A smart city or smart city is a city where most urban objects are connected. Such a city relies on a multitude of low-power sensors and transmitters to maintain a constant connection. The data collected in real time is processed by a computer intelligence that optimizes the operation of the city’s elements. The declared goal is to improve the lives of city dwellers by making their everyday lives more pleasant and efficient.
Usually, transforming a city into a smart city (or creating a city in such a perspective) aims to solve problems of overpopulation, transport congestion, and also to reduce the ecological footprint.
Energy optimization is one of the goals of Smart Cities.
- Vehicles with sensors communicate with street furniture, pedestrians, cyclists and public transport networks to keep traffic flowing as smoothly as possible;
- Drones deliver packages to your home or a nearby delivery point to reduce traffic;
- After detecting a vehicle’s next passage, the street lights turn on in sequence as it passes. Then, when the vehicle has driven away, they drive out by themselves;
- Waste is recovered and converted into reusable fuel and electricity. Rainwater is collected and treated in a similar way;
- On certain streets, townspeople’s footsteps are converted into energy that is used to heat water for nearby homes and offices.
- Building towards the sky saves space on the ground and arranges spaces lined with plants;
During the day, various applications answer practical questions such as:
- What’s the nearest free bank?
- What is the occupancy rate of the next subway car?
- Where is the nearest shop with tofu?
A variety of projects
Smart city projects are multiplying around the world. In India, since 2015, the Smart City Mission 2.0 initiative aims to develop no fewer than 4,000 smart and sustainable cities, either by transforming existing infrastructure or creating new cities. One of the goals is to promote participatory democracy. The flagship project in this area is located in the town of Dolhera.
In the United States, smart city initiatives have been launched in a large number of cities: Dallas (Texas), Chicago (Illinois), Seattle (Washington), San Francisco (California), Boston (Massachusetts) … Dallas has implemented smart water management, Seattle and San Francisco are working to reduce their energy consumption, Boston is using its residents’ data to reduce congestion, etc.
The green metropolis of Masdar, on the border with Abu Dhabi, was built in the middle of the desert in 2018 and has set itself the goal of producing neither waste nor CO2. His plans include:
- an underground transport system with magnetically guided electric carts;
- Technologies for generating energy in every household;
- intelligent building design that makes them energy efficient, with most relying on the sun for their electricity needs.
The city of Songdo (South Korea) with a population of 76,000 was built in early 2003 and opened to the public six years later. It calls for hyper-networked infrastructures and means of transport. Xiongan in China wants to become a big smart city: it should be bigger than New York. Saudi Arabia has invested in the Neom project using cutting-edge technology embedded in a natural environment. Neom wants to be a laboratory for a futuristic place to live.
The SWiM system deployed in Prague in 2014 ushered the Czech capital into the era of intelligent water management. In the event of the smallest incident, an alarm is displayed in the control center and an emergency team is immediately dispatched to the scene. Citizens can be informed via SMS notifications on the SWiM website.
In France, Dijon launched the OnDijon project, which aims to transform the city into a smart city, with remote monitoring of all urban equipment. The cities of Nice and Havre are also involved in this issue.
Singapore, the exemplary smart city
In Switzerland there is an organization called IMD Institute for Management Development which publishes its Smart Cities ranking every year. At the end of 2021, his top 10 were as follows:
1. Singapore; 2. Zurich (Switzerland); 3. Oslo (Norway); 4. Taipei (Taiwan); 5. Lausanne (Switzerland); 6. Helsinki (Finland); 7. Copenhagen (Denmark); 8. Geneva (Switzerland); 9. Auckland (New Zealand); 10. Bilbao (Spain).
In 2014, the Republic of Singapore, a city-state off the coast of Malaysia, founded the initiative intelligent nation. It has thus confirmed its ambition to position itself as a pioneer of the Smart City by putting technology at the service of the city. Year after year, Singapore ranks first in the IMD smart city ranking
examples ? Sensors built into taxis help reduce traffic congestion in real time. The water pressure is measured several times per second and all changes are reported to a central server. Other sensors monitor water quality to detect any pollution risks upstream. In this island city with limited fresh water sources, such a system is invaluable.
In the city center, the Gardens by the Bay have become world famous for their approach to recycling. The garden city collects rainwater that is used to irrigate the plantations. Unused water is cleaned before storage. Decaying plant matter is used as fertilizer but also as a source of electricity. The greenhouses house more than 500,000 species of plants from all over the world and their humidity is constantly monitored.
At the same time, Singapore is building a team of intelligent air taxis in partnership with Volocopter.
Barcelona: the self-sufficient smart city
In Europe, one city has launched an original smart city project: Barcelona. Smart Citizen was founded in 2014 with one goal: to make Barcelona self-sufficient in energy, food and production within 40 years. As the initiators of the project point out: So far, smart cities have driven centralized data production with management systems sold by large corporations “. Smart Citizen, on the other hand, wants to put people at the center of the city and act independently.
Smart Citizen provides hardware and software for city dwellers willing to participate in the experiment. The open-source Smart Citizen Kit offered to residents helps collect and analyze various environmental data in real time. The aim is to get citizens involved in environmental issues by providing them with their own measurement tool. We also speak of a “participatory city”.
The project started in Spain and Amsterdam, and hundreds of kits were distributed around the world in cities such as Shenzen in China but also Brest in France.
Google Sidewalk Labs
Several large companies have developed smart city projects, sometimes mainly for their employees. This is the case with the Next City that the Chinese Tencent is experiencing, or the Woven City that Toyota manufactures in Japan.
Billionaire Bill Gates himself acquired a vast territory in Arizona to build a smart city from the ground up. It should be called Belmont.
With its Sidewalk Labs division, Google is experimenting with the implementation of fully networked cities, of which certain functions can be changed at will. An experiment took place in Toronto in 2017 in an area of abandoned warehouses near the port. On the menu: wooden buildings, flexible and modular living spaces.
In this model city, sensors measure the temperature of the apartments, the air quality and these factors are adjusted by artificial intelligence. Certain streets are protected by retractable awnings and can be turned into covered markets, have a lane for cyclists or become pedestrian for the weekend at will. The hexagonal paving stones placed on the ground are heated in winter to facilitate snow removal.
This project, which was probably too ambitious, was abandoned in May 2020 after strong resistance from the citizens. However, this division of Google is conducting experiments in cities like Philadelphia or Boston.