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Ideas Submitted To The City of Palo Alto (CA) About Use of Technology.

Ideas Submitted To The City of Palo Alto (CA) About Use of Technology.

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Published by wmartin46
The City of Palo Alto has requested public input regarding the use of "technology" in its publicly-owned Utility. This posting contains a submission with a number of ideas for the Utility, and the rest of the City government as well.
The City of Palo Alto has requested public input regarding the use of "technology" in its publicly-owned Utility. This posting contains a submission with a number of ideas for the Utility, and the rest of the City government as well.

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Published by: wmartin46 on May 13, 2012
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05/13/2012

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Palo Alto City CouncilCity of Palo AltoPalo Alto, CA 94301Cc: James KeeneCc:Innovation@cityofpaloalto.orgSubject: Technology Ideas For Palo Alto Utility and Other DepartmentsOver the past decade, I have submitted a goodly number of ideas about usingemerging/proven technology to reduce costs, and to increase the level of service providedto the captive (and frequently all-too-passive) customers of the PAU. To the best of mymemory, few of these ideas have ever been acknowledged, and probably none actuallyacted upon. Am I discouraged—Yes. Am I going to stop trying to alert Palo Altans aboutadvances in technology that have been ignored by the City—NO!Since most of these ideas have been submitted to the City Council in the past, I am notgoing to spend a lot of time rekeying all of the information that was in attendance withthose ideas when they were submitted. The City can retrieve the emails, or it can contactme for additional information, if needed.Idea # 1: Geo-location devices placed on all city vehiclesThe age of geo-location via GPS and cell phone communications systemshas been a reality for some number of years now. Having GPS locators onall City-owned vehicles would provide a positive control mechanism thatwould all the City to know where all of its vehicles are, both in real-time,and in “recap” mode—meaning that all of this real-time data could becaptured, uploaded to a database, making the data available for any number of analyses that could provide insights into the use of these vehicles that iscurrently not well known—including illegal/inappropriate use by poorlymanaged City employees.Idea # 2: On-line location map of city vehicles, with a filter that will allowIdentification of vehicles by departmentWith geo-location devices on all of the City’s vehicles, the location of eachof these vehicles could be displayed on an on-line map. Vehicles could befiltered by department. (Police vehicles would probably not be displayed.)This kind of on-line display would probably be more useful to 1
st
and 2
nd
-line managers, but would also be helpful to the public, in one way or another.Idea # 3: On-line inventory of Utility Assets.The City’s Utility has become incredibly important to the home owners and businesses of Palo Alto. Unfortunately, the City has operated the Utility
 
more as a “black box” than a transparent operation. By listing all of theUtility’s assets on-line, this will promote the idea of transparency in thisdepartment, as well as push the idea of identifying all of the City’s assetson-line.Idea # 4: Better interface for self-reporting raw utility use numbersThe current self-reporting web-interface for people reporting their raw usenumbers is not as well designed, as it could be. At the very minimum, oncethe user’s account number has been entered, the serial numbers for each of the meters should be displayed, thereby relieving the customer of having tore-enter this data every month. Additionally, the customer should haveestimated charges for each of the commodities being reported. This could be done before the customer commits these readings, or afterwards in theemail sent as a confirmation.Idea # 5: App for submitting raw use numbers to UtilityCell phones are now becoming ubiquitous. Anything that is available on-line, probably needs an App for cell phone users.Idea # 6: Triggers on individual commodity uses so that abnormal uses can be detected early.There are times when appliances malfunction, or water pipes spring leaks,leading to high/abnormal (and expensive) use/waste of commodities. Theon-line accounting/reporting interfaces for Utility Customers should provide“triggers”, which would alert utility customers of high use of specificcommodities. The alerts could be: email, voicemail, a visit by a Utilitiestechnician.Idea # 7: On-line breakdown of most appliance electrical consumption, by vendor,model, and year of manufacture.The Customer Service Unit could be more helpful by demonstrating the costof older appliances by compiling lists of known appliances, organized bymanufacturer, year of manufacture, model identifier, and electricalconsumption, and monthly costs. This information could be obtained fromany number of sources, including customers. The idea would be todemonstrate that older appliances (particularly refrigerators) can use somuch power that a newer, more power-economical model, could pay for itsself in a relatively short timeframe.Idea # 8 City-wide Installation of Smart meters.
 
I believe that the Utility’s study on “smart meter” costs is flawed. Thisstudy should be reviewed in terms of labor/benefit costs, and post-retirement benefit costs. I believe that the use of “smart meters” can reducethe costs of Utility data collection significantly.Idea # 9 Multi-year on-line history of commodity use available to customers. The cost of Utility-provided commodities, and services, is past the point of  being prohibitive. The City needs to begin to treat the residents with morerespect, such as providing a full use/cost history of thecommodities/services purchased by the City on the Utility web-site. Simpleanalysis tools, such as graphs showing trend lines in use/cost should beavailable. This data should be downloadable in multiple formats, includingtext (.csv) and spreadsheet (.xls).Idea # 10: Utility Bills Should Be Payable On-line with Credit/Debit Cards.It’s hard to find any public-serving entities, outside of the City of Palo Alto,that does not support payment of fees/bills by Credit Card. Yet, here wereare, in 2012—and Palo Alto does not!Idea # 11 Availability of hand-held electrical use meters, which can be borrowed by customers to check the use of appliances within the home.Home energy audits are not that hard to perform, with the appropriate tools.One such tool is an electricity use meter. These devices can be purchasedlocally for as little as $20. If the Utility were to purchase a dozen or so,offering them as “loaners” to the public, homeowners could measure the useof the appliances in their home, and get a good idea of where electricity is being consumed in their home, on a room-by-room, or appliance-by-appliance, basis. The devices could be on-loan from the library, or droppedoff/picked up at City Hall, or even dropped off/picked up by a Utilityworker.Idea # 12 Device to measure water use, installable inside customer premises.Along the lines of (11), a device of some sort that measures water use insidethe customer’s premises, which would have both an audio alert, and aconnection to the Internet, would be useful in terms of measuring water use,and as a leak detector.Idea # 13 Install QR codes on all utility poles, and other city utilty/PW assets/equipment.With smart phones now beginning to dominate the mobile market place, QR codes have also become widely used to help people identify objects, so thatthey can use the power of their phone, augmented with information from

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