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According to City Digital, it successfully deployed a new solution that combines sensors and cloud-based analytics to evaluate the performance of sustainable stormwater management techniques. Using data collected from green infrastructure sites in Chicago, the platform helps to reduce urban flooding and prevent millions of dollars in property damage, the organization said.

The need for better stormwater management is clear: Flooding in the Chicagoland area due to excess stormwater over a five-year period resulted in more than 181,000 claims of property damage with a total estimated cost of $773 million, according to the Center for Neighborhood Technology. Nationally, total flood insurance claims average more than $1.9 billion per year, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

“The solution for green infrastructure monitoring, co-developed with partners through City Digital, highlights the impact that technology can have on major problems such as flooding that impact the residents of our cities. Working collaboratively drives the development of more robust solutions to these types of intractable problems,” said Brenna Berman, chief information officer for the City of Chicago.

City Digital, a UI LABS collaboration, and its partners installed sensors at three green infrastructure sites in Chicago to collect stormwater runoff data.

City Digital, a UI LABS collaboration, and its partners have installed sensors at three green infrastructure sites to collect water runoff data. The ability to securely collect, publish, and interpret the data is enabled by combining technology and expertise from Senformatics, a startup that grew out of the University of Illinois; Opti, a provider of continuous monitoring and adaptive control of stormwater infrastructure; and data and cloud capabilities within the Microsoft Azure platform. By generating quantifiable data, the technology enables a performance-based management approach and better informed capital planning for infrastructure investments, such as the $50 million the City of Chicago has allocated for green stormwater management.

“This is a great example of how cloud platforms can enable collection and analysis of decentralized data sources to drive new insights,” said Annmarie Levins, general manager for Technology & Civic Engagement at Microsoft. “Innovative approaches like this system will empower engineers, researchers, and policy-makers to dissect the water and environmental issues facing cities and assess and implement creative solutions.”

By establishing a cost-effective way to monitor green infrastructure locally and across multiple locations, Chicago and other cities can leverage the management of these techniques alongside existing stormwater collection systems. The solution deployed by City Digital offers the first accurate way to measure the effectiveness of green infrastructure, such as rain gardens and permeable pavement, to manage water runoff at a citywide scale.

“Flooding is local, but its causes are system wide. Through targeted deployment of green infrastructure across the larger system, cities can help address the flooding happening now and remain resilient in the face of future changes to climate and weather patterns,” said David Leopold, director of program management for City Digital.

Work on the Smart Green Infrastructure Monitoring (SGIM) pilot began in August 2016. Using Chicago as a testbed, City Digital and its partners are monitoring water collection at the UI LABS Innovation Center on Goose Island, the Argyle Shared Street in the Uptown neighborhood, and Langley Avenue in the Roseland neighborhood. In the coming months, the team plans to install sensors at two new Chicago locations, analyze historical and live-streamed data, and provide site-specific design recommendations. The performance data will be made public through the City of Chicago’s open data portal in 2017.

The SGIM pilot’s technology and processes were developed by a broad set of partners in the UI LABS model of bringing together diverse groups from industry and government to address common challenges. The pilot’s partners include three City of Chicago departments — the Department of Innovation and Technology, the Department of Transportation, and the Department of Water Management — along with Microsoft, Opti, Senformatics, and AECOM. Additional thought leadership and pilot support was provided by West Monroe Partners and Glasswater Technology.


Information provided by City Digital, a UI LABS collaboration (www.citydigital.org).

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