Digital infrastructure: The essential question of scale

6 February 2020

    Paris, France 7th November 2019

    Achieving intelligent city projects depends on the availability of digital infrastructure where technologies such as 5G exist and are being deployed. The first insights indicate that these are not only tools for deploying effective, sustainable and inclusive solutions, but also that of new services.

    “We strongly believe that technologies will help cities to become more sustainable, more inclusive, more resilient. 5G for sure is one of the game changers and it will really bring a strong and deep transformation” says Delphine Woussen, Head of Smart Cities at Orange.

    For now, these projects are being conducted in specific regions (quarters, districts etc.) and the results are positive. In the historic quarter of Msheireb Downtown Doha, in Qatar, the Qatari services operator MEEZA has chosen Orange Business Service (OBS) to monitor the operation of buildings and services (video surveillance, building access, fire alarms, public lighting, automatic waste collection, car parks, public display systems etc). More than 500,000 sensors have been installed and the system includes a range of cutting-edge applications. Msheireb Downtown Doha is a fully integrated, intelligent quarter.

    The challenges for cities

    Another example is the city of Toulouse, France, which is experiencing steady population growth, increasing demand for urban services and in particular an increasing demand for mobility. The Commute project is an original experience.

    With its 38,000 employees, including 20,000 from Airbus, the aeronautical areas of Toulouse, Blagnac and Colomiers, Europe's largest industrial site, is congested every morning and evening. It generates 265,000 professional journeys every day, 90 per cent of which are completed by car and 70 per cent by lone drivers. Toulouse Métropole has drawn up a collaborative mobility management system on its site, financed mainly by the European Union and nine other partners: the Métropole, Airbus, ATR, Safran, the business club Réussir, Sopra Steria, the airport, the public transport union Tisséo and Afnor.

    “The ambition is to manage our mobility” says Didier Bosque, Innovation and Digital Transformation Manager at Sopra Steria.

    The deployment of global intelligent solutions on the scale of large towns and cities is more complex. The main obstacle remains that the authorities do not have the essential data they need, such as, data relating to a building’s energy consumption. Without the necessary information, it is impossible to implement intelligent networks. When the information does exist, it is generally segmented according to the different services available (mobility, water etc.).

    “The first point is how you can mutualize infrastructures, deploy multiple services with the same infrastructure, rethink the transversalities of the silos, because cities have silos like any big organization” says Alain Kergoat, Chief Program Officer at the Small Building Alliance for Small Cities (SBA).

    The question of exploiting available data while respecting the standards which help protect people's private lives is therefore a central issue when it comes to intelligent cities.

    The importance of a collaborative approach

    There is a consensus on the matter that an intelligent city project cannot be completed simply by adding another solution. Such an approach would mean certain failure. Digital transformation requires cities to rethink their models and they must rely on a collaborative and shared approach, involving the public sector, private individuals and citizens.

    Implementing such an approach requires us to reflect on the separation of tasks between different stakeholders, particularly between the public and private sectors. Amongst other things, it's about knowing what comes from public funding (taxes) and what comes from private funding. The challenge for cities is therefore significant. Identifying, collecting, using and enhancing data requires significant investment, both in terms of purchasing equipment and software and in terms of recruiting qualified people.

    Businesses currently have a whole range of technologies and solutions. Their challenge lies in identifying and developing viable business models, particularly products and services that really bring value and incorporate all available positive external factors.

    The involvement of citizens

    The inhabitants of cities expect solutions that will improve their daily routines as well as their quality of life. They also demand interactive solutions through various applications. They want to be stakeholders in intelligent cities.

    In Toulouse, the ECOMODE project exemplifies this solution. It's an incentive system that allows each citizen to understand their individual impact on mobility and to act in favour of sustainable development. An individual account is created: Each de-carbonised mobility act (car sharing, bicycle, public transport etc.) or of immobility (remote working, third-location etc.) is credited with Mobi-Coins. These credits can be converted into discounts on mobility or even cultural offers. The partners involved in the ECOMODE project are: Toulouse Métropole, Tisséo Collectivités, Airbus and Sopra Steria.

    The involvement of Toulouse’s citizens also appears to be an excellent means of re-establishing a relationship based on trust between the city’s citizens and its administrative departments. Digital infrastructure can thereby contribute to ending the systemic distrust which exists in numerous countries.

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