Where do Energy Cities members stand? Two French members have shared with us their definition of a “smart city” with, hovering in the background, a few question marks.

Smart cities, an opportunity for sustainable development!

By Laurent Tonnerre, Deputy Mayor of the City of Lorient

New digital tools and uses offer a wealth of opportunities, provided, of course, they are not imposed on cities and are implemented with their active participation. The City of Lorient has conducted foresight research on smart cities with three different consultancies.

Three visions of smart cities have emerged from these seