Smart cities

Smart cities: how are they created?

8 October 2015

Smart cities: how are they created?

The approach consists of rethinking an area, a city or, a district by complementing the social, urban planning and political vision with a digital vision.

The smart city is a topic that is simultaneously inspiring, enchanting and scary.
The smart city deals with global issues: environment, urban investment, bread and butter issues which affect each and every one of us.

The perception of the smart city is often caricatural, where fantasy comes to the rescue of daily life: predictions of urban behaviour, optimised energy consumption and urban agriculture, scattered with electric cars flying over floating cities dedicated to leisure activities.

These representations show all of the hopes, all of the desires and the state of mind necessary to embrace the promises of the smart city by considering the city in another way, by rethinking daily life in order to meet the challenges of metropolis development.

The digital revolution, which underlies the smart city concept, has considerable potential to transform urban services and modes of city governance.

Smart city models

The concept of a smart city was established in South Korea at the beginning of the 21st century with the U-Korea project. The city of Sondgo offers a high-quality and comprehensive WIFI mesh network, increased use of CCTV and also innovative energy management systems. The smart city, from its inception, resembles a city that is excessively connected and on the cutting edge of modern technology: a ubiquitous city.

Another key moment in the spread of the smart city concept: its use in 2005 by Bill Clinton, who through his Foundation, commissioned a plan to relieve congestion in the cities of San Francisco, Seoul and Amsterdam in order to “reduce CO2 emissions and make savings in terms of time and money for both citizens and local communities”.

Today, the smart city concept is on a roll. It is used, “implemented” or claimed by numerous cities in mainland France, Europe and the world, and covers a very broad spectrum of visions.

In reality, there are no more models for smart cities than there are models for cities or metropolises. In fact, the smart city is not defined by its solutions but by its objectives.

Stockholm: the green and connected city
Stockholm has implemented a digital development project notably with the deployment of high-speed infrastructures, a concentration of digital companies within the same district and interoperability of infrastructure. It promotes the Green IT side of its developments which aim to reduce energy consumption and pollution.

Rio de Janeiro: the managed, supervised and predictive city
In order to prepare for the 2014 World Cup and the Olympic Games in 2016, the city of Rio de Janeiro has set up a service centre which monitors the city network using cameras. 900 cameras help to develop prediction models and to inform inhabitants in the event of natural disasters or traffic problems (using sirens and social networks).

Lyon: the pleasant city to live in
The metropolis of Lyon has gradually positioned itself as the leader in terms of smart city projects. It allies economic development and quality of life, which makes it considerably appealing and fosters the development of large-scale smart projects.

Two forms of intelligence must be developed

The primary function of a city is to offer a wide range of services: this involves providing public transport services, education, housing, healthcare services, security services, leisure facilities, etc., whilst maintaining a continuous dynamic of change and remaining attractive to build loyalty and attract new users (inhabitants, traders, entrepreneurs, school children, etc.).

To do this, the city must have resilience capabilities enabling it to permanently rethink its approach. Maintaining these capabilities in an environment, which sees increased pressure on urban infrastructures and on the quality of city life, due to the exponential growth of cities, renders it necessary to explore new technological solutions and also new methods of working and of governance.

It is necessary to develop two forms of intelligence:
1. Equip urban infrastructures with an advanced data collection and processing capability in order to enable urban systems to self-regulate and anticipate problems. This “logico-mathematical” intelligence concerns the world of smart grids, smart water, smart buildings, connected objects and big data. A vision enables the capacity of urban infrastructures to be undeniably increased.

2. Take advantage of accelerating capabilities and digital agility to equip the city with a cognitive intelligence that enables the user to interact with their environment.

Due to numerous technological advances such as the explosion of the Internet, increased speeds making it possible to consult on-line plans and calculate routes, and the wide distribution and use of GPS technology via smartphones, city dwellers are now able to access all of the elements necessary to take a revolutionary step forward in their relationship with their daily environment, in other words, with the city.

As the components of the public space become networked communicating objects and places, it becomes possible to create interactions with the citizen, and also to develop predictive models to enable urban operators to regulate all of the city’s services according to demand.

Which strategy should be adopted and how can it be implemented?

Making a city “smart” means that the purpose of the services offered to users needs to be reconsidered, designing the city differently in an integrated and participatory approach. Several factors must be taken into account in the creation of a “smart” strategy.

A city is defined by its land, geography, history, population and future. It is also defined by the needs, desires and difficulties of users…of ALL users.

Moreover, it is also necessary to choose whether to act as a pioneer or as a “follower” in the deployment of smart type services or ensure to follow at least the standard services which are gradually being implemented, such as (very) high speed Internet, interactive visit companions at major cultural facilities, etc.

Finally, it will also be necessary to consider manufacturers and start-ups which are an essential source of inspiration and can play a central role in a smart city project.

After having considered all of these elements, it is necessary to work on creating a roadmap, implementing a sustainable form of governance, and designing and possibly testing services. There is only one rule: to co-construct with the various stakeholders!

The digital revolution is just starting to translate into reality and into our daily lifestyles. Big Data, social networks and connected objects continue to radically change our daily life and the first manifestations of the smart city are more than encouraging.

Of course, this holds great promise; but it is important to act with discernment in order to avoid making the same mistakes as before, by creating the right conditions to co-construct the smart city.

The role of Sopra Steria Consulting is to support local authorities in their transformation projects, from the strategic thinking stage right through to their actual implementation:

  • Provide an overview of the smart city and understand the main operating principles thereof in order to motivate and mobilise local authority players,
  • Establish the editorial policy best suited to the project and to the positioning of the city, town or area,
  • Support the governance of the project, define and organise the roadmap, implement an innovation initiative,
  • Design and test services, and provide guidance during the transformation.
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