Cities are doing their best to become a smart city and offer the best living conditions for its citizens. For many cities that have embarked on the smart city journey, transportation plays a big role in their strategy. Belfort, a mid-sized city in France is a good example of this. The mid-sized industrial city of 50,000 serves a proof for improved urban transportation.

Proof of Concept in Belfort

In order to successfully work on this smart city project, the local government in Belfort worked together with two partners. The Board of Public Transportation of Belfort decided to set up a partnership with Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) and GFI Informatique. With this partnership, they started to monitor the 100 plus buses that are available in the city of Belfort.

The smart city project involves the use of ID cards, GPS-equipped card readers on buses and big data analysis. In fact, this enables the involved parties to acquire the needed information. The collected data allows the involved parties to measure bus speed from bus stop to bus stop, passenger flow, and route density.

By making use of the proof of concept, the involved parties have insight on when and where people get off the bus and can plan according to the demand. Furthermore, from the start to the finish the proof of concept project took four weeks. The proof of concept provided Belfort with real-time data to make decisions and improve the service of its 100 buses traveling in five different routes. In fact, the use of the proof of concept also has other advantages besides improving service and decision making. By implementing this smart city project, the city is also on its way of saving €250,000 on an annual basis.

According to Senthil Gunasekaran, Head of Corporate Development and Strategic Alliances at TCS:

“By undergoing a proof of concept, cities are able to place more emphasis on strategy and less on the immediate installation of sensors or other Internet of Things technologies, giving a more cost-efficient process.”

How the Proof of Concept Works

Similar to many other cities, Belfort’s ticketing system allowed them to track where passengers entered. However, they were not able to know the departure point of the passenger. Having insight into the departure data is crucial to understand how the routes are being used.

“Before the proof of concept, Belfort knew when passengers boarded a bus but had no indication of where their departure point was. Thanks to the proof of concept, Belfort now knows when and where about approximately 20 percent of the passengers have departed a bus,” said Senthil Gunasekaran.

In fact, to realize this project the team took advantage of existing sensor’s available in Belfort’s bus network. This includes GPS devices, that help to measure the speed on different route sections. This enabled the team to identify congestion points. Due to this data, the city officials were able to make evidence-based changes for the first time.

Furthermore, due to the proof of concept, the city officials are able to use digital technology in the following cases:

  • Adjust the frequency of buses on particular routes
  • Project the savings resulting from new road construction projects
  • Find ways to reduce bus system costs

The city of Belfort was able to implement the proof of concept without having to install adding hardware or overhauling infrastructure. The use of the proof of concept provided the city officials with useful data insights. Moreover, it also provided the officials with the necessary data to implement changes that can help to improve the city. Most importantly, all the proof of concept hasn’t cost anything to the city of Belfort.