The convergence of digital technology with data has brought cities to the edge of a historic transformation. Here, we find out how ‘smart cities’, where people and processes interact more effectively, can be the catalyst for transforming urban life.
The world has reached a tipping point: more than half of us now live in cities, according to the United Nations. One of the greatest challenges of our time, therefore, is to create urban centers that are safe, clean and efficient.
Technology is core to this ambition because fully connected, integrated and intelligent urban centers make life easier and more efficient for residents: welcome to the ‘smart city’.
According to the UN Economic Commission, a smart city is an innovative city that uses technology to improve quality of life, the efficiency of operations and services, and competitiveness, while “ensuring that it meets the needs of present and future generations with respect to economic, social, cultural, and environmental aspects”.
Street Smart Cities
Far from being technology for its own sake, evidence suggests that smarter cities do indeed improve the quality of life for residents. A study carried out by Capgemini Research Institute in April this year found that, of the 10,000 citizens canvassed who have used smart city initiatives, 73% were happier with their quality of life, in terms of health factors.
However, health is only one area in which a smart city can improve the lives of residents. The report for which the study was undertaken, Street Smart: Putting the citizen at the center of smart city initiatives, suggests the ‘smart’ application of technology can address a wide range of issues, such as: pollution, civil administration (for example, permitting), energy efficiency, water quality monitoring, and waste management.
Of course, combining these services into an effective, efficient control system requires a profound understanding of technology, data and the dynamics of convergence. Nowhere is this better exemplified than in a ground-breaking project in the French city of Dijon.
‘OnDijon’ is a control center that enables officials in the city to track and control the city’s municipal activity across 24 districts, serving a total of 260,000 inhabitants, from just one room. It allows the remote coordination and maintenance of most of the city’s urban equipment, including traffic lights, street lighting, video cameras, road services, and access points to car parks and public buildings.
With its expertise in platform design and data convergence, Capgemini took a key role in the consortium that delivered this ambitious project, which has made Dijon one of France’s first truly ‘smart’ cities.
The idea is simple: by improving the coordination between remote units, such as road maintenance and refuse collection teams, these services become more efficient and effective, improving the quality of life for residents.
On the brink: historic transformations
Pierre-Adrien Hanania, Capgemini’s global offer leader for AI in the public sector, interprets the new opportunities offered by smart cities through a historical lens. He says: “Throughout history, cities have been subject to breakthrough changes impacting the way societies and citizens work, consume, interact, and more generally live and adapt.
“As depicted by Jeremy Rifkin in The Third Industrial Revolution: How Lateral Power is Transforming Energy, the Economy, and the World, cities now stand at the brink of an historic transformation, driven by digital tools and channels.”
According to Pierre-Adrien, a new dynamic, further explored in the Street Smart report, is at play. He argues that citizens will increasingly choose cities with smart services over those without them, and this fact could have far-reaching consequences for local politicians and administrators.
Citizens at the center
“City officials must work to ensure that technology-led interventions give people the experience and quality of life that they want and need,” says Pierre-Adrien. “By doing so, cities can prevent their inhabitants leaving for another city and benefit from the willingness of citizens to invest in their home.”
OnDijon is one response to answering some of these needs: Citizens in the city can connect directly to the control center using a smartphone app to report, for example, traffic accidents and equipment malfunctions. In this way, Capgemini is helping residents contribute to the future of their city and create the future they want. Welcome to the smart city of tomorrow.