CIO REVIEW COVER STORY: ESC Partners accelerates toward a smart future for cities and townships. By Justin Smith, CIO Review Staff Writer. Content used here with digital reprint permission.
There is no denying that “The Jetsons”—the popular animated series from the 1960s—was lightyears ahead of its time. After all, the show’s creators envisioned a futuristic city where everyone had flying cars and lived in robot-assisted smart homes. Humanoids, holograms, smartwatches, drones, and even 3D-printed food were commonplace for the residents of Orbit City—the fictional township where the Jetsons family lived. Looking back to the show today, one might wonder, “How far are we from a Jetsons-esque future?”
Well, if we observe closely, the ongoing rate of digital innovation has already brought some of those innovative technologies within our easy grasp today. Even the concept of a smart city is not that far-fetched. While real-world smart cities might not exactly resemble the fictional Orbit City, at its core, they both share a zeal for leveraging technology to make life simpler for the citizens. As a matter of fact, if we look around, many countries across the world are actually making significant investments in adopting digital tools and creating a connected world of smart cities to promote better living standards. Having said that, a company that is taking everyone one step closer to more futuristic smart cities is ESC Partners. Based out of Webster, NY, ESC Partners is currently helping many U.S. cities and municipalities lay the foundation of smart cities.
How it all began
ESC Partners, from its initial days, had a forward-looking outlook toward digitalizing the foundational sectors of a city and was quick to identify the utility sector as one of the key drivers of smart cities. Elaborating further, RJ Kumar, president and CEO of ESC Partners, states, “Power, water, and sewer are the three fundamental utilities that propel, and will keep propelling, any city to its continued sustenance. Therefore, it is only natural for every smart city innovation to find its starting point in the utility space.”
But with the rising number of digital tools in the domain, what ESC Partners noticed was an ever-increasing amount of friction and silos that deterred a streamlined utility workflow. “We, at ESC Partners, therefore started focusing on connecting those data silos in the utility space and providing assessment and planning in conjunction with our implementation services priming the sector for a digital age,” explains Kumar.
To that end, ESC Partners has built a practice that guides an organization through the discipline of defining, designing, implementing, and supporting business processes and software rooted in industry best practices for both utilities and the public sector. Grounded in a foundation of world-class Oracle applications along with selected market-leading technology vendors providing specialized offerings, ESC excels in leading the development of smart, robust, and comprehensive solutions. This approach can make the transition to a future-proof utility ecosystem as seamless as possible. With decades of systems integration, implementation knowledge, and experience, along with the clout of Oracle’s market-proven Customer information system (CIS) cloud application, Oracle Utilities Customer Cloud Service (CCS), and supporting best-in-breed partners, ESC Partners has developed a pre-integrated smart city solution, Utiliprise. “Essentially, it’s a single Oracle-based platform with a single vendor point of contact, which is ESC Partners,” adds Kumar.
The framework has the power to automatically combine multiple touchpoints across a myriad of utility systems and applications that were not organically suited to connect and pass data between them, facilitating a more seamless utility infrastructure for smart cities. “Imagine the ease of generating consolidated utility reports, improving field services functionalities, reducing response time to outages, and offering well-equipped customer services through one platform, all accessible at your fingertips; that’s the value we are driving in the utility industry today!” exclaims Kumar.
But, according to Kumar, ‘connected utility’ is only the steppingstone to their larger vision. If one considers the utility industry as a microcosm of an entire city, both share a number of disjointed parts moving together. In a way, smart city planners suffer from (almost) similar data silos when handling various aspects of a smart city like traffic management or financial tracking. They eventually get stuck with siloed operations, thereby weakening the metaphorical foundation of smart cities. “Against this backdrop, we want to bring the same level of connectivity across all the back-end processes of a smart city like we did for the utility sector,” says Kumar. “That’s our moonshot goal, and we are already proactively working toward achieving this feat with a number of the current projects in our portfolio addressing the entire ecosystem of the municipality.”
Bridging the data silos in a smart city
When it comes to planning smart cities, city planners regularly retain specialized solution providers to support different aspects of a smart city—such as resource procurement, traffic supervision, or financial management. Despite the obvious benefits of subject matter experts (SMEs) handling the disparate aspects, such an approach creates a tunnel vision that omits the larger picture of how these different focus areas will interplay and run a seamless, connected city. “For instance, think of an ERP specialist; they will only look into the resource planning side of a city or township. Their focus is purely on procuring the resources and moving the monetary side of it,” states Kumar. However, when viewed from a larger perspective, the method a city planner may use to transfer an asset to its final destination or geo-code that asset to specific geographical locations within the township is not addressed by the ERP expert; there are separate vendors and experts taking care of those responsibilities using different solutions. This makes it difficult (almost impossible) for smart city planners to have a broader and more comprehensive view of all their technology stacks.
ESC Partners is here to flip this script for smart city planners. The firm can cater to any and every technological need of a city while virtually eliminating the silos inherently attached to it.
“With our consultative method, acclaimed partners, and industry wisdom, we can guide smart cities’ technology needs from administering revenue and asset management systems to planning community development projects and handling any licensing and permitting requirements—all through a single pane of glass,” states Kumar. Easily scalable, this technique enables smart city planners to effortlessly take the cities and townships to the next level of innovation more quickly and more economically than ever before. What further helps them in this endeavor is the modular nature of the process. One can choose to use fully featured end-to-end functionality, including different field services, asset management, ERP, and more, or simply select the components they are looking for individually, making the solution the best of both worlds: highly flexible and easily scalable.
Recently, one U.S. city collaborated with ESC to kick off its virtualization project and implement a unified suite of Oracle Cloud applications to address foundational city services functions ranging from utilities and public works to administrative back-office support. Working hand-in-hand with Oracle, the project, once completely executed, will bring the city’s citizens closer to the administration through a frictionless customer experience spanning all of the city’s services. At the same time, the city’s leadership expects to dramatically improve the management and visibility of multiple functions by consolidating different administrative systems onto one platform. As a result, it will elevate customer service, reduce response time to outages, and take advantage of improved field services functionality to gain efficiencies in performance. Even when planning for any upgrades in the city, the platform can seamlessly help the city authorities increase their business engagement and communication with city builders and developers. All in all, the project is expected to deliver a wealth of streamlined digital services, including simplified digital permits processing and improved employee self-service. This is but one of the numerous projects that the company is currently working on. Moving ahead, ESC has plans to enhance its capabilities even further to offer more smart city services to its ever-growing list of clients. “One service that we are specifically looking at adding is vegetation management,” informs Kumar. Alongside this, the company is also working with Oracle to provide a unified platform for cities that will encourage their inhabitants to shop locally while also creating a brand image for the cities to attract more people to settle in their smart townships. “In a nutshell, we will continue uncovering newer ways to help cities and townships become more digital,” concludes Kumar. With ESC Partners by its side, the future of smart settlements shines bright.
From CIO Review December 08, 2021. ISSN 2644-237X. CIO Review: The Navigator for Enterprise Solutions. CIOREVIEW.COM. Published from 600 S. Andrews Ave, Ste 405, Ft. Lauderdale, FL 33301. Content used here with digital reprint permission.
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