Whether it’s related to water, waste, energy or traffic circulation, cities generate vast amounts of data every day. The idea of centralising, linking up and extracting meaning from this data has become a valuable resource for ensuring the development and appeal of urban centres. Using its extensive experience as a public utilities delegated contract holder, GDF Suez has launched Cit’Ease – a platform to help elected officials, local councils and individuals manage this data.
The director of the Cit’Ease project, Nathalie Allegret, answered a few of our questions at the Forum Jeunes Femmes et Numérique event for young women in tech.
Cit’Ease: A collaborative tool for supporting cities
With connected objects springing up left, right and centre, our cities are churning out a constant stream of data. But the problem is that not all of the data is in the same format, nor does it follow the same protocols or work on the same media. So, what was GDF SUEZ’s bright idea? To bring together all this data and transform it into truly meaningful information. Nathalie Allegret explained:
“GDF SUEZ has been a public utilities delegated contract holder for several years. For a long time now, we have been helping cities supply gas and water, manage waste and street lighting, and even provide transportation. Now we want to help them in the digital transformation of their regions.”
The Group therefore came up with Cit’Ease: an interactive, comprehensive dashboard containing every single bit of information about a region. The information is compiled from transmitters installed by energy, water and waste operators, from councils’ information systems and from open-data sources (weather reports, maps, demographic and statistical information). In addition to collecting data, Cit’Ease improves interaction between networks so that the information becomes more meaningful and valuable. Let’s take the example of loop counters installed on roads that can provide traffic data. The data collected from these counters – which are connected to traffic or street lights – becomes interactive, smart and useful:
“Cit’Ease is a digital tool designed to help elected officials monitor their city’s performance using a number of indicators. They are then able to compare this performance with their election pledges and show people how they are meeting their commitments.”
A platform designed for elected officials, local authorities and individuals
Cit’Ease also gathers information provided by local people. Anyone can submit suggestions or discuss issues about the city via a designated app, whether it’s timings for street lights or road access. They can also use many special features designed for citizens. Let’s take a resident who notices a water leak in his/her area, for instance. The individual can use a ‘data connector’ like Cit’Ease to report the leak to the public services company, alert other residents and inform the transport authority to put in place a diversion, all in one go. And Cit’Ease doesn’t just cover areas of activity in which GDF SUEZ has long been a stakeholder:
“The project relates to every aspect of city life, including energy, water, waste, street lighting and transport, which are GDF SUEZ’s business lines. But we are also involved in areas outside of our own activity, such as culture, education and sport.”
To achieve this, the energy giant relies on an effective ecosystem, described to us by Nathalie Allegret:
“Cit’Ease was developed internally by GDF SUEZ alongside start-ups that were able to provide different input from one region to the next, because we wanted to promote local start-ups. We also work with SMEs and industry leaders.”
Cit’Ease shows officials the bigger picture of their city by providing a more detailed understanding of the data it generates. This helps them identify the best course of action, because the platform highlights both the city’s comparative strengths and shortcomings.
Helping cities open up and organise their data
“As it stands, all towns or cities with more than 3,500 inhabitants are obliged to publish their data publicly. In light of this requirement, smaller towns – and there are a large number of them – feel quite ill-equipped. So we try to assist them in both the collection of information and the organisation of the data they already have.”
GDF SUEZ’s solution is not only aimed at large urban centres; it is designed for authorities of all shapes and sizes, as Nathalie Allegret explains:
“GDF SUEZ is helping all towns and cities with their digital transformation, even the smallest. We don’t want to leave anyone behind. It’s about equality: citizens – whether they live in a small town or large city – deserve the same level of digital services.”
To roll out their solution, the Group has relied on its close relationship with local authorities:
“We already have ties to local authorities through our long-standing business lines. So, when we notice an interest in digital technology, we make the most of it by introducing Cit’Ease. In general, the idea is extremely well-received, as authorities often feel lost when it comes to technology. Most are happy that a trusted, formerly state-owned stakeholder such as Gaz de France can help them on the issue.”
At the moment, Mulhouse is the only city to enjoy a fully functional platform, but other projects across France are underway.
On track for fully connected cities?
The issues surrounding smart cities go far beyond simply managing data. Today, technological breakthroughs are full of the promise of 100% secure, sustainable, intelligent cities. Some major cities, such as Amsterdam, are already chock-a-block with transmitters and use precise technological data to optimise resources and improve the lives of residents.
In Jean-Christophe Ribot’s documentary on smart cities (Les villes du futur – Les villes intelligentes) which aired a few months ago on French television channel Arte, Daniel Kaplan, director of the Fing next generation Internet foundation, shared his vision of connected cities:
“Behind the vision of the smart city is this really sound idea that there is a vast amount of information within cities, about cities, produced by cities that we can learn a lot from and that can help us better understand, organise and live in cities.”
By cross-referencing and analysing the data collected by transmitters in urban centres, we can gain a deeper understanding of a city’s rich tapestry. From now on, local authorities can use technology to manage their resources in the best way possible and prepare for the future. Let’s get Digital for all in our cities… NOW!
Explore in more detail:
Photo credit: Lloyd Lee – Paris Tilt Shift, Montparnasse / Flickr.com / Licence CC BY-NC-SA 2.0