1. Uncovering Challenges: Dublin's Energy Spending Analysis
Following an article highlighting Dublin’s high municipality spendings on energy, the municipality’s staff decided to get insights into their spending pattern. However, in trying to do so, they encountered various obstacles:
Firstly, the data from the energy bills was scattered over several sources, some of which were still on paper while others were digitally available.
Secondly, the team lacked the data tools needed to process and analyse the data.
Thirdly, the team could not convince higher management to invest in the infrastructure as they couldn’t prove the value of what they needed to build yet.
2. Empowering Change: Dublin's Adoption of BDTI's Data Analytics Platform
The Dublin municipality team conducted research and discovered BDTI, a cloud-based solution that stands out for its open-source tools. These tools enable comprehensive data analytics, covering the entire process from start to finish. Plus, the best part is that BDTI offers these services free of charge for six months. To apply, the municipality filed a request form elaborating on their use case (I.e., what problem they aimed to solve, what data they would use...). After submitting their request, they were invited for an introductory call and one week later they got access to the platform.
3. Data Ingestion: Automating Invoice Extraction
In their endeavor to gain insights into expenditure and showcase it effectively on a dashboard, the Dublin municipality team encountered a significant challenge: gathering and processing the necessary data. This data was dispersed across various sources, with a portion of the municipality's bills still arriving in paper format. Upon exploring the BDTI platform, they uncovered an invaluable solution: the ability to develop a system that automatically extracts relevant information from paper invoices. This feature proved highly beneficial, aligning seamlessly with their objective of minimizing manual effort and automating tasks where possible. (It's worth noting that this specific functionality represents just one of the platform's capabilities; for those with entirely digital data, this feature may not be necessary.)
4. Data visualization and analysis: Optimizing Public Lighting in Dublin
After having all relevant data structured in the database, our next challenge was to visualize the data. To gain insights into Dublin's expenditure patterns, the team collected open spending data from comparable cities. This analysis highlighted that Dublin was allocating a significant portion of its budget to public lighting in contrast to other cities.
This finding brought the following question: How could they optimize their spending on public lighting? Research led the team to innovative strategies implemented by certain European cities, including completely turning off streetlights at night to save energy. However, they aimed for a more nuanced solution – one that selectively deactivated streetlights based on specific times and locations of necessity.
Equipped with data on traffic patterns, weather conditions, and lighting post locations, the team had a clear vision. However, the complexity of their objective exceeded the capabilities of their team. Recognizing the need for specialized expertise, they sought out a data scientist at the University of Dublin to help them out. Since the BDTI service allows Public Administrations to collaborate with start-ups and universities, it was easy to bring on board a new person.
5. Dublin's Data-Driven Energy Expenditure Reduction
Collaborating with a data scientist, they developed a tool on the BDTI platform that identifies areas in the city and specific hours when lighting is least necessary, utilizing traffic data. This tool empowered the energy department to make informed decisions, allowing them to deactivate lights in quieter streets and during low-traffic periods, leading to substantial savings.
The impact was evident: their energy expenditure notably decreased. They successfully saved approximately 70,000 euros per week.
6. Communicating and implementation
After implementing the tool for a few weeks, they contacted the journalist, Jack, who had authored the initial news article, to update him on their progress. They explained that they first addressed the criticism by developing a government spending dashboard for validation. Subsequently, they took proactive steps by creating a solution that effectively curtailed their expenditure. They shared the link to their Spending Dashboard with Jack. Jack expressed satisfaction with their response and promptly published another news article to relay their actions to the citizens of Dublin.
Internally, they disseminated information about the solutions developed through the EU tools within the municipality. The management was highly impressed with their initiatives, leading to a decision to transition from a pilot phase to a permanent system. Consequently, the municipality made investments to establish it as a self-sustaining system, running on their infrastructure.