Philippe Gourbesville, Director at Polytech Nice Sophia, France

Why being smart?

Cities attract more and more population and urban environment is since now 15 years the environment of the majority of human beings. For answering to the needs and demands of inhabitants, cities have gradually increase their sophistication and complexity: energy distribution, water supply, transport network, waste collection and communication networks are the services which are now essential for the functioning of the cities. 

The growing complexity associated to the unknown size of urban environments that concentrate several millions of people – megacities- requests to review the concepts which have been used until now and which are directly rooted on the Greek city based on a centralized approach. The new emerging concepts request to distribute the services. This distribution can be achieved today with the implementation of the smart technologies that are used both to optimize the resources and to control the performance of the services. 

The sensor revolution, initiated with the massive production of cheap devices, combined with the fast development of communication networks, allows today to implement those technologies in all the key services that are developed in urban environments. This on-going development will deeply affect the structure and the organisation of cities that will have to develop an environment where energy, water and waste can be managed locally and not anymore in a centralized way. The approach allows promoting the concept of resilience which a key concept for the city regeneration and development.

The smart approach is also an opportunity for the cities of developing countries that have the possibility to overcome major challenges by implementing solutions which are based on the new technologies and not on the traditional approach that request higher financial investment. 2015 will see for sure major achievements in smart energy and in smart water grids. Those concepts will emerge and gradually induce a radical change in the design and in the organisation of the cities.