When smart cities promise streamlined flows thanks to the cloud

Street lights that increase in intensity as pedestrians and cyclists pass, connected signs that prioritize buses at city intersections, city equipment that warns of breakdowns… Welcome to Dijon, the open-air laboratory of smart cities, these cities, who are betting on new technologies to revolutionize urban services.

In early 2018, the metropolis signed a twelve-year contract with a consortium of companies led by Bouygues Energies & Services to paint the skyline of the city of tomorrow. “The project is based on a connected cockpit that allows you to remotely control urban equipment in 23 municipalities of the agglomeration: traffic lights, public lighting, video security, road services, etc.,” explains Denis Hamo, Deputy Mayor of Dijon in charge of public services , user relations and innovation.

All the data collected as part of city governance is available not only to researchers to fuel their studies and work, but also to local digital companies to help develop new services for citizens.

Improve service to citizens

For its part, the urban community of Angers Loire Métropole has retrofitted 4,500 LED lights as part of its Smart Area project launched in 2020. About 43 outdoor electrical cabinets have also been refurbished for remote control. Sensors have been installed on the road so that motorists know in real time about available parking spaces.

To optimize the collection of household waste, 200 filling probes were placed on containers. “All local governments do not necessarily have the same vision for a smart city, but they all have the same goal: to reduce the cost of managing public spaces and improve the service provided to citizens,” emphasizes Constance Nebbula, municipal councilor delegated to the digital realm. transition and smart territory to the city of Angers and president of Angers Technopole.

Gone are the days of the all-high city promoted in the mid-2000s by Carlo Moreno, Academic Director of the Department of Entrepreneurship, Territories and Innovation at the IAE Paris Sorbonne Business School. In their opinion, it was enough for them to collect a large amount of data using sensors placed in urban space in order to succeed in optimizing the networks and services of all large cities, from water supply to street lighting and roadways. .

Reliable security guarantees

But you don’t make a city the way you make a computer. Thus, the results did not live up to the original promise. Former Emlyon Business School student Hubert Beroche observed this in 2019 when he set out to explore twelve metropolitan areas using artificial intelligence to manage his territory: Paris, Montreal, Boston, New York, San Francisco, Seoul, Tokyo, Singapore, Dubai. , Amsterdam, London and Copenhagen.

At the end of this five-month trip around the world, the results are more than mixed: “In democratic countries, citizens faced such strong opposition that many initiatives were abandoned. This was especially true of the futuristic area imagined in Toronto. Several projects have appeared in Asia, but the locals do not set foot there. Therefore, we must deploy a new paradigm, consisting in the urbanization of technologies, that is, to put them at the service of users. »

“If you want too much to improve a city, you end up dehumanizing it,” he says. Hence the importance of implementing a new paradigm, which is to urbanize technologies, that is, to provide them at the service of users. The townspeople, as a rule, do not mind. Provided that they are provided with solid cybersecurity guarantees. “Yes, digital technologies and connected objects can help make cities more sober, more dynamic, more enjoyable to live in,” admits Jean-Christophe Juvin, a 42-year-old Angevin adoptive who works as a project manager. innovations in the General Directorate of Enterprise.

Collective interest and quality of life

“But in a city completely driven by digital data, what happens if ransomware gets hacked? Is there a risk that the entire city will be paralyzed? What about our personal data? “A former business leader in information and communications technology in Dijon, Gilles Paco, 64, is also cautious.

“Developing the use of new technologies in communities, why not? He says. Provided that it really serves the collective interests and quality of life in the city. “Nearly 15 million people in France today live in a digital divide,” he recalls. Care must be taken to ensure that smart city projects do not leave more people on the side of the road. »