We don’t want a vendor lock-in where we become dependent on one supplier. We consciously choose an open system that can work with all brands”, says Van Ravenswaaij. In addition, the municipality of Utrecht would like a system that not only runs centrally in a data center, but also ‘at the edge’ in the power cabinets.

“Utrecht has a unique situation because all the power cables and the power cabinets also belong to the municipality and not to a network operator. We make the choice to run part of the software on the PLCs in the power cabinets. This actually gives us a lot more options in how we want to control the lighting.”

Modular system for all installations

The development of the Proof of Concept is in full progress. This ‘test system’ will eventually serve as an example for the tender. Van Ravenswaaij: “As a municipality we are obliged to tender on a European scale. Because of the contract we already have with ICT Group, we were able to set up this Proof of Concept without tendering. That’s good, because it gives us a very quick idea of whether it will work as we envisage it.”

In doing so, he explicitly looks beyond just the lighting. “In time, we want to incorporate all the systems into the Central Operating System. That should be a modular system for reading and controlling ‘everything with a plug’ remotely. In ICT Group, we have found a partner who thinks along with us about how we can realize this vision.

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