Improving citizens’ connection with each other and with institutions, facilitating travel and the circulation of information, as well as optimizing the management of resources and preserving the environment by encouraging recycling, avoiding waste and reducing pollution – those are some of the promises made by Smart Cities. The aim is to make cities “sustainable, more efficient and easier to live in,” explains Larissa Suzuki, before adding that this success involves “systems, information and people.” This three-fold environmental, economic and social improvement is made much easier by the expansion of the Internet, which spreads its net a little wider each day, particularly via connected objects, which are set to number 25 billion by 2025 according to Machina Research.

An all-data city

In this city where “everything is connected”, data proliferates to become the main commodity shaping the city of the future. This is why so many open-data platforms are appearing around the world. The challenge is simple: to allow everyone to access and make use of public and private data produced by local authorities, public services and businesses. Examples of platforms already launched include in France, and the City Data Exchange in Copenhagen. These vast data catalogs contain a little of everything: from lists of different types of parking (paid-for, rotating, combined, deliveries, coaches, bicycles, motorbikes, etc.) to a list of the most popular books in libraries, via new types of data collected remotely. As a recent example, since June 2016, the city of Paris has been conducting an experiment at Place de la Nation, designed to measure various usages linked to movement around the square (motor vehicles, bikes, pedestrians, etc.) as well as atmospheric and noise pollution. Awa Ndiaye, head of the Open Innovation project at Paris City Hall, explained at the AWS Summit that the city wished to “put data at the heart of its Smart City approach (…). In the future, sensors will be placed around Paris and made available to innovative partners.” The more sensors, the more data, for a better city – that is the trend.

Data to improve lifestyle

Once collected, this data drives innovation. As Pablo Cerdeira, Chief Data Officer in Rio de Janeiro, explains, “data allows us to understand the city and launch innovative projects.” The first beneficiaries of this innovation are citizens. Usman Haque, co-founder of London design agency Umbrellium, believes that the success of Smart Cities depends on their ability to engage citizens. An example of this is the ListeningNYC app, which allows residents to assess the noise quality of a location and assign a mood to it. Crowdsourcing and geolocation have therefore made it possible to generate a new map of New York in order to reduce noise pollution. This approach, putting citizens at the center of considerations, has already proved economically and environmentally valuable. In Copenhagen, the “Copenhagen Connecting – Make It Easier to Be a Citizen” plan, which collects data from the smartphones of citizen-volunteers, buses’ GPS systems and sensors in drains and trash cans, should cut journey times by 10%, considerably reduce waste and save the city €640m. Data – often described as the “new oil” – is more than ever proving itself worthy of that name.

The more tools there are for capturing this data, the more abundant they are and the more they contribute to improving city life. But similarly, the more the number of data collection tools increases, the greater the potential risks incurred. The omniscient Big Brother city also offers more entry points for cyber-attacks… This new environment makes data security the cornerstone of Smart Cities of the future.

Securing smart cities’ data: the new priority

On 21 October 2016, a vast cyber-attack targeted large websites and media outlets. It swept through hundreds of thousands of connected objects, from surveillance cameras, to thermostats and baby monitors… reminding us that connected houses can offer hackers a convenient Trojan Horse. And what is a City if not an immense communal house? Bertrand Jomard, Head of IoT at OT, believes that the problem stems from the almost non-existent security on a large number of connected objects:

“It is essential to secure the connected object in itself. By incorporating a hardware component, we are now capable of making an object tamper-proof. One of our solutions also makes it possible to secure communications and data collection and therefore to prevent hacking.”

Cities are aware of these new challenges and the development of open-data programs goes hand-in-hand with reinforced security. Bertrand Jomard tells us about some of the challenges surrounding numerous Smart City projects: “Commissions for Smart City projects dedicated to securing data have a considerable weight in decisions. The members of these committees must ensure that the security criteria address the necessary requirements for these highly sensitive projects.” This is a significant consideration to take into account: heightened risks make security a major issue.

Smart cities to enhance happiness

Smart Cities offer a range of new benefits. Here are three connected cities which promote their citizens’ well-being.

Dubai: measuring citizens’ happiness

The objective reflects the ambitious nature of the city: “to make Dubai the happiest city on Earth.” To achieve this goal set by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the city is currently developing the “Happiness Meter” to measure happiness. In several locations in the city, residents can select their mood from three options: satisfied, neutral or dissatisfied. All the data collected will be compiled into a map.

Rio: data to enhance safety

The Brazilian city’s Pensa Team is dedicated to analyzing data to coordinate innovation. One of the main uses of this data is enhancing citizens’ safety. The data collected has therefore enabled the city to define areas to position police in order to reduce accidents.

Barcelona: the connected city benefiting the elderly

Named the first Smart City in the world in 2015 by Juniper Research, Barcelona has launched a host of initiatives to make the urban space a pleasant place to live. One of the latest innovations to date: a connected object for a free remote-assistance service for the elderly, seven days a week, 365 days a year. In the event of a problem, they simply need to press a button hanging from a ribbon which can be worn around the neck. These have been distributed free of charge to 70,000 of the city’s citizens.