Making the smart city of tomorrow a reality

With rapid urbanisation taking place across the world, along with increasing energy demands, the challenge of reducing carbon will become more pressing. It’s therefore vital that cities also work towards reducing greenhouse
gas emissions.

“The need to decarbonise our cities is critical,” says David Carr, chief executive of Bouygues Energies & Services UK, a leader in energy, digital and industrial transformation. “Questions of how do we actually power the cities of tomorrow without using carbon fuels are going to be a key challenge that most developing regions face.”

As opposed to the historical approach of building cities to address urgent issues with short-term solutions, cities of tomorrow are all about how they will be run in the long term. Decision-makers have to also keep in mind one of the main priorities of their citizens: connectivity, both physical and digital.

Local authorities need to make it easy for people to deal with day-to-day activities by deploying intelligent modes of transport and enhancing digital connectivity. Relying on a connected and efficient public infrastructure is therefore critical for cities of tomorrow, so-called smart cities that are on course to place wellbeing and comfort of citizens at the forefront

Urbanisation and decarbonisation are some of the great challenges of the future. Bouygues is tackling these by linking passive buildings, low-carbon energy generation and big data to establish smart management of smart cities.

According to the Existing Homes Alliance, more than 85 per cent of the buildings that will exist in 2050 have already been built, which means retrofitting current buildings plays a key role in any strategy to reduce carbon.

Schemes such as Refit Programme in London are aiming to address this issue. New buildings using techniques such as Passivehaus contribute to a more sustainable future by becoming carbon positive, through effective use of external shading, night-time cooling, heavy buildings and natural ventilation.

The transition from centralised to decentralised energy systems means connecting local producers of energy with local consumers or prosumers. This will lead to cost efficiencies and improved management of demand. Energy prosumers will reduce reliance on the national grid by feeding smart grids with photovoltaic and battery storage. This will dramatically change how cities are powered, but will require next-generation communication technology.

When it comes to a smart city, there is no one size fits all

Mr Carr says: “In the current era of advanced technology, we have information about energy demand and supply in real time. The ability to mine this data, identify patterns and provide high-quality analysis is allowing Bouygues Energies & Services to better use cities’ infrastructure networks, electric vehicles charging cycles and battery storage solutions to continuously match demand and supply. As well as providing lower-cost energy to help address fuel poverty.”

Yet greater reliance on data requires higher cybersecurity to be addressed at the outset. Also, the energy grid is not the only layer of the city which can use data. CCTV, geolocation services, street lights and public infrastructure generate information that can help cities become more resilient.

In February 2018, a consortium led by Bouygues Energies & Services was awarded a 12-year design-build-operate contract by the Dijon Metropolitan Area, a city of 160,000 inhabitants in eastern France, for the centralised management of public services.

Bouygues Energies & Services’ Smart City offer is based on a platform, called an urban hypervisor, that is able to connect up all public infrastructure. This hypervisor provides access to all public amenities and infrastructure in real time.

For example, it can increase or reduce the brightness of street lighting depending on the situation. It is possible to have real-time control over all traffic lights, thus improving traffic in rush-hour periods. It can also control city-centre retractable bollards in real time to facilitate access for emergency services when required. Authorities are quickly able to formulate responses to unforeseen events that would typically bring a large city to a standstill.

By pooling these different functions and improving the efficiency of public services, we can improve the quality of services delivered to end-users, and thus improve quality of life, energy consumption and economic performance indicators.

Bouygues, which also runs one of the four telephone mobile networks in France, has advanced telecommunications solutions that enable the company to collect and analyse anonymised data. This can be utilised to create a safer, greener and cleaner environment.

“Operating a smart city requires specific knowledge. We acquired it over the years with local authorities by managing their infrastructure.” says Mr Carr.

In Kent, Bouygues Energies & Services has been working with the council to transform 120,000 street lights. This is reducing energy consumption by 60 per cent, creating annual savings of around £4 million. What’s more, the county will now have smart systems in place to build upon. Smart management of public amenities will enable local authorities to improve their performance, while simultaneously make their local areas more attractive by stimulating the digital economy.

The potential of smart cities to raise living standards for residents is unparalleled. “Citizens want to be involved in the development of their smart city to improve their safety, the quality of the air, the way waste is managed and so on. They want easy access to the spaces they want to visit, be it green spaces, shopping malls, entertainment centres. All these aspects need to be considered when developing a smart city,” says Mr Carr.

It requires a collaborative dialogue between all stakeholders in the city, focused on how to bring real day-to-day benefits to all inhabitants.

Smart cities are technology-led developments. They require substantial research and development investments. They also involve partnering with non-traditional supply chains to invent and develop the services of tomorrow.

“Our philosophy is one of shared innovation. We work very closely with startups and scale-ups, especially through our Matching Up scheme, an international co-innovation programme which enables us to innovate differently in a more collaborative and agile way,” says Mr Carr. One initiative currently being piloted is the Living Lab in Hertfordshire where various connected assets are turned into an intelligent urban network.

Cities are unique. “When it comes to a smart city, there is no one size fits all,” says Mr Carr. “Our approach is to work in partnership with each council, select best-fit technologies and deliver optimal solutions in a timely fashion to meet their specific needs.”

By heavily investing to ensure smart cities of tomorrow can gain an unparalleled understanding of the infrastructure and services of their cities, Bouygues Energies & Services will facilitate the use of this intelligence to improve the life of their inhabitants.


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