Local Governments Lead on Electric Vehicle Fleets

From police vehicles to utility trucks, local governments are staying ahead of the curve when it comes to electric vehicle fleets.

Of the top four uses for electric vehicle fleets, three are utilized by local governments and municipalities, according to the experts at Fleetcarma. Local government electric vehicle fleets are helping to lead the way for a future less dependent on fossil fuels.

Besides being better for the environment, electric vehicles also offer substantial savings through reduced maintenance and fuel costs. For organizations that utilize a large amount of vehicles — such as municipal governments — the lifetime cost difference between gas-powered and electric-powered vehicles is compelling.

#1 City Sanitation Departments

While the hauling of refuse is still performed by large diesel trucks, the sanitation department in New York City has utilized an electric vehicle fleet for neighborhood inspections and other services performed by the department.

The first round of the electric vehicles were unveiled by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg in 2011, and, following up on the success, more electric vehicles were added to the fleet in 2015.

#2 Utility Fleets

Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E), one of the largest utility companies in the country, began replacing many of its utility trucks with electric vehicle fleets in 2015.

In California, PG&E’s hybrid-electric cherrypickers:

  • Operate without idling
  • Utilize solar panels on the roof
  • Return power to the grid

The company has also invested in the installation of dozens of charging stations around the country, providing additional support for the push towards more personal electric vehicles.

#3 Police Departments

While the limitations of electric cars, such as speed and battery length, prevent police departments from adopting entire electric vehicle fleets, partial fleets can be used for certain police activities, such as:

  • Community outreach
  • Detective work
  • Traffic work, such as parking violations
  • Transporting officers on duty
#4 Delivery Vehicles

Though not used by public sector organizations, delivery vehicles play a crucial role in advancing clean energy initiatives in the cities they service. From reduced emissions to quieter streets, electric and hybrid delivery vehicles can make a big difference in areas looking towards clean energy and green alternatives.

Transport vehicles account for 23 percent of global energy-related greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, so any move towards clean and efficient energy is a step in the right direction.

The United States Postal Service purchased electric vehicle fleets for its hubs, adding 125 clean electricity-powered vehicles to the road in 2015.

Duane Reade, a New York City drugstore chain owned by Walgreens, replaced 25 percent of its fleet with electric delivery vehicles to reduce emissions, with an emphasis on the noise reduction benefit. As a matter of fact, the tops of their trucks say, “Hey, relax, I’m not the one making noise down here,” for residents looking down from building windows.

Electric Vehicle Fleets Can Help Shift the Public Towards Energy Efficient Vehicles

When public sector agencies switch to electric vehicle fleets, they can help shape the way the local community views electric-powered vehicles.

One of the largest barriers for people who are considering buying an electric vehicle is the question of when and how they will charge it. One option is for the charging stations that are purchased and installed for public fleets to be available to any resident during the day, and then reserved for charging the fleet at night.

This helps remove the barrier that stops car-buyers from looking at electric and hybrid vehicles.

Read the original article on Fleetcarma’s website.

Why Smart Devices Leave Cities Vulnerable to Cybersecurity Attacks

The Internet of Things has enabled hacking by people with less technical skill in 2016. Cities need to prepare for smart devices proliferation.

In 2016, Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks increased, disrupting Internet services like Netflix and Twitter, sites around the Rio Olympics and all of Liberia’s Internet service. But what about when they knock out heating systems on two city blocks in winter? That happened in November 2016 to Lappeenranta, Finland, because someone or some group was able to use smart devices to hack into a facilities services company’s automated system that controlled the heat in that area of the Finnish city.

According to DarkReading.com, an online community for cybersecurity professionals, Akamai found that DDoS attacks over 100 Gbps in 2016 showed a 138 percent year-over-year increase. There were 19 mega-attacks just in the third quarter when the site reported on the rise of attacks in Internet of Things (IoT) botnets, which are private networks infected with and taken over by malware.

IoT botnets — like the Mirai botnet which was responsible for the October 2016 attack on DNS provider Dyn and the Liberia Internet take down, existed 20 years ago. They were however, composed of Linux home routers instead of much more common smart devices like today’s WiFi-enabled DVRs and closed-circuit cameras.

