By Jack Kardys
Director of Miami-Dade County Parks, Recreation and Open Spaces

Miami-Dade County Parks is the third largest county park system in the United States, consisting of 260 parks and 12,825 acres of land. It is made up of 17 miles of beaches, the renowned Zoo Miami, golf courses, marinas, large athletic stadiums, campgrounds, pools and more.

As Miami-Dade County looks at new ways to re-vitalize the region, create jobs and spur business growth while benefiting residents, the parks system is at the epicenter. In  addition to making sure we’re good stewards of the environment, we are committed to ensuring social equity with the right distribution of park facilities and programs throughout the community for people of all ages, sizes, shapes, and income levels.

Most of the parks in Miami-Dade County are anywhere from 50 to 75 years-old. Our beachfront parks were built in the 1930’s and 1940’s and the saltwater intrusion has been wreaking havoc on the system ever since. Our community pools were built in the 1960’s and the early 1970’s. The pipe corrosion from chlorine and the chemicals we use to keep those in balance tear up our pipes. It’s a challenge we face throughout the region.

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Though the infrastructure is aging, we’re looking at innovation in a meaningful way to help save on costs and redirect those savings to benefit residents and to spur economic growth.

Today, the Miami-Dade County Parks department pumps about 360 million gallons a year throughout our system at a cost of about $5 million. It’s a combined water and sewer system, so what comes out of the faucet gets charged going back into a sewer system as well. We know that we have leaky pipes and other problems, but it’s a significant expenditure and a very labor-intensive undertaking to go out and try to diagnose these problems.

By using IBM’s Intelligent Operations Center (IOC), we’re now able to monitor and flag any irregularities in our water usage, which are significant time and cost savings. We have sensors and intelligent meters that can basically talk to our computers in a central location. If we see any spikes or other changes within a very short period of time, within hours, we know immediately. The smart sensors alert our system and each of the park managers receives this alert through their smart devices, laptops or on their computers in their offices. They can respond in near real-time to get the problem fixed. As a result, we’re saving literally months in detecting and reacting to repairs that are needed.

When fully deployed, we anticipate we’ll save the county an estimated $1 million a year using IBM’s IOC water module. And we plan to reinvest this savings into other key areas that will benefit residents. For example, the savings may be used for heating pools to expand the Learn-to-Swim programs, acquiring more land for local parks, adding playgrounds where needed, building additional boat ramps for access to the bay or even re-lamping ball fields and walking paths with high-efficiency lighting that can generate further savings.

In a partnership with the Miami-Dade County transit department, we’re expanding the use of IBM’s technology from internal operations to include a business and citizen engagement model to be piloted in the Brickell business district. Taking a ‘MobileFirst’ approach using IBM Worklight, the enhancement will expand the transit department’s existing mobile  application to include parks, recreation and open spaces outreach and special event opportunities while promoting transit ridership. The new ‘Hop on Miami’ mobile application will alert residents to special events in the downtown area, spurring economic vitality. Restaurants and merchants will be able to send out coupons and special offers to residents who opt-in to provide businesses a new way to engage with their customers.

The collaboration of working with other departments and especially working within the divisions of our own departments has been greatly enhanced as a result of advanced technology. By integrating the parks systems with the transit department and business community, we’ll make places like the Brickell business area really hop.