Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Ma'alot - A Smart City

Our city of "Ma'alot-Tarshiha is a beautiful joint Jewish and Arab community of 27,000 people in northern Israel, located in the Western Galilee, about 600 meters (1,969 feet) above sea level. What is special about us is that our Municipality has become energy independent by the introduction of energy efficiency measures that have created economic benefits to the city budget.

In an article published online in the Jerusalem Post in 2013, the Municipality of Ma’alot announced to the world that it was instigating a new project, called “Going into the Light,” administered by the Israeli start-up Juganu Systems.
Juganu Systems won a grant from the chief scientist of Israel to install its innovative energy saving JLED luminaries and wireless management control system throughout the city's buildings and streets. In total, over 13,000 new and retrofit luminaries were installed replacing all of the old street lights. 

The implementation of this initial step has placed Ma’alot firmly on the national as well as international map as a future “Smart City”. We have not only reduced our “Carbon Footprint "but we have induced other towns and villages in our area to join us.

Today, Ma’alot is the first Israeli city to have entirely switched to LEDs. Now Ma'alot enjoys brighter lighting while saving about US$90,000 each year in electricity operating costs, as well by saving capital improvement and maintenance costs on all lighting elements.

According to independent testing performed by the IEC (Israel Electrical Corporation), "Ma’alot reduced energy consumption by 75% while delivering even more light throughout the city’s streets and buildings." 

At the time of the instigation of the program it was also announced that some of the money saved via the LED lighting program would be invested into a research team that would be used to analyze city wide data and recommend additional programs to implement and integrate to increase energy efficiency, learn how to better manage waste and to improve the infrastructure and water programs under the auspices of the Park Koren Industrial Management in Ma'alot. These steps are being done to complete the change for a better and “Smarter” Ma’alot as a energy independent city.

Through the success of our “Going into the Light Project” we have led the way for other municipalities to follow our example and install similar energy saving LED light programs. Two nearby communities have consulted with us and used our expertise to refitted their street lights thereby reducing the “Carbon Footprint” overall in our area. Our success and experience in our money saving LED program is gaining not only National recognition but recognition from other cities.

Economical and Energy Independent

In our research, we have seen on the Internet how other cities throughout the world like Ma’alot have gained economical and energy savings through leasing underutilized public spaces for photo-voltaic (PV) Solar Roof systems to produce renewable source of electricity.

In Ma’alot several Municipal buildings, mainly the city's schools and our Community Center, pictured on the left, have been leased to solar companies for solar collection.
Through the installation of the solar energy collection roofs, the municipality has realized economical and energy savings gained from leasing the underutilized public spaces for community solar farms.

We have recently instigated a program to lease underutilized parking areas to Solar Energy companies. This will benefit the community, by not just producing clean energy by harnessing the power of the sun, but the Municipality will gain income derived from the rent.
Additionally, by installing solar canopies over parking areas it will also contribute to the welfare of the residents. The installation of solar collection units over parking areas will provide shaded areas from the sun and protection from inclement winter weather for the residents and their vehicles.
Parking in a covered facility contributes substantially to increased vehicle fuel efficiency, because it saves; having to cool cars in the summer and heating cars in the winter during inclement weather. All of this will energy saving will mark Ma’alot as a “Smart City” and as a major contributor to the reduction of the “Carbon Footprint”.  

We have also taken strides in further reducing our “Carbon Footprint” and increase economic savings and energy reduction to the Municipality by instigating a “cogeneration program” for the reduction in city bio-mass in our waste management.
With a cogeneration furnace, the municipality can improve the efficiency in waste reduction, reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, promote economic growth, and maintain a robust energy infrastructure.
With CHP- Combined heat and power system we can reduce the cost of:
  •          the Municipality's waste disposal: transportation and landfill fees.
  •          the extensive fleet of vehicles: Maintenance and fuel
  •          "turnaround" in waste disposal by eliminating bio waste on the premises,
  •          Reduce CO2 emissions,
  •          the environmental impact of waste on the municipality and the surrounding area.
By using a CHP /Cogeneration system we can produce electricity and heated water –which can be converted to heat in buildings, as well as syngas for further energy needs.

So why should Ma’alot take further steps to become a Smart city?

The term “Smart City” in of itself has become one of the biggest buzzwords around right now as more and more city leaders begin to realize the tremendous advantages in accepting the new technological advantages. A "Smart City" process is dynamic as cities exchange information and learn from one another.We should continue our stride into becoming a smart city because urban challenges are growing steadily and are more complex. 

We can see from worldwide statistics that the world is rapidly urbanizing and Cities face considerable challenges. However, we in Ma’alot-Tarshiha have shown that we can meet these challenges successfully and succeed.

