Smart city is not a recent concept or linked to the emergence of new technologies: it is primarily a sustainable city, designed to optimize costs, respect the environment and increase the well-being of its inhabitants.
Smart cities already existed before the advent of machines: the palatial of the Alhambra in Granada, built in the 13th centuries, has been designed with a view optimization and good management of available natural resources (water management, permaculture, location of buildings according to the conditions of sunshine etc.), by being the ancestor of modern smart cities.
Smart city, cyber-city or digital city, the goal remains the same: to take advantage of new technologies to improve people’s lives, for example in terms of transportation or access to culture. Hence the need for a strong public will: the inhabitants of a smart city first hope for more services, without always being ready to pay more local taxes to gain access. Experiments are generally in the field of transport and urban flow management, a sector in which user expectations are high and solutions visible.
Why the emergence of this smart city concept?
This concept emerges in a world where economic and environmental crises are having a major impact on urban areas. The effective treatment of urbanization problems has become a priority issue on a global scale, especially since the United Nations predicts that in 2030, two out of three people will live in cities. In this context, making cities smart and sustainable means we try to reduce the environmental impact, rethinking resource access models, and optimizing waste management, transport and energy.
To be smart, today’s cities need to develop new and powerful services in all areas
- Transport and smart mobility: One of the challenges is to integrate different modes of transport – rail, car, cycle and walk – into one system that is efficient, easily accessible, affordable, safe and environmentally friendly.
- Sustainable environment: Cities must act in two main areas: waste with its reduction, the development of alternatives that reduce production and the establishment of efficient recovery systems; energy with the reinforcement of actions in terms of energy efficiency.
- Responsible urbanization and intelligent housing: We must reinvent urban forms that both respect an indispensable intimacy while ensuring sufficient sunshine that allow changes in housing and promote “living together”. Buildings will also need to be smarter in order to facilitate and improve energy management or even reduce consumption.
From telecoms to Big Data
While 25 years ago, the smart city was a technological concept mainly handled by telecom giants to sell their offer of “protection of citizens” to communities, the definition has evolved with the emergence of Big Data. Cities have gradually come to question the use of data collected on the urban space and its users. The observation of the flows thus makes it possible to improve the circulation, when data collection on the infrastructures of leisure, for example, makes it possible to anticipate the needs in personnel according to the hours of frequentation.
Create good governance
To function virtuously, a smart city now relies on information and communication technologies, which aim to improve the quality and performance of urban services to reduce both the costs and the consumption of energy and resources; it also uses connected devices to optimize the efficiency of operations and strengthen interactions between citizens and municipal representatives. The centralization and analysis of collected data is a key issue to connect these different levers and allow smart cities to adjust their economic and environmental policies.
An intelligent ecosystem
Be it water, energy, transport, waste or telecommunications, an urban system is primarily a set of networks. The information systems of these networks are increasingly interconnected. The city is thus an overall infrastructure serving the inhabitants and their activities. When we talk about digital opportunities today, we are talking about a city becoming a platform.
Data, the key to tomorrow’s smart cities
In 2050, more than 70% of humanity will live in cities. It is therefore essential that they improve their ways of transport and reduce their pollutant emissions so as not to become unbearable for their inhabitants. To meet demographic and ecological challenges, cities rely on technological innovation. The 21st century will see the rise of smart cities everywhere on the planet and the engine of these services will be the “data”.
The challenge of protecting citizen data
While data has opened up the possibilities for improving community management, it also represents a cyber security risk. The “exhibition area” of a smart city is considerable, especially when there is no centralized governance. The proliferation of providers and technologies juxtaposed with each other without being always well protected opens the way for hackers, able to trace data to individuals.
To minimize risks, both training the staff who use the data (technicians and community agents) and putting in place a governance able to ensure the interoperability of devices. Users themselves would benefit from being better informed. Finally, if zero risk does not exist, caution must be exercised when deploying new technologies, which must be adjusted to economic development and community needs. In this sense, the smart city does not have a unique economic model.