Where once sophisticated DDoS attacks required sophisticated skills, these attacks can now be done by or at the behest of people with low to no hacking ability. There are more players in the game now with better tools at their disposal,” wrote Sara Peters, senior editor at Dark Reading.

The experts Peters spoke with — and she access to many Dark Reading contributors — say the critical element is deploying best practices in making DNS architecture and organizations’ network infrastructure resilient to the ever-more-common hacking of smart devices.

How Can a City Prepare?

First, watch the Radio Free Europe clip below to understand the potential for DDoS attacks.

Second, learn the three critical security controls local governments must make themselves aware of in the face of elevated DDoS attacks from our guest columnist.

Finally, read about the 7 worst DDoS attacks in the first three quarters of 2016 to ignite your imagination. It may lead you to discover where your city’s DDoS risks lay.

Memphis Mulls Over IBM’s Initial 911 Overuse Data Findings

In the city of Memphis, Tenn., 911 has been used as primary basic healthcare and transportation, but thanks to an IBM Smarter Cities Challenge grant, several data-backed solutions could help the city reduce millions in EMS shortfalls while improving healthcare for residents.

MEMPHIS, TENN. — Overreliance on 911 has led to an annual $20 million shortfall in the Memphis Fire Department’s EMS budget, according to Fire Dept. Division Chief Andrew Hart.

It’s an issue that’s being faced nationwide,” says Doug McGowan, chief operating officer for the city of Memphis.

Hart says the number of ambulance rides increased 24 percent to more than 124,000 trips each year from where it was five years ago. Also, while the city’s population has stayed at 650,000 people since the 1970s, the distance EMS travels has vastly increased. The city has doubled in size from 170 to 350 square miles. There are times when ambulances are not available for service calls.

The high 911 call volume in Memphis is very complex, says Masharn Austin, a workforce strategist on the city’s IBM team. A lack of readily accessible transportation is one reason why, he says.

“Calling 911 is purely a function of not being able to get to basic care,” says Austin.

For others, it’s upfront cost. By 2014, the poverty rate in Memphis was 30%1.

“We recognize our answer for the past 50 years is if you call 911, we will give you a ride to the hospital,” says Hart, adding that in Memphis, there are two options—call 911 and pay nothing up front, or find a ride and pay to see a doctor.

“It almost leads people to call 911,” says Hart.

Data-Driven Change

Memphis was one of 600 cities worldwide to apply, and one of 16 selected, for the 2015 IBM grant because of the opportunity to align on a major problem with data-driven solutions.

“Our goal is being brilliant at the basics,” says McGowan, part of Mayor Jim Strickland’s Innovation Delivery Team, which is charged with helping to make Memphis as effective and efficient as it can be.

The city had already put some thinking in how to reduce calls by establishing programs that put healthcare navigators in the community and nurse dispatchers on the telephone to find other solutions for frequent 911 callers.

IBM’s data crunching, which included using its Watson Analytics predictive analytics and data visualization tool, validated the programs. City officials say the results are giving them the confidence to keep moving forward with paramedicine and telemedicine programs they started last year.

An overview of the analysis, which the city and the company shared with EfficientGov, revealed some 2,000 frequent 911 callers for the navigators to work with.

It’s something that we struggled with. Having outside experts was huge,” says Hart. “Working with IBM is very beneficial in showing insurance companies that the cost savings [of the paramedicine program] is beneficial,” he adds.

Other IBM findings can help focus the city on solutions for the Memphians that use the 911 system. For example, a heat map reveals the zipcodes with the highest volumes of calls. New healthcare opportunities based in those areas or transportation vouchers to travel to points of healthcare could start reducing the number of 911 calls from those areas.

“We have to think differently. We have to think about the customer journey…We’re thinking from the point of service backwards,” says McGowan.

Surfacing Smarter Solutions

The IBM team arrived in Memphis in late February and spent about 10 days conducting more than 80 stakeholder interviews and gathering all relevant data from various city departments.

Key findings focused on the 911 process, collaboration among city departments, gaps in service, transportation issues, incentives and dis-incentives, educating the community and funding.

“This is not something one group could do on their own,” says Hart.

A lot of the things Memphis was doing, they were doing a good job at, they were just doing it in silos,” says Austin.

