Tag Archive for snowplows

Mississauga Brings Winter Smarts to APWA

City of Mississauga plows
Images courtesy of City of Mississauga

Today marks the first day of spring and, with winter storms still ravaging the continent, most North Americans want to put winter firmly behind them. But for some, winter endures in relatively balmy Charlotte, North Carolina, host city to this year’s American Public Works Association (APWA) Snow Show. On April 7, more than 1,500 “snowfighters” will descend on Charlotte for four days of networking, technical tours, and educational programs. For those attending, one highlight not to miss is hearing Bob Levesque’s success story from the City of Mississauga’s Works Operations department. I phoned Bob to get a sneak preview into the issues he’ll be describing in Charlotte.

Risk Mitigation is Foresight

City of Mississauga sidewalk plow
Bob shows me a picture of a sidewalk plow. It looks like an ordinary urban winter scene in Ontario—a plow, a parked car, a small brick fence by a neighbour’s front yard. Bob sees much more than I do. “If the plow operator isn’t careful”, Bob points out, “he or she could shred the side of the car at the curb”. Then he points out that the neighbour’s decorative brick fence is encroaching on City property and that there are other unknown hazards hidden in the snow.

There are other types of liability too. In the days before Works Operations had implemented their InterFleet GPS/AVL solution (2010), it was very difficult to prove that the department had plowed a street to standard in the event of a complaint or a law suit. “Now we have hard data,” Levesque says, underscoring a certain level of shared responsibility between the City and its residents to take care in winter conditions. “Citizens have to dress appropriately for winter conditions, and we have to provide due diligence in keeping a minimum standard for cleared roads and sidewalks.”

He cites another time when he received a call from the police department about a particularly icy hill. Bob was able to respond immediately by dispatching a salter truck to the hill, thereby preventing a car pile up. With several more examples, Bob convinced me that the best use of a GPS/AVL winter maintenance solution is foresight—knowing what’s going on in real-time allows Operations to make better and quicker decisions about situations before they escalate.

“Our goal is to catch a missed street and dispatch a plow there even before it gets back to the yard.”
­—Bob Levesque, Operations, City of Mississauga

Faster than a Speeding…Snow Plow?

Everyone wants his or her street plowed first and fast, and that puts a lot of pressure on Public Works departments. It comes as something of a surprise then that one of complaints plow operators get is speeding snow plows! Bob attributes this to an optical illusion created by a truck with its plow blade down, “It may be going only 25 mph, but it appears to be going much faster”.  He also describes that the salt controller is attached to the speedometer, so a genuinely speeding snow plow would leave an erratic trail of salt in its wake (perhaps the source of citizen complaints?). Nonetheless with GPS/AVL, the department has speeding covered too as InterFleet can provide reports showing vehicle speeds along routes.

Winter Light Up

Before next winter, Bob plans to take advantage of InterFleet’s Winter Light Up program to ensure that fleet and drivers are ready to go for next year. “Getting prepared ahead of time is going to help in the long run”, says Levesque. Aside from the usual readiness preparations needed after a long hot summer—plows ready, drivers retrained, contractors engaged, and so on—there are sometimes unexpected surprises. “Last year we had a plow reporting in from somewhere in Europe”, Bob says adding that older vehicles are sometimes sold at auctions over the summer months and this one had apparently gone overseas with its Locator still installed. I’m just thinking, “now that, I want to see on a map—with breadcrumbs”.

Come Down to Charlotte for the Snow

City of Mississauga - Bob LevesqueIf you’re attending the APWA Snow Show in Charlotte, make sure you catch Bob Levesque’s presentation, Reducing Liability and Improving Winter Operations Using a GPS/AVL Solution.

Business Intelligence from Intelligent Communities

Business Intelligence from Intelligent Communities

You need to have some forbearance for municipalities that raced to keep up with demand for web-based communication systems suitable to desktop computers only to watch their constituents abandon fixed computers in favor of mobile devices, particularly smartphones. While the trend toward increased mobile device usage by constituents is only speeding up, the core theme (beyond the flip flops in technology) continues to be toward citizen-driven real-time communications.

