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French Smart City Pilots

Louise Joselyn in New Electronics magazine reports on “smart city” development in France. The telecoms company France Telecom Orange has been running two smart city pilot projects at Cagne-sur-mer, a city with 40,000 residents located near Nice, and in the Grenoble city center.

At Cagne, the pilot project has involved the deployment of sensors to monitor, measure and even control certain aspects of the city environment, including water metering in public buildings, street lighting control and the environment. Orange has partnered with a number of third party hardware and software technology suppliers as well as environmental monitoring service provider Véolia and the town council.

In the first phase of the experiment, wireless networks were installed to cover street lighting on the sea front at Cagnes and a number of environmental monitoring sensors covering sea temperature, pollution detectors for CO2, NO2 and SO2, noise meters, a uv sensor and a weather station (wind speed and direction, air pressure and temperature).

The development team at Sophia has created an online, colourful and informative control dashboard for supervision of existing smart city services at Cagne-sur-mer. The need for forwarding data to third parties, and for distributing specific data to public information panels, is also being taken into account. In an aerial map view format, operators can check and control the street lighting or automatic watering systems, for example.

Indeed, all sensors deployed in the city communicate with the central server. Double clicking on a sensor allows the user to see the basic set up parameters, battery life and power consumption. Communication is two way, so the supervisor can change the sensor configuration if necessary, to adjust the data capture rate for example. There is a rules management system in place, which can be used to set up how information is collated and displayed. Operators can see at a glance the times and locations of air pollution peaks, for example.

The system can be set up to warn of potential hazards; the city authorities are particularly interested in the system’s potential for early warning of risks from floods, fire, landslides or reduced visibility. Alerts can be sent to relevant people and/or emergency services via different channels (including text to mobile phone and email). Critical sensors have back up communication routes and secure transmission is an important aspect of the supervisory system.

After the first year of operation, it was realised that historic as well as real time data is a valuable, even saleable, asset. Environmental information on air quality, air and sea temperature and weather is available on the city and tourist office websites. A local fish farm uses the sea water temperature data to correct the amount of food required for the growing fish. Analysis of the historical data has allowed the firm to understand better the impact of the changing water temperatures on its operation. Street noise data will be useful as the council upgrades road surfaces, enabling a ‘before and after’ comparison to assess the impact of new materials or techniques.

A new aspect, adopting technology developed and proven by Orange Labs and Véolia in Grenoble, is the remote monitoring of the content levels of rubbish and recycling bins, with the aim of improving the efficiency of waste collection.

Street lighting control is extending from 80 to more than 300 sensor networks. The number of noise level sensors deployed is being expanded, together with air quality sensors, adding new devices for ozone and NO2. This data will be combined in real time, with an automatic, remote vehicle counting operation and analysed with 3d simulation tools with a view to developing urban traffic management services, including locating parking places.

As a result of the Smart City initiative, the Cagne local authorities are expecting to see a 20 to 30% reduction in street lighting energy and maintenance costs. Given that street lighting is estimated to account for some 40% of a city’s energy consumption, this represents a significant saving. Further benefits anticipated include 20 to 40% reduction in greenhouse gases and 20 to 40% energy savings on heating bills for public buildings. In addition, the council will be highlighting to the public the measures for improving the quality of life, through the real time monitoring of parameters that can impact the environment and public health, such as air pollution.

In Grenoble, smart gas and water meters are being installed in an EcoQuartier, with temperature and humidity sensors being deployed to monitor environmental aspects. Targets have been set for energy saving, and a dashboard will be created to provide the citizens (and utilities) with real time visibility of energy consumption. The project combines with a societal element to encourage people to reduce their heating thermostats to 19 °C, for example. Analysing the resulting data will be used to identify building inefficiencies, such as poor insulation.

“We see an expanding range of service opportunities,” said Londeix, Regional Director PACA France Telecom Orange. From Orange’s perspective, the company does not want, nor intend to, provide all these services, but is keenly interested in deploying the communications network (both fixed and mobile) that will enable them. It could, however, become a data broker. In terms of a business model, Londeix cannot be specific. “We need to pin down the services that people will pay for. No single service will pay for the network, so the investment has to be funded across different applications.” Water metering is an obvious start point, while other businesses and industries, as well as local council services, are expected to contribute.

André Bottaro, the M2M Project Director, talked about the ability to sense the ’emotion’ of the city: “Combining sensor data with information on where people are, or are not, will help with tasks such as energy peak detection and peak shaving at a city level.”

Further in the future, both Londeix and Bottaro see potential for new technologies, such as near field communications, which will allow greater access to the data via the internet. “Ultimately, mobile phones will not only be the access mechanism to the data services, but also the sensor nodes contributing to the pool of data,” Londeix predicted. But the most powerful driving forces, Londeix observes, will result from EU and Government legislation, and the public/private partnernships that will emerge. And so it seems, in France at least.

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Via Wired Spime Watch: French intelligent cities