How the City of Shawinigan reinvented itself as a smart city


    Industry flocked to Shawinigan, Quebec in the early 1900s because of its hydroelectricity. Now, the city wants to create the same draw by investing in smart technology.

    This century old city, with a population of 50,000, sits on the shores of the Saint-Maurice River, about a two-hour drive from Quebec City. It built its economy around large resource-based industries such as aluminum, pulp and paper production, and electrochemistry. But in the past few decades, Shawinigan fell upon hard times. A number of large employers left the region, resulting in the loss of jobs and talent.

    But like Jean Chrétien, the scrappy Prime Minister who was born there, Shawinigan is fighting back. It’s working with Avaya to revitalize its economy and increase job opportunities by reinventing itself as a smart city.

    The solution

    The foundation of Shawinigan’s smart city project, which started in 2014, is its network. The city had a number of disparate systems and plenty of outdated equipment, including a network management console which no longer worked.

    A big advantage of the Avaya solution was its compatibility with the old network. This allowed the city to move forward gradually to upgrade the equipment and systems linking City Hall to the library, warehouses, fire halls, and water distribution systems.  The phased implementation was more manageable from a budgeting perspective and reduced disruption to ongoing operations as well as demands on IT staff.

    Security is a key consideration of Shawinigan. It wanted to protect its critical communications services from unauthorized access by hackers or damage from malware or viruses. Avaya used hyper-segmentation to isolate traffic on day-to-day operational services from the communications for critical services. It proved to be a simple and cost-effective way to address the city’s security concerns.

    “Information sharing is so ingrained into the concept of Smart Cities and we needed a reliable, secure way to manage the network that will give us the means to communicate with our citizens and extend our portfolio of services to them,” says Lyne Vallières, director of Shawinigan’s office of information technology.

    Looking to the future

    The backbone of the new network is now complete and Vallières has already started introducing new, smart services for the citizens of Shawinigan.

    “We’ve noticed undeniable savings both in time and in staffing because this allows us to complete more projects with the same team,” says Vallières. “The Avaya solution we implemented is also going to facilitate the introduction of innovative technologies and of new services. The type of configuration we adopted could also give us the possibility to share services with other municipalities in the near future.”

    Shawinigan Sans Fil, a pilot project which provides free wi-fi access downtown, was recently transferred to the new network. This not only made the service available more widely, but drastically improved its quality.

    As well, Vallières says the city is deploying new urban LED street lighting which will be controlled by an automated management system. Another project in the works is an IP video surveillance system to provide greater security for citizens in key areas of the city.

    The project is breathing new life into the community, says Vallière. A city that once relied on hydroelectricity is now proving that technology can be just as powerful.

    Read the case study for all of the details on how Shawinigan transformed itself into a smart city.

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    Cindy Baker has over 20 years of experience in IT-related fields in the public and private sectors, as a lawyer and strategic advisor. She is a former broadcast journalist, currently working as a consultant, freelance writer and editor.