Flood prediction project powered by SAS IoT analytics and Microsoft Azure earns national innovation award

Government Innovation Award marks early success of SAS and Microsoft cloud partnership  

During hurricanes and other large rain events, the Town of Cary, NC had little visibility into river levels or how quickly water was rising. To improve flood monitoring and prediction, the town worked with SAS and Microsoft to collect and analyze sensor, weather and other data to get ahead of the next big storm. This creative use of IoT analytics and cloud technologies has been recognized as a Public Sector Innovation award winner by the 2020 Government Innovation Awards.

“As a leader in smart cities innovations, Cary was a perfect proving ground for the new partnership between SAS and Microsoft,” said Oliver Schabenberger, SAS Chief Technology Officer and Chief Operating Officer. “The flood project showcases our joint expertise in advanced analytics and cloud technologies and is particularly rewarding as it helps protect lives and property.”

In June,  SAS and Microsoft announced an extensive technology and go-to-market strategic partnership that enables customers to easily run their SAS workloads in the cloud, expanding their business solutions and unlocking critical value from their digital transformation initiatives. One of the first joint projects of the partnership, the Town of Cary’s flood prediction solution demonstrates how customers can take advantage of the vast amount of data generated by the Internet of Things (IoT) by combining Microsoft Azure IoT platform with SAS’ edge-to-cloud IoT analytics and AI capabilities.  

Transforming flood response for an entire region

During excessive rainfall events, Town of Cary personnel often found themselves running around to address overflowing stormwater systems. Additionally, heavy rainfall in and around Cary led to damaging flooding days later in communities downstream.

Traditionally, the town relied on citizens to alert them of floods through phone calls, messages and other means. Staff would process these requests by manually dispatching public work personnel to erect barriers, close roads and send first responders to emergencies. 

Town leaders believed that the existing system was not serving its citizens in flood-prone areas well and knew they needed a more scalable solution to get them from reactive to proactive to ultimately predictive.

Cary installed water level sensors along the Walnut Creek stream basin and rain gauges at several town facilities. By using SAS Analytics for IoT and the Microsoft Azure IoT Hub, staff can now visualize flooding events in real-time. Cary is also able to generate and deploy predictive models and monitor the lifecycle of these models over time. The town can better identify anomalies, such as rising water, through the integration of weather forecasting data and real-time sensor data, measuring water and rain levels to deliver advanced warnings and predictions of flooding events, both in Cary and in surrounding municipalities.

The system automates stormwater personnel notifications and work order generation, alerts citizens of flooding events and provides data to downstream regional and state entities. Instead of relying on citizen calls, the data triggers alerts that automatically notify stormwater personnel who can then react and address flooded areas.

The Flood Incident Prediction and Preparedness solution is also a finalist in the Artificial Intelligence + Machine Learning category of the NC TECH Awards, given by the NC TECH Association, the leading voice for the North Carolina’s tech community. 

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