“Smart city”: how intelligent are French towns?

One might think that the concept of a Smart City concerns just the major population centres, but with around 25 towns being developed as “connected”, half of which have less than 250,000 inhabitants, France is proving this cliché to be wrong.  

 

So, what “smart” plans are on the agenda for these medium-sized towns?

A study published by JDN reveals that the main topics addressed are Open Data, Wifi, smart grids and the setting up of participative platforms. Other issues equally as important such as the digital management of refuse collection, mobility, or street lighting, are under consideration by 2 or 3 towns only! Which leads to the question of what the real intentions of the local authority are, and to reveal where it might be a case of a simple publicity stunt.

 

Smart City: Smaller cities get started

Whatever the case may be, it is appropriate to highlight genuine efforts that have been made, as in the case of Chartres, the smallest of the 25 towns, in the field of piloted street lighting, intelligent parking management, or automatic refuse collection.

Mauna Traikia, who is leading the digital project for the Plaine Commune district (a group of municipalities around Plaine Saint-Denis) prefers the vision of a smart town, economically dynamic in a competitive universe where it is important to attract tomorrow’s talents and citizens. It is true that the environment and public health are concerned by the transformation plans, but Mauna Traikia’s priority remains the comfort and the general quality of life of residents. She believes that a collaborative platform is essential for data collection, the discussion of new ideas, and the collaborative construction of the town’s future.

Mulhouse: an application that allows you to organize your trips

In Mulhouse it is Tanguy Selo, the town’s Chief Digital Officer, who proudly presents an application that allows all residents to organise their transport directly via an app they can download to their smartphones. The same app lets you buy your tram ticket or a seat in a carshare.  What Paris or Marseille have not yet managed to do, other smaller but more agile towns have already put into practice! An incubator has been opened in this East France town, which proclaims loud and clear that it’s not only in Saclay that Artificial Intelligence thrives.

Roubaix focuses on responsible urbanism

In Roubaix, Alexandre Garcin, deputy mayor in charge of ‘smart town’ development, has recently presented a responsible urban development project in the form of the first university building in France to be energy-positive. It is already welcoming students for the Autumn term 2018, and with a surface of more than 5,000m² it contributes to the “low-carbon” commitment of the Hauts de France region.

 

Smart City at our scale

For most of the other towns, the projects might seem of modest ambition when compared to Smart Cities like Singapore, Los Angeles, and London (amongst others). Bordeaux however has received the backing of the European programme Sharing Cities and an investment of 25 million euros over 5 years. That makes this large town of South-West France particularly attractive to innovative companies fostering development notably in AI.

 

Digital technology is becoming an essential economic factor for towns of the future

It is easy to see that the attractivity of an economic area will in future years depend on the increased intelligence of towns, and on their ability to make the lives of their most ‘connected’ residents as pleasant and as inspirational as possible. Digital technology is becoming an essential economic factor for towns of the future. Regional and international geopolitical balance will certainly be modified by the integration of Artificial Intelligence, and population movement linked to the new industrial revolution will as a result increase.

 

 

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