Niagara Falls, ON has eye on $50M 'smart city' prize

Mar 7, 2018

In a tourist city like Niagara Falls, ON, a full garbage can is unsightly and perhaps something that will be mentioned when a tourist is back home. Mayor Jim Diodati doesn't want that, especially along the busy Victoria Avenue tourist corridor. The city has a high-tech answer for the challenge and senses it can help earn $50 million for other smart innovations.

Garbage cans in the city don't overflow because before that can happen, the garbage phones home. That prompts a city worker to come out and empty the can, then reset the sensor that monitors trash level.

"At 99 percent full it looks fine, but once it's 100 percent it's overflowing," says Diodati. "So it's that last percent and we can't have people going around constantly looking to see if we're there. So this way, we've got little bit of monitoring, a little bit of 'smart city' initiative, that the sensors will tell us the garbage is nearing full or it is full, and we'll get out there and empty it before we have a messy problem of garbage blowing around the downtown."

The city's sewers also have sensors to measure water flow, so workers know when a pipe might start to back up and have to be pumped - all saving worker time.

A clogged sewer line can be a messy problem.
Credit Niagara falls, ON

"It's difficult to know when the sewers are going to be full and when basements might backup," Diodati says, "and now, rather than having a guy pop the lid on the manhole and put his head down there and have a look during a rainy season or a rainstorm, now we've got sensors that will notify us and tell us we're at this level, we're at that level, and then we know when to bring in the auxiliary pumps, then we know when we need to do some sort of remedial action."

The mayor says these are some of the elements in the city's application for federal cash, with Ottawa offering a top prize of $50 million in the Smart Cities Challenge.
"It's a neat way to incentivize great ideas," he says. "So, yeah, there's the way it's always been done and then you need an incentive to do things better. Edison had a great quote, that necessity is the mother of invention, and sometimes it's necessity or an incentive of $50 million that you'll create a better mousetrap."

Diodati says there is a lot of interest in his community in high-tech city government. Another change he wants to make is better traffic control at intersections so cars don't have to stop at red lights when there's no traffic.

Canadians can share their ideas about other innovations by taking an online survey.