Existing services, infrastructures and amenities are under pressure, due to their age, or simply as a result of growing demand. The existing infrastructures on which cities are so heavily dependent are overburdened.
Our knowledge and experience in Smart City technologies will help us to become more economically efficient as well as much more energy efficient.

As we have seen in several cities throughout the world: Barcelona in Spain, Delft in Holland, Winnipeg, Canada Boston, Massachusetts and Vienna Austria among many others. The definition of what a “Smart City” means is different for every city, depending on that specific city’s priorities and goals. These cities have embraced technological changes and programs to improve the city’s functions which in turn have improved the lives of the residents who actively participate in their city’s development.

It is said that the transforming into a smart city is a marathon, not a sprint. Without a well-structured strategic plan, you can’t prioritize nor make informed decisions nor can you track milestones or measure success.

The Smart City concept has brought the physical as well as the digital together. We have seen how Israel has become a “Start Up” nation as it is becoming more digitized daily.
Israeli accelerators are full of ‘Smart’ solutions which are being devised and developed in - healthcare, water management, energy supply and transport, for example. More and more of these Israeli designed technologies (apps) are becoming part of everyday life, and increasingly we live in an (IOT) Internet of Things network society, where (almost) everything is connected to (almost) everyone.

Clean and Efficient living

A smart city is all about efficiency and maximizing the quality of life, of and for its citizens, by utilizing the most appropriate resources to drive progress. Cities need to be prepared for future developments and city councils can achieve this by sharing civic responsibility with residents, companies and others through IOT apps that allow for the ready exchange of data, ideas as well as provide economical solutions for a brighter future.

Central to the theme of building a smart city is to improve the quality of life by using technology to improve the efficiency of services and meet residents’ needs. We can achieve this by integrating multiple Information and Communication Technology (ICT) solutions derived from the previously accumulated municipal data which will need to be analyzed for programming purposes.

ICT as in the City of Boston "CityScore" will allow city officials and departmental heads to interact in real time directly with their workforce and to manage city assets better. Through a ICT platform they will be able to monitor what is happening in the city, the city infrastructure and how to enable a better quality of life.

These new “SMART City” applications rely on a modern networking infrastructure platform that enables continuous connections with new classes of intelligent devices for improved decision making. Through the use of sensors integrated with real-time monitoring systems, data is collected from citizens and objects - then processed and analyzed. The information and knowledge gathered are keys to tackling inefficiency.

 Citizen Participation

Smart city "wannabees" need to create a Vision with Citizen Engagement activity like; kitchen table discussions at private homes, online discussion forums and workshops at community centers to communicate and engage citizens in a dialog about city projects.
In other Smart Cities, we have seen how Information and Communication Technology (ICT) is used to enhance quality, performance and interactivity of urban services, to reduce costs and resource consumption and to improve contact between citizens and government.

Through the ICT program municipal manpower and vehicles can be diverted in real time to those places were their work is needed thereby saving money

A smart city integrates multiple Information and Communication Technology (ICT) solutions in a secure fashion to manage a city’s assets. The management is achieved through the assessment and compilation of previously accumulated data from a city’s assets. This includes all of its corresponding local departments that manage the main branches of municipal services in the fields of:
  •         Waste Management Sanitation Department (both sewer and refuse),
  •         Water Department,
  •         City Streets Maintenance, Education Department -the public library, schools,
  •         Health Department - food and restaurant inspection,
  •         Emergency Services - fire department, police, ambulance,
  •         Transportation
  •          Information systems and other community services.

Smart city phone applications are developed with the goal of improving the management of the daily routine of urban necessities while allowing for real time responses to challenges. They also use the resource and involvement of the constituents in making the community better.
A smart city therefore is more prepared to respond to challenges than one with a simple ' transactional ' relationship with its citizens.  Cities need to substantially increase the efficiency in which they operate and use their resources. This can be achieved by the use of the "Smart Media" and its multiple platforms for involvement.
By exposing the archived city information through a policy of "open data" for; citizens, developers and businesses, cities can unleash innovation and efficiency as well as new entrepreneurial opportunities.

Since it isn’t cost-efficient or practical to do everything at once, it has been shown that cities should start with those greatest pain points for citizens, which is also a good way of getting their support and participation in finding the solution. Therefore, it is imperative for municipalities must search for what their constituents need, then implement new technologies to do it.
Surveys have consistently shown that the value of smart cities is how they impact citizens. This is why many cities are crowd-sourcing and floating ideas trough social media to learn on how to prioritize smart city strategy.


Our goal is to implement "Smart City" solutions, with the objective of speeding up the transition to a low carbon, resource-efficient resilient city.

There are other detriments besides our geographical position and the impact of climate change for the Municipality of Ma’alot to overcome. Regretfully as we have experienced in the past our area is prone to adversity and to strife. These effects could cause an untenable situation that would force us to shift to an essentially sustainable form of urban development. For us it is not just a matter of environmental survival but survival as a whole.