From smart city to connected territories reality – An emerging French model

Chloë Vanden Elsacker

Mar 8, 2022


Blog | France | News

Share this post

The objective of the study ‘From smart city to connected territories reality’ is twofold: to contribute to the definition of a possible French model of the intelligent territory and to produce recommendations to promote its definition.

The stakes are high. The study’s sponsors are well aware of this: although a few high-profile projects are at the forefront of the stage and sometimes appear to be possible models, the concepts of smart city or smart territory currently cover very different realities in France. The local authorities each have their projects and sometimes promote them strongly. The companies that support them also contribute to this diversity. Despite the existence of numerous places for exchange and promotion, there is hardly any space for capitalising on and consolidating experiences and it is difficult to structure cooperation approaches associating the state, associations of local authorities and the economic world on a national scale. Worse still, the fragmentation of approaches contributes to blurring the representation of initiatives. There is a risk of fuelling controversy because certain digital innovations worry our fellow citizens.

In short, it is difficult to draw from the existing situation a common vision of what intelligent territory projects are today in France, and even more difficult to outline what could be a model for the future that would be shared by many stakeholders and would deserve the attention, support and commitment of public partners, first and foremost the state.

The proposed French model is bold in its objectives and tools, in its method for designing and implementing local projects and also in its values. It will support certain actors, public or private, in their choices and strategies. It will upset others. But it has the advantage of meeting the initial expectation of this study: it is likely to constitute a widely shared vision of intelligent territories.

This article will elaborate on some aspects of the report and the interesting projects mentioned.

The supporters of the territories play a key role in creating the conditions for supply and demand to meet. They play the role of facilitator, fluidifier and orchestrator. Their support is of several kinds.

Communities and networks, structure the operational frameworks, capitalize on good practices, consolidate know-how and set norms and standards. These can be international organizations such as FIWARE, the Data Exchange Association, or OASC. They can also be national organizations such as the ‘Place de l’Innovation Urbaine’ or the FING, or locally such as Faubourg Numérique.

Certification bodies produce standards by listening to the needs expressed by communities and industry. ETSI produces reports on the standardization of the service component of smart cities.

The development of smart territory has a cost, so these projects are large public actors with significant financial means. With the development of open source and interoperable tools, this budgetary problem tends to decrease. Particularly European initiatives have enabled communities of public and private actors to build and share infrastructure bricks and smart territory technologies: API, data models, standards and data platform.

The association Faubourg Numérique was born in 2014 in the City of Saint-Quentin. It acts as Digital Innovation Hub (DIH) to bring together SMEs and is committed to the open-source FIWARE community and our OASC network.

Together with the City of Saint-Quentin in 2016, they improved the management of automatic watering of public stadiums as part of a small experiment funded by an Interreg project to then scale up on around ten sites.

The association supported the city in the drafting of the specifications to integrate all the necessary technical clauses. They also worked on the project in mobilizing several players in the data cycle to meet the interoperability challenges.

Several large European cities and manufacturers have been working together to define global interoperability frameworks bringing together in the same repository the question of APIs, standards, data models and semantics.

Among the most followed initiatives in France, Living-in.EU, driven by the European Commission and supported by recognized European networks including, amongst others the OASC network as well as European cities.

As part of the “Join, Boost, Sustain” declaration aimed at joint action to promote sustainable digital transformation in cities and EU communities, 94 signatories have notably committed to “use a list of standards and technical specifications that have been the subject of a consensus to ensure the interoperability of data, systems and platforms between cities, communities and providers”.

We, the OASC network, have developed Minimal Interoperability Mechanisms which are sets of technical and open specifications promoting the interoperability of technologies for smart territories. These MIMs were formalized by cities and community members of our OASC network and implemented by the open components FIWARE source whose core is based on the ETSI CIM standard.

The first MIM relates to the context of the data, named ‘Context Broker’. The second MIM relates to data models. It allows the interoperability of data. The third MIM is a ‘Market place’ API that will promote the exchange and sharing of data from one platform to services. Two other MIMs are under construction regarding personal data management and ethical artificial intelligence.

The Bordeaux Metropolis ‘Smart Light’ project is an example of modular technical infrastructure. It was born in 2017 under the leadership of the public lighting department to improve the management of lighting in the Bordeaux Nord sector.

The Metropolis has signed a contract to deploy 500 sensors on this site of experimentation and interconnect different urban furniture. The specifications required service providers to respect strict conditions about interoperability.

To develop its experimentation, the services of the Metropolis relied on the ETSI OneM2M library which made it possible to dispense with any type of sensor and connection. Thanks to this bookstore, the Metropolis responds to the principles of the MIMs.

All of the business departments involved wish to industrialize experimentation but questions related to data storage and security slow down deployment. Bordeaux Métropole is working on the design and deployment of a data lake that will overcome these obstacles. Here it is also worth mentioning dataspaces that aim to overcome some of the problems encountered in data integration systems and are an abstraction in data management. This is also a strategic direction from a technology and business point of view.

Again, if you would like to read more about this topic, we would like to refer to the original report ‘From smart city to connected territories reality – an emerging French model’. A summary is also available.