Transforming Detroit into a Smarter City

Detroit is at a tipping point. The city’s outmigration has led to city planning and funding challenges, forcing Detroit and its residents to reinvent the city. The challenges Detroit faces also offer an opportunity and a platform for discussion about alternative urban futures that are relevant for all cities. As Detroit explores ways to rebuild a “smarter” city and embed technology into city services, Meeting of the Minds 2014 will convene Sept. 30 to Oct. 2 to share ideas for building smarter cities. In conjunction with Meeting of the Minds, Itron and DTE Energy, one of the nation’s largest diversified energy companies, unveiled a smart cities demonstration project that highlights the important role smart technologies will play in cities of the future.

The smart cities project supports bridging silos of smart technologies – such as sensors, distributed intelligence and communications – by integrating technology and analytics to create cohesive engagement between citizens, businesses and the community. Visitors to the project will learn about the important role that citizens play in creating environments that are more interactive, empowering, efficient, livable and workable. Smart city components of the demonstration project include mobile applications, an educational kiosk, aerial vehicles, electric vehicle charging station, intelligent streetlights, leak detection technology and analytics.

  • DTE Insight – DTE Insight is an interactive phone app for customers with advanced meters, allowing them to manage their energy usage and receive details on when, where and how energy is being used.
  • Itron City App – The Itron City app allows citizens to report city issues when they spot them, such as graffiti, crime, street lights, plugged storm drains, outages, water leaks, pot holes, abandoned cars and more. This enables cities to be more efficient and save money by deputizing citizens to easily report issues.
  • Itron Insights App – Itron collaborated with Microsoft, as a part of its CityNext initiative, to design and deliver Itron Insights, an energy and water analyzer application. The application, based on Windows 8, provides cities with a clear view into energy costs, water revenue and expenses and CO2 impacts.
  • Educational Kiosk – The educational kiosk allows employees and visitors to learn about smart cities and why they are important. With the kiosk’s interactive tools, users can test their smart city knowledge and build their own smart city using elements, such as streetlights, EV charging stations, leak sensors and more.
  • Unmanned Aerial Vehicles – Commonly referred to as “drones” or “remotely piloted aircrafts,” unmanned aerial vehicles have the ability to visually inspect city- or utility-owned assets, such as downed power lines, solar panels or fires and relay a video feed to control centers on the ground.
  • Smart Electric Vehicle Charging Station – The Itron/ClipperCreek electric vehicle (EV) charging station, which combines a revenue-grade meter and WiFi technology, allows drivers to obtain charging data from their smartphones, including estimated cost of full charge, time to full charge, estimate range at current charge and estimated time of full charge.
  • Intelligent Streetlights – Intelligent streetlights provide smart cities with the ability to remotely monitor, control and measure the performance of fixtures wirelessly, while maximizing energy and operational cost savings. Using a sensing approach to monitor equipment cycling and control behavior enhances system safety, environmental sustainability and service levels.
  • Leak Detection – Globally, an average of more than 30 percent of water pumped through distribution systems is lost to leaks and theft. Leak detection technology provides valuable insights into the health of underground infrastructure and can have an immediate impact on conservation programs, revenue and profitability projections, and overall operational efficiency.
  • Big Data Analytics – Big data is instrumental to the success of smart cities, whether applying transportation management, balancing the energy and water nexus, lighting controls, building efficiencies, leak detection, revenue protection, safety measures or other applications. Sensors, smart meters, communications and analytic software render near real-time data to provide unprecedented insights and intuition into the operations and human interactions of smart cities.


The way cities and citizen manage energy and water will shape this century. This requires more creative thinking and collaboration than ever before. Itron and DTE Energy’s smart cities demonstration project will showcase how smart solutions can help cities become more efficient and give citizens the information to engage with their own resource use to make more sustainable choices. By accessing information and data collected from various devices and sensors across a multitude of infrastructures, smart cities are able to manage their systems more efficiently and intelligently. Detroit is an important test-bed for these integrated, smart systems. Itron’s work with DTE, their joint demonstration project and the Meeting of the Minds gathering in Detroit are critical steps in rebuilding a smart city.

About the Authors :

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Bob SitkauskasBob Sitkauskas is the general manager of AMI in the Major Enterprise Project organization at DTE Energy. He has more than 36 years of experience at DTE Energy and has worked in various departments, including information systems, supply chain, distribution operations and customer service. Bob is responsible for the business case design and implementation of the AMI system for DTE Energy.

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Russ VanosRuss Vanos is a utility industry visionary who played a major role in driving early smart grid technology adoption in North America. He is now guiding Itron’s corporate growth initiatives, specifically those focused on smart grid and smart cities. Russ joined Itron in 1980 and has held various positions with the company. Russ sits on the boards of the Washington State University Energy Innovation Center and the Rypien Foundation; is a member of Edison Electric Institute (EEI) and the Cisco Internet of Things Steering Committee; is a founding member of the Smart Cities Council; and is involved in the World Economic Forum.

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