“Intelligence is the ability to adapt to change.”
—Stephen Hawking

Municipalities are now embracing new technologies (such as smartphone apps) not just to keep up with their constituents, but as a means to making their services readily available and scalable to people’s diverse needs. For example, municipalities must respond to a pro-active population that takes for granted the ability to see details about snow plow route completion, traffic congestion, parking restrictions and emergency situation alerts. Constituents want to live in intelligent communities. But what makes a community intelligent?

Citizen-Centered Services

Martin Duggan, vice president of market strategy at IBM, recently described in The Atlantic how public-sector departments must depart from the old service-delivery models and become more collaborative with their constituents. He stresses that “Today there is a shift toward citizen-centered services…” which in effect is saying communication has left push mode (government) and entered pull mode (citizen) as never before.

In Drawing Intelligence from Data, I described how business owners are becoming overwhelmed with the amount of data that’s now being collected—93% of CEOs believe they are losing opportunities from a lack of tools to handle this data. While constituents demand information at ever-increasing rates—and in real-time—organizations and businesses must make sense of it all.

One of our customers, Ville de Québec, sought to make sense of it all by tying the data it gathered from its snow plows using Webtech Wireless’ InterFleet solution to how it communicated with its constituents. It had large amounts of information it could use to inform constituents via an interactive web map and provide real-time locations of the city’s snow plows. For this, and other intelligent initiatives, Ville de Québec was nominated as an intelligent community.

What’s next for communities with data on their hands? Could past seasons of weather data be layered to forecast upcoming budgets for salt requirements on city roads? What are municipalities doing to become intelligent communities with business intelligence?

Winter Fleets—Let’s Celebrate!

This winter, thousands of locals and visitors alike will don their skates and glide effortlessly along the Rideau Canal Skateway, a highlight of winter in Ottawa and the world’s longest skating rink. At 7.8 kilometres long, the Rideau Canal is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, but it’s best known as a winter wonderland as it wends its way from the steps of Canada’s majestic parliament buildings through the heart of downtown Ottawa and finally winds up at Dows Lake skating rink.

Unlike many cities, Ottawa comes to life in the winter when the frozen canal becomes the focus of winter festivities such as its Christmas Lights across Canada, featuring over 300,000 multi-coloured lights, and its popular Winterlude, held in February, make Ottawa a winter destination. For most city Public Works departments, winter is the time to prevent streets from becoming the world’s longest skating rink. But Ottawa’s got that handled too.

In 2009, The City of Ottawa implemented the Webtech Wireless InterFleet winter operations solution for government fleets, because it supports an extensive array of sensor integrations (road temperature sensors, spreader controllers, plow sensors) and boasts ten-second reporting and turn-by-turn navigation. With InterFleet, it gained visibility into how much salt its third-party contractors were using and with that came the ability to identify excess salt. Not surprisingly, by reducing excess salt usage, the City reduced its salt costs by 20%.

“Installing GPS technology in our salt spreader vehicles is a great way to help us reduce the amount of road salt we use, and reduce costs at the same time,” said Mayor Larry O’Brien, “By installing these systems, we will both prolong the life of City infrastructure and keep more money in the pockets of Ottawa taxpayers.”

Due to its negative impact on the environment, particularly drinking water supplies, the City of Ottawa actively encourages residents and snow removal contractors to reduce the rock salt they use. Ottawa’s Public Works Department is always looking for innovative means to reduce salt usage and it found GPS technology linked to its electronic salt spreader controllers to be one of the most effective ways to track salt usage. It actively promotes the Smart About Salt Council to increase awareness about eliminating rock salt and using resources more effectively.

Ten-second real-time reporting provides supervisors with the information they need to handle winter effectively. No matter where they are—the office, home, or vehicle—supervisors can respond immediately to events as they unfold, confident that the information they are looking at in their InterFleet solution is completely accurate and up to date.

So, when the temperature drops this winter, it’s time to celebrate!

Check the skating conditions on the Rideau Canal Skateway.

