It’s All About Measurement: An Interview with Sensus’ Randolph Wheatley

When asked about the true essence of smart cities, one might point to a gadget or an innovation so technically intelligent that it must be smart… right? A solar panel, a robot, or a streetlight sensor might be new; but unless we can derive valuable information about how to live better, they aren’t smart.

Enter measurement.

To gather data and determine improvement, we must begin with measurement. That’s why we’re interested in Sensus and why we think you will be, too.  A Xylem brand, Sensus has been around for over 100 years with roots in metrology – or metering – of water, gas, and electricity. Over time, they helped usher in an era of control and became known for bringing innovation to the industry. Now, as cities become smarter and want more access to measureable data, we turn to companies with experience. I spoke to Randolph Wheatley, Vice President of Communications Solutions Marketing, to learn how a century old company has taken a leadership role in the new industrial revolution.

“Smart infrastructure informs the basis of everything else. Often, the interesting smart IoT applications get the most attention, but before you can get to those things, you need intelligent infrastructure. It provides basic needs of citizens,” Wheatley said.  “When you look at where a city invests money – in roads, in pipes that carry water, in the electrical distribution network – all of that underlying infrastructure is a huge capital investment asset with ongoing operational costs.  By optimizing the use of those assets, it frees up money for innovative value-add items for the citizens.”

In one particular case, Xylem’s strong history with water metering and Sensus’ FlexNet communication network combined to create an innovative way for Lakeland, Florida to improve flood prevention. “In their particular case, we leveraged the network and a product called smart gateway to monitor water levels in lakes to determine if they were in a situation that could lead to flooding,” Wheatley said. “Prior, this would require manpower to physically drive out and take measurements. Now, Lakeland can do everything wirelessly and set alarm thresholds in case an emergency situation was to occur.”

Sensus capability, being broad, fundamental to infrastructure, and time honored, can help cities find solutions to almost any challenge. Sometimes cities approach them, and sometimes it’s other way around. For the recent Smart City Challenge grant, Sensus offered in-kind goods to cities that submitted proposals for how they would use smart technologies to address issues in their respective communities. All cities who applied, gave Sensus insights into their challenges. They also learn a lot from current clients.

“The solutions we have are extremely scalable. We find that our customers have a variety of needs and, while there is some commonality, there are needs that are more important for some customers than others. In some areas, water may be scarce and they need to save water so we would help enable conservation programs. It could be an area with aging infrastructure and we would help inform asset renovation. It could be a client with needs around water theft,” said Wheatley. “It’s a matter of engaging with clients that are really open to sharing with us some of the challenges they have so we can help craft solutions to address them. It’s hard to serve a customer if they don’t engage you in a spirit of partnership, so the best customers to work with are those who are quite open allow us to create the optimum solution for them.”

Learn more about partnering with Sensus or the host of solutions they offer at Smart Cities Connect Conference and Expo in March 2018.