Is Switzerland missing out on the smart city phenomenon?
Switzerland is a small country on a global scale. But it’s also a major country in the world of finance and one of the best in terms of quality of life. In terms of scientific research, let’s not forget that Switzerland hosts the CERN (European Center for Nuclear Research). It has the best clockmakers, several pharmaceutical labs and the food giant, Nestlé.
So why have new technologies and the futuristic vision of the Smart City not been advanced?
The first explanation put forth by Swiss specialists is the number of small projects integrating Artificial Intelligence. On an extremely local level and as well as the lack of communication and connection between these projects. Yet, the connection of data collection systems is at the heart of the debate! Using citizens’ data to facilitate their surveillance is one step that many political figures have no trouble taking.
“Communities collect our data in order to better serve us, and it looks great on paper. However, this can become a major infringement in the private sphere“, worries National Councillor Lisa Mazzone (Verts/GE). Others are more moderate and attempt to reassure public opinion. Such as Council of States Member Olivier Français (PLR/VD), who says, “It’s true there’s cause for concern, but if we put up walls to this digital world, we cut ourselves off from everything and remain in our bubble.”
The risks of cyber security for Swiss legislation
Since the installation of security cameras in Switzerland in addition to the arrival of facial recognition, a climate of fear has invaded its regions. How many cameras are spying on our everyday lives?
The press recently wondered. Especially since the effectiveness of these systems is highly contested. Although the population remains unconvinced. Switzerland’s distinctive characteristic resides in its local consultation process, region by region and even town by town. However, at the federal level, the use of data collected at the local level faces a certain legal vacuum, opening the door to disagreements, affirms Christian Maquelin. “There’s still legal uncertainty regarding the installation of surveillance cameras.”
Sully: a smart city at the local level
Despite the above, there are several local projects that should be mentioned. One of them is in the small town of Pully. It claimed to be a smart city even though it has only 18,000 residents.
“People are a little jealous of us because we have quickly implemented several projects despite our small size“, says Thierry Lassueur, Head of Works and Industrial Services in Pully. The town has even developed an internet site dedicated to its digital projects, under the ambitious domain name of “smart.pully.ch”. On this site, people can find information on projects: including mobility observation, remote building management and even local e-commerce.
It’s a new way of promoting local products like wine and wood. The advantages of this intelligent city include practicality, efficiency and community. But it should be stressed that the top priority is still the person at the heart of digital technology. Which, for Pully, has translated into the launch of a “digital social platform” for seniors, who constitute 24% of the population.
In the end, all is not lost in the country of the kings’ cantons. And Switzerland can be smart in other ways, by highlighting local initiatives.