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Corpus Christi, Texas: A Smarter City By The Bay

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The City of Corpus Christi, Texas, is situated right at three hours down the interstate from me here in Austin and has a rich and diverse history, serving as a strategic trading post during the Mexican-American War and today as the home of the Corpus Christi Naval Station.

It has also delivered several noteworthy Texas thespians, including Eva Longoria and America’s once poster sweetheart, Farrah Fawcett.

But today, Corpus Christi took a bold step forward in another manner, signing on with IBM as one of our Smarter City customers so that it can continuously improve efficiency and sustainability for the city’s more than 280,000 residents.

The Backdrop: The Texas City By The Bay

Before partnering with IBM in this deal, each city department had its own process for handling incoming work requests and ongoing maintenance, typically in a reactive manner and using paper-based processes.

Because there was no central system for tracking issues, budgeting and managing city resources was difficult. In this new system, the city of Corpus Christi will be using IBM Software to measure, monitor, and improve the way it manages city water, roads, parks, utilities, and the airport.

With this greater intelligence and holistic view of its operations, the city will be able to more quickly evaluate and respond to issues, anticipate and prevent problems.  It will also be able to improve the quality of life for its citizens because city departments and managers will know what is happening across the city, when, and who is handling the situation in real time.

“Corpus Christi is evolving into a more sustainable city — one that has intelligence, foresight and accountability built into the way we manage the services we provide our citizens,” said Steve Klepper, an administrative superintendent for Corpus Christi. “Working with IBM, we have the real-time status of city services, automated work orders and an overview of city infrastructure to better manage our resources, as well as better maintain the city’s mission-critical assets.”

Tourism And Education: Key To Corpus Christi’s Growth

As one of Texas’s largest cities on the Gulf of Mexico, Corpus Christi relies significantly on port industries, tourism and higher education to drive its economy. The city strives to improve the quality of life for citizens while keeping operating costs low and maintaining high levels of service.

“Corpus Christi is setting the bar for how municipalities can use technology to gain intelligence into their departments and systems to operate more efficiently and provide residents with a better place to live,” said Guru Banavar, IBM CTO for Smarter Cities. “Working with IBM, Corpus Christi city managers are operating smarter and managing their work and crews better.”

The city manages and analyzes the status of tens of thousands of physical assets such as its water mains, traffic lights, bridges, park lawns, fire hydrants, garbage trucks and storm water ditches with IBM Maximo Asset Management software.

Many City Services–One Call Center

A critical component of the Corpus Christi service strategy is the city-wide “One Call Center.”

Using IBM software, the call center can speed responses to issues more efficiently and better optimize city resources. For the fiscal year of 2009, the call center generated more than 45,000 electronic work-order requests from across the city.

When residents call with complaints or service requests, the city creates a work order connected to the address. IBM software provides the city with a bird’s-eye view of existing maintenance requests using mapping software from IBM Business Partner Esri.

This allows the call center manager to see all existing problems — coded in color by urgency — and determine scenarios such as entire service area being affected or the existing location of assigned field workers in order to make management decisions.

Previously, citizen calls were routed to the appropriate department and recorded on index cards before being entered into a spreadsheet. Given the manual nature of this process, staff could not accurately track how long it took to respond to and fix problems.

The staff had no way to view the work history for each site, making it difficult to identify recurring problems. Although the city had already established a geographic information system (GIS), work orders were not interfaced with this system. As a result, departments couldn’t spatially analyze work requests to determine whether a customer request represented a site-specific problem or an area-wide issue that would require more extensive support.

Smarter Water Management

As a coastal town, more than two-thirds of the city’s 460 square miles is water. IBM software is helping to manage six wastewater treatment plants, two reservoirs, approximately 1,250 miles of wastewater gravity mains and a water treatment plant with a 170 million gallon capacity. The system ensures safe, clean water to the community while conserving city resources by providing faster and more efficient maintenance.

Urgent requests for critical water work orders that can impact residents, such as pipe main breaks or water quality problems, are now received as e-mails on the smartphones of designated Water Department first responders. Field crews get real-time work order updates and directly update the work order status on their phones without having to go through a dispatcher. This increases the time crews can work in the field maintaining the city’s assets rather than in the office submitting paperwork.

A city worker in Corpus Christi, Texas, uses IBM Maximo software on his BlackBerry as he goes about his water maintenance work in the field.

The software provides analysis into overall water and wastewater projects to guide water main replacement and capital improvement strategies in order to continuously improve the reliability of the water systems. For example:

  • During one period in the past, the wastewater staff found that nearly 33 percent of the department’s effort was spent resolving problems at just 1.4 percent of customer sites. With this information, the city developed and implemented a repair plan that resolved these ongoing issues and ultimately reduced costs.
  • Analyzing data behind the city’s 3,843 water main breaks during a three-year period revealed that smaller diameter mains represented a disproportionate share. The four-inch mains comprised 3 percent of the total water distribution system but more than 15 percent of all breaks. While the department continues to analyze factors such as pipe materials and age, replacing the four-inch mains with larger diameter pipes may be a cost-effective tactic.

Smarter Utilities and Roads, Greener Parks

IBM software is helping better manage the transportation — traffic engineering, roads, vehicles, traffic lights, airport — and parks to improve the quality of life for Corpus Christi citizens.

Working with IBM, all city departments address their work more efficiently and more intelligently by providing real-time information, history of prior work, and geographic location. The Solid Waste Department, for example, uses IBM software to keep track of the garbage routes as well as to track customer complaints on garbage.

Using laptops connected to the city’s WiFi system, public utility gas crews in the field can access the exact pipe locations before digging, get a history of repairs in area and update work orders from the field.

Park Maintenance crews track all work performed, or needed, on each of the 300 city parks, ensuring that park lawns are mowed according to target frequencies and maintained according to standards, and that public playground facilities are inspected and maintained as needed to provide safe recreational areas.

The city-operated airport uses the system to ensure the customer-facing facilities are maintained according to standards and for better inventory control. With more than 1,100 miles of public roads to maintain, the Streets Services Department tracks work performed on streets, including labor and materials costs. Traffic Engineering is able to track locations of citizen complaints and work needed to traffic signals.

Aided with this intelligence, the city can better schedule proactive replacement or maintenance of assets before they break as part of its managed work schedule. This planning allows the city to properly allocate staff and resources in line with urgent or unforeseen circumstances.

IBM Smarter Cities

IBM has been helping cities across the U.S. and the globe become smarter by designing strategies for collecting, sharing, analyzing and acting on data. In addition to the projects in Corpus Christi, IBM is working with 300 cities including London, Stockholm, Sydney, Dublin and Amsterdam.

For more information visit the IBM Smarter Cities website.

Written by turbotodd

December 12, 2010 at 5:33 pm

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