The French city of Nice is combining the Internet of Things with city management, providing its citizens with a ‘connected’ avenue designed to help drive progress towards the ‘smart city’.
According to a recent report published by Navigant Research, the number of people living in cities is set to increase from 3.6 billion to 6.3 billion over the next forty years, which will create major challenges in terms of transport, security, and the environment. In parallel there will be around 30 billion wireless connected objects in the world in 2020, according to an assessment by ABI Research. Against this backdrop, the Nice Côte d’Azur metropolitan authorities and the Nice city council have just launched, in partnership with IT network specialists Cisco Systems, the first-ever ‘connected’ urban avenue designed to combine two concepts: the Internet of Things and the management of urban space. The purpose of the initiative is to optimise the area’s environmental and energy management, at the same time providing the city with new drivers for economic growth. “Over the next year, Nice will be a real laboratory in which to try out new ways of making savings and managing the city,” explained Anil Menon, head of Smart+Connected Communities projects at Cisco.
Connected city: from data transfer to usable information
All along the boulevard Victor Hugo in the city centre of Nice, more than 200 sensors, with an average lifetime of 8-10 years, have been installed on street-lights, in the roadway, and on garbage depositories. These sensors will collect real-time information on traffic flows, public lighting, cleanliness and the quality of the environment in the city centre. Data will aggregated and sent via a WiFi network to the city’s computer centre or directly to citizens using related apps. “The major challenge for this system is to progress from mere data transfer to real information transfer,” pointed out Olivier Seznec, CTO at Cisco, France. In fact these sensors produce a huge amount of data; not all of it will be automatically sent to the computer centre. The challenge is to create a network that is capable of flagging information which has high operational value – a sudden major change in temperature, for instance – rather than just data flows showing for example insignificant fluctuations in temperature. In short the key is to transform ‘raw facts’ into items of real information, to be able to signal anomalies and react in real time.
System offers multiple benefits
The system will provide the city’s inhabitants with many practical services such as enabling streetlamps to light up autonomously, one by one, according to passing traffic flows; making suggestions to car drivers on where to park in the neighbourhood; and signalling the amount of rubbish and the temperature inside the public garbage depositories so as to prevent fires breaking out. “Moreover, this data provides us with excellent indicators on which to base local government decision-making,” underlined Nice Mayor Christian Estrosi during the ‘connected boulevard’ inauguration, explaining: “The next time we go and install sound barriers to reduce noise, we’ll have real reliable data to guide our choices.” Last but not least, the creation of the connected boulevard will lead to new business models, not only in terms of resource optimisation but also in fostering innovative approaches and creating jobs. While the city will be entirely responsible for managing the data, some of it will be open to the public and to entrepreneurs so that they can design new applications for city services.