New wave of urban infrastructure technology, making inroads in Israel, will go on display at the water and wastewater management conference next month in Tel Aviv.
By Zafrir Rinat | Sep. 27, 2013

The Binyamina-Givat Ada local council plans a project in the coming year to save electricity – part of a growing trend in Israel and abroad to create “smart cities” that utilize resources more economically.

The local council, in cooperation with the Israel Electric Corporation, will install advanced electricity meters in residents’ homes that will connect them to a grid designed to provide feedback to reduce waste.

Over the past few months the Energy and Water Resources Ministry, under the direction of the ministry’s chief scientist, Dr. Shlomo Wald, has been putting the finishing touches on a new smart cities administration to assist cities in incorporating advanced technology to streamline resource use.

Some of the technology that will be used in the smart cities will go on display at the water and wastewater management conference, Watec Israel 2013, next month in Tel Aviv.

The need for smart cities stems from a global dearth of energy, water and land resources, exacerbated by infrastructure that cannot take advantage of advanced environmental and information technologies and therefore cannot address water leaks and wasted electricity.

The main concept of the smart city is to incorporate new information technologies in urban infrastructure. “Our administration will mainly focus on the possibilities of conveying information in newly constructed areas,” Wald says. “That will allow them to plan ahead – for example, underground communications lines can also be used in a smart electricity network,” he said.

Most smart city projects worldwide are moving ahead in the realms of energy and water. Installations to pump water and purify waste are major energy guzzlers and the most advanced component of the program is supplying electricity by means of a “smart grid.”

The smart grid makes it possible for consumers and producers of electricity to receive detailed information about the supply and manage it more efficiently, using means such as meters of the sort to be installed in buildings in Binyamina-Givat Ada. The meters will provide detailed data about how much electricity is being used and how much other consumers are using, while the electric corporation will receive more comprehensive information to manage the system better.

The Jerusalem experience

Over the past year in Jerusalem the water supply system has been monitored by means of a system developed by the Israeli company TaKaDu.

“Water companies in Israel and elsewhere can collect information on data such as water flow and quality, but they don’t know how to put this information to work to repair malfunctions or efficiently operate elements like pumps,” said Amir Peleg, one of the owners of TaKaDu and a founder of an international forum of smart water networks. The TaKaDu system is already in use in London, Bilbao and Melbourne.

A number of cities in Israel have already installed water meters that do not require manual reading, but rather transmit information in real time. Water companies in other cities are expected to replace pipes in the coming years, at which time they can install sensors and transmitters to provide essential information on the workings of the system.

In Sweden, 5.2 million smart electricity meters have been installed, and in Finland about 1 million meters have been installed, at a cost of nearly 1 billion euros. The meters are meant to provide information that will allow consumers to operate appliances more efficiently. In Mannheim, Germany, chosen as a model city in Europe because of its smart electricity grid, a pilot project is underway to operate home appliances more efficiently using feedback from the smart meter to save electricity.

In Israel, the gaps are still large between the vision and implementation, as the experience in Jerusalem has shown. The city’s water company, Gihon, is using advanced information systems, but much of East Jerusalem is not connected to the sewage system, and raw sewage is being channeled directly to the Kidron Valley, wasting a valuable resource and polluting the unique Judean Desert region.