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Cloud computing is becoming a critical component of resource management for smart cities. The cloud provides the compute power needed to collect and analyze the massive amounts of data generated by a smart city. In particular, water and energy management systems benefit from migrating systems to the cloud, because the cloud provides reliability and accessibility. In this article, you’ll learn how cloud computing is making water management systems smarter. 

What Is Cloud Computing? 

Cloud computing is the availability of computer resources, such as storage, networking, and compute over the Internet. These services are offered by cloud vendors as on-demand or fully-managed resources. Most cloud services are accessed via a web browser. 

Cloud services are commonly divided into the following categories:

  • Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS)—provides infrastructure on-demand. Companies pay for the server space they need to build hardware or software. Examples of IaaS include Netflix’s use of Amazon Web Services (AWS) database. 
  • Platform as a Service (PaaS)—provides developers with a framework to create their custom applications. Examples of PaaS are Google App Engine and OpenShift. 
  • Software as a Service (SaaS)—provides on-demand cloud-based software. SaaS is scalable and easy to use, particularly for global companies. An example of SaaS is Dropbox. 

The cloud provides scalability, with the ability to add more devices and machines with ease. 

Other benefits of the cloud include:

  • Cost-effective—using cloud infrastructure, organizations don’t need to invest in purchasing and maintaining hardware when operations grow. Moreover, it reduces the cost of IT talent, since the organization doesn’t need to invest in operating and maintaining an on-prem data center.  
  • Data security—cloud vendors offer advanced security features to ensure the security of their cloud environment. There are still security aspects such as access control and authentication the user needs to cover. 
  • Accessibility—cloud computing enables access through network devices such as smartphones and laptops. This makes it easier for users to access the water company services, as well as for technicians to access the network for maintenance.
  • Disaster recovery—the cloud ensures minimal downtime, providing a level of protection from data loss. In the event of malfunction or an attack, the data stored in the cloud can be quickly recovered. However, since the cloud operates under a shared responsibility model, users need to take care of their side of security. This means implementing disaster recovery best practices and tools. 

Benefits of Cloud Computing for Smart Cities

A city is considered smart when it leverages Information and Communications Technologies (ICT) to improve the operations of city services. Smart cities focus on improving the welfare of their citizens, sharing information and increasing economic growth.

The development of a city’s digital infrastructure produces massive amounts of data for public and private organizations. The cloud provides a safe environment for the collection and analysis of this data, helping cities process and use it. 

Other advantages of cloud computing in smart cities include:

  • Data management—a smart city requires processing, analysis, and management of the massive flow of data. Cloud computing supports the fast delivery and consumption of data. 
  • Sustainability—smart cities are responsible for the management of resources, such as water and energy. Migrating city applications and utility management services to the cloud not only improves operations but also the utilization of the collected data. 

Migrating Water Management Systems to the Cloud

Smart water management presents several challenges. Water flow and requirements vary according to season and usage. The cloud’s scalability enables water management systems to quickly adapt resources to demand. 

Cloud computing also enables more careful management of resources than on-premises Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) controllers. Cloud-based water management systems can share analytics of massive datasets across different stations, thus improving water management. 

The accessibility of the cloud enables water companies to monitor and optimize the system from anywhere. A cloud-based infrastructure can also control access to sensitive data and critical systems. 

Cloud computing enables water companies to easily track and control pipelines. Cloud-based analytics enable water companies to detect leaks faster and improve water conservation. In addition, cloud vendors can help water companies achieve compliance. Utility operators can also use the cloud to understand water usage patterns, and prevent or remediate issues quickly. 

Considerations before migrating to the cloud

Migrating a utility system to the cloud presents several challenges derived from the distributed nature of the system. There are a number of factors to take into account before migrating such a system to the cloud:

  • Assess the infrastructure—organizations should understand the challenges and select the type of migration strategy that best fits their needs. For instance, Blazeclan, a water purification company, discovered that their application required memory-intensive instances for working smoothly. 
  • Establish a cloud migration plan—once you assess the infrastructure, you should use that information to build a solid cloud migration plan. The plan should detail the migration process step-by-step, including timelines and fallback plans. 
  • Choose the right type of infrastructure—you need to determine the minimum amount of cloud resources needed to start with. As you find you need more resources, you can take advantage of the scalability of the cloud to grow at scale. 
  • Migrate in phases—it is recommended to select a small critical part of the water management application and test the migration first. Automating the deployment of the infrastructure on the cloud can enable you to migrate in standardized phases. 

IoT for Water Management

Cloud computing provides the environment required to leverage Internet of Things (IoT) capabilities for water management.

The main benefits of including IoT devices in water management include:

  • Increased operational efficiency—by leveraging IoT devices, such as sensors and actuators, water companies can monitor and improve water management infrastructure. 
  • Cost-efficiency—utility operators can reduce water management costs via improved utilization and efficient operations. 
  • Asset utilization—the improved tracking of resources using IoT sensors gives you visibility into your supply and resources. This visibility enables you to easily locate malfunctions or run maintenance operations in critical systems. 
  • Increase in productivity—IoT sensors allow real-time control and optimization of processes. 

Wrap Up

With more cities leveraging technology to improve their services, smart resource management is becoming more common. If deployed carefully, cloud-based management can enable cities to more precisely manage services, better meeting the needs of their citizens. Cloud-connected systems can help cities analyze data in real-time, helping officials respond quickly when issues occur.

Hopefully, this article helped you understand how cloud computing and smart water management come together. As technology improves and cities connect to the cloud, smart water management can be leveraged to the benefit of cities and citizens alike.

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