Town of Cary innovates flood prediction with IoT

This post was co-authored by Daniel Sumner, Worldwide Industry Director, Government—Smart Infrastructure at Microsoft.

According to Flood Safety , flooding is the most common type of natural disaster worldwide. It affects tens of millions of people around the world each year and causes, on average, more than $200 billion in damages. Many communities face flood-related challenges, and the Town of Cary in North Carolina, United States, is no different. Its flood-prone areas are affected by heavy rains, which are often exacerbated by the yearly Atlantic hurricane season. When the town sees excessive rainfall, its personnel often find themselves scrambling to address overflowing stormwater systems, but even a burst water main can create a spontaneous flood event.

Town of Cary parking lot during a flood event.

As a leader in innovative city solutions, the Town of Cary was already committed to using smart technology, data, and analytics to optimize city functions, drive economic growth, and improve the quality of life. Chief Information Officer, Nicole Raimundo, Smart City Strategist, Terry Yates, and Stormwater Operations Manager, Billy Lee, saw another opportunity: use technology to predict and manage flood events.

Envisioning a flood prediction solution

In October 2019, Cary’s leaders met with partners Microsoft and SAS, IoT division, to envision a new solution. The team started by assessing the current situation.

During storm events, Cary had no visibility into the river levels or how quickly the water was rising. Traditionally, the town relied on citizens to alert them of floods through phone calls, text messages, and other means. The town staff processed these requests manually dispatching public work personnel to erect barriers and close roads and first responders to emergencies.

The team came away with a vision for building a flood prediction system leveraging Azure IoT and SAS Analytics for IoT . Raimundo explained the need for the change.

“We felt strongly that the existing system wasn’t serving citizens in flood-prone areas well. We knew we needed a scalable solution to get us from reactive to proactive and ultimately predictive. The scalability of Azure IoT platform became a critical component of our IoT architecture. In addition, we required a robust set of analytical tools that could deliver insight from both real-time and historical data and SAS Analytics for IoT offered that.” —Nicole Raimundo, Chief Information Officer, Town of Cary

“There are thousands of cities that are similar to the Town of Cary that are looking to deploy solutions to solve urban issues such as flooding. Leveraging the Azure IoT platform and SAS Analytics for IoT these cities can move from being reactive to proactive and, ultimately, predictive in a cost-effective, scalable manner.” —Daniel Sumner, Worldwide Industry Director, Government—Smart...