Find out more great ideas about things to see and do when you visit Ottawa and Gatineau this winter at Canada’s Capital Region!

Photos courtesy of National Capital Commission

Webtech Wireless Taking off with Airports

Webtech-Wireless-Taking-off-with-AirportsWith summer winding down and kids going back to school, most people are thinking beyond holidays. At Webtech Wireless, we’re ramping up for a busy season of fleet management trade shows and conventions, and that means we’re spending lots of time in airports getting to and from these events.

Airports tend to embrace new technologies quickly, especially when the technologies can be shown to reduce cost and improve security. Webtech Wireless has airport security perimeter ground vehicle solutions at several major airports in the United States, including John F. Kennedy, LaGuardia, Massport (Boston), and O’Hare International in Chicago. Here’s what we’re doing in Chicago.

Chicago O’Hare International Airport

The City of Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport is owned and operated by the City of Chicago’s Department of Aviation. As a Webtech Wireless customer since 2003, we provide solutions to many of the City’s 2,500 vehicles (including vehicles in its various public works departments). Our airport solution is used to transmit critical location data from designated City of Chicago vehicles every ten seconds alerting the City of runway incursions and security breaches. We also provide automated vehicle location services (AVL) for its snow removal equipment.

As it is not operationally practical to maintain two-way radio communications between every vehicles and airport operations, GPS/AVL technology helps the City track its vehicles. Also, as the speed limit within the airport security perimeter at O’Hare is 30 miles per hour, our vehicle reports help City fleet managers ensure their vehicles operate within the airport’s speed limit.

On the technical side, our AVL solution is ideal for airport operations, because it’s designed for vehicles operating in an 802.11b coverage area; that is, it uses a point-to-multipoint configuration with an omnidirectional antenna located in a coverage area around the access point.

Fly with Webtech Wireless

Webtech Wireless is flying off to several trade shows this autumn. Follow our Events page, which is updated with new events regularly.

September 5 Snow-N-Ohio Workshop Perrysburg, Ohio
September 13 2012 Iowa Snow Roadeo Des Moines, Iowa
September 16 BC Roadbuilders Association Fall Conference Kelowna, BC
September 20 Snow and Ice Symposium Milton, Ontario
September 21 Truxpo Seminar  – Abbotsford Abbotsford, BC
September 23-26 TMW TransForum Orlando, Florida
September 25-27 Association of Municipal EMS Conference (AMEMSO) Ottawa, Ontario

 

Ville de Québec Top Finalist for Intelligent Community Award

Ville de QuébecWe are thrilled to report that Ville de Québec (Quebec City) is among seven finalists for the municipally coveted 2012 Intelligent Community award.

Since 2001, Ville de Québec has been actively developing its broadband infrastructure and, in 2009 as part of its commitment to bettering itself as an intelligent community, implemented our InterFleet solution to its winter fleet operations.

Each year, the Intelligent Community Forum presents this award to intelligent communities that “have come to understand the enormous challenges of the broadband economy, and have taken conscious steps to create an economy capable of prospering in it”.  The awards program has two goals: to salute the accomplishments of communities in developing inclusive prosperity on a foundation of information and communications technology, and to gather data for ICF’s research programs.

As part of Ville de Québec’s commitment to promoting web-based solutions, the city launched an interactive Web map to provide high-quality cartographic and zoning data. Among other capabilities, the map displays real-time locations of the city’s snow plows. “Through smarter deployment of plows, the city has been able to reduce the number of vehicles and operating expenses per vehicle while providing better results.”

In 2009, Ville de Québec chose Webtech Wireless’ InterFleet solution for their snow plows and winter fleet operational information, because it offered real-time information (five-second reporting and automatic map updates), support for multiple spreader controllers, and great road salt management capabilities.

The seven finalists for the Award (in alphabetical order):

  • Austin, Texas, United States
  • Oulu, Finland
  • Quebec City, Quebec, Canada
  • Riverside, California, United States
  • Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada
  • Stratford, Ontario, Canada
  • Taichung City, Taiwan

More About Québec’s Award Nomination