While IBM is still working on the final report, expected in May, the team’s recommendations are focused on collaboration among healthcare stakeholders, innovating Memphis’s 911 process, providing healthcare service alternatives, creating incentives and impactful corrective actions and launching a citywide education campaign.

On a micro level, some recommendations like consolidating systems data or establishing mobile health units are going to take time, money or collaboration from the city’s partners.

However, Austin points out that while the costs for some recommendations might be high, such as $500,000 per year just to operate a mobile health unit, the return on the investment is justified—one long-operating mobile healthcare unit in Boston shows a 36:1 return.

“It’s unbelievable the impact you can have in the community by providing immediate care,” says Austin.

IBM summarized recommendations based on the magnitude of the impact and how hard or easy each solution would be to implement.

Other recommendations, like empowering EMS to treat on-scene and EMS initiated refusal, will be hard to implement but would have high impact in addressing the problem. Memphis is debating the possibilities now. McGowan thinks that there are opportunities for paramedics to treat on scene and get ambulances back out for service faster. “We have faith and confidence in our front lines to make decisions,” McGowan says.

However, Hart cautions on legal concerns. The city has engaged its risk management team to look into what would be required to give EMS the authority, qualifications, compliance, etc…

A major piece is educating citizens on when to call 911, and when they really shouldn’t. IBM recommends campaign messaging based on what are the consequences of calling 911 just to get a ride. “It’s educating people through shaming,” says Austin.

While 911 shaming might not be the specific focus of a public outreach campaign, Memphis began talking this week with film production crews about the success of negative ad campaigns, such as the National Council Against Smoking’s campaign. Memphians could possibly save some lives by not tying up an ambulance to go and fill a prescription.

How Blockchain Could Make Driverless Vehicles a Reality

Blockchain technology is not just for cryptocurrency–governments can use it for many services–and it will play a role in securing the Internet of Things.


By Stephen Armstrong

Blockchain could be used to implement driverless transportation–cars, shuttles, buses and more–pivotal pieces of a smart future powered by the Internet of Things. Blockchain technology has the inherent potential to make autonomous transportation systems secure from cyber attacks.

It’s all in how it works. Blockchain is the decentralized electronic ledger technology behind cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin. The ledger of encrypted transactions is open, so it is distributed all over the world.

A cyber attack would require tampering of all ledger instances simultaneously, according to Sir Mark Walport, the United Kingdom’s chief scientific adviser, who wrote a Distributed Ledger Technology report featuring global case studies on using blockchain for trust and interoperability.

Government Uses of Blockchain

While blockchain may have been born into currency, it can be used for many types of transactions from real estate to government records. It can be used to collect taxes, record land and property registries and more, wrote Walport in his report.

It’s beauty is in having copies of the ledger on computers all over the world–this is what actually allows for cryptocurrency assets to be transferred and recorded without external verification.

In fact, while Bitcoin itself may seem like a cash-grab game of sorts, the largest banks are actually collaborating to explore blockchain and how it can improve auditing of transactions to improve efficiency and reduce costs.

LHV Pank, the largest independent bank in Estonia, has already issued cryptocurrency securities, according to Walport’s report.

Blockchain for the Internet of Things

If each driverless vehicle is an autonomous device–and a part of a whole system–centralized failure is by nature eliminated. Blockchain can then increase the security of implementing individual autonomous, enabled devices.

Autonomous vehicles are becoming a reality – cars are increasingly part of the Internet of Things…You don’t want your connected vehicle to be tampered with. So, blockchain’s distributed ledger has the potential to monitor car operating systems, sensors, doors. You can baseline the known state of the device’s configuration and then check for tampering,” said Walport.

While blockchain may not currently be feasible for ride-hailing companies that must screen drivers and perform other tasks guided by human judgement, it’s already being tested for other transportation uses.

Plex.AI, a 2015 Canadian car-insurance tech startup located at an Ontario incubator, has developed an automotive telematics platform. The broker can reportedly give its insurance carriers real-time, remote diagnostics on cars. The technology uses Ethereum blockchain, machine learning and artificial intelligence to produce information about its customers that get quotes and sign up through its Rover app.

It’s not just a new way of thinking about money – it’s a new way of thinking about trust,” said Amos Meiri, co-founder of Israel-based Colu, a blockchain technology company.

Read the original story on Wired’s website.