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According to a study conducted by Paris-Est Créteil Val-de-Marne University, 40% of towns and cities with populations of more than 100,000 have a Smart City strategy. The smart city’s promise is to make the way in which it is managed more efficient and democratic, drawing on the latest technological innovations to help serve its citizens.

This involves everything from security and administration… to ecology (optimizing the city’s energy usage) and its water supply network. Sensors, for example, can modulate urban lighting levels depending on how much traffic there is, generating significant savings. The same smart sensors can be outdoor Li-Fi-enabled so they can transmit information to people’s smart phones. The new impetus driving the development of these technologies is benefiting the relationships between local government and city-dwellers. Parking can be more effectively controlled, for example, by optimizing access to car parks; people can get information about public transport or the availability of bicycles on bike share schemes; they can also find out about schools, libraries, swimming pools and a whole range of other public places… or they can report a road incident. There really is no end to the plethora of new services designed to improve people’s lives and the way in which towns and cities are managed.

But how do you turn a city into a smart city (read here) ? The smart city is to towns and cities what the digital transformation is to companies. Naturally, the two approaches have a lot in common.

 

Step 1

Identify Areas of Potential and Prioritize

The approach adopted for developing a smart city differs depending on whether the aim is to optimize the way in which it is managed or make improvements to community life. Meeting the first aim involves peppering the city with sensors and tools for collecting data about the way in which energy, waste, traffic, etc. are managed. The second involves providing city-dwellers with a service designed to improve their experience of urban life. This service can be underpinned by data collected from sensors. These sensors can – for example – transmit information about traffic, relieving congestion by providing road users with information in real time. But the service can just as easily do without this data: being able to provide information about public places or giving them the means to reserve a book in a library are not contingent on data being collected upstream.

The first step therefore involves properly defining the scope of the project. Not all cities have the same requirements: prioritize your expectations and desired benefits so that the smart city doesn’t just end up being a simple concept or an assembly of technologies… but is instead an innovation that improves your city.

 

Step 2

Structure and Rethink Services

To effectively implement your transformation, you have to:

  • Select the right partners
  • Rationalize and pool
  • Provide staff training

For a city to transform, it needs several partners – service providers for implementing your platform and technology suppliers. These partners work alongside your own teams. As is the case with all organizations, cities need to discard the silo approach to the way in which they work. A successful smart city is one in which people work together, and information, technology and data are shared and exchanged. This leads us to rationalization and pooling. Teams are no longer structured vertically in hierarchies: like companies, local authorities will need to think about strategy and overall management; they’re going to have to put in place a blueprint in order to break down the silos that develop naturally when people work on a per-project basis. Providing staff with training in these new approaches is also essential and should not be overlooked: when selecting the technologies for helping with this training, criteria such as simplicity, how easy it is to get up and running, ergonomic design and automation are all very important.

 

Step 3

Manage the Data

For both companies and local authorities, data plays a key role in all digital projects. It is central to the project’s success, but is also complicated to get a handle on it. There are two reasons for this

  1. its volume: exponential quantities of data are collected.
  2. its heterogeneous nature: each local authority or urban community has different networks of sensors for managing waste collection, public lighting, traffic, heating, etc.

This large number of networks means additional costs for the local authorities and confusion when reading, sharing and making use of data. And how valuable this data is depends on its interoperability. Developing tools that can do something useful with this huge quantity of data is a major challenge.

 

Step 4

Choose the Right Technology

Once the data collection networks have been pooled, local authorities should set up a platform for developing applications that can interact with all types of data – regardless of its source.

Local authorities have to deal with three constraints when pushing a service out to their citizens:

  • Technological dependency: technologies evolve rapidly, so open source really is the most obvious choice for local authorities.
  • Security: protecting sensitive information is of fundamental importance – especially if the idea is for people to log on just once and then be able to access a whole range of services. Your platform should incorporate Adullact technology.
  • Cost and speed of roll-out: the costs and production times involved in developing an app can quickly get out of control. You need a platform that can help you design, produce and deliver a mobile app in less than 4 weeks.

 

Step 5

Maintain

As we said in the introduction, the wealth and sheer diversity of the services available to city-dwellers to improve their experience of their urban environments are limitless. Each one of these services calls upon different technical services within the local authority. The risk? As many apps as there are technical services will be rolled out, with heterogeneous technologies, a lack of transparency, and increasing complexity involved in maintaining this range of available applications.

Whatever technology you choose should take subsequent requirements into account: the maintainability of your applications, upgrades to keep pace with technological developments, changes to handsets and the way they are used, and the cost of all this maintenance.

Wakanda is an integrated open source platform designed for rapidly producing and rolling out your mobile application. Wakanda is part of the Adullact association set up to encourage local authorities to adopt open source software.

 

Find out how Wakanda can help you turn your city into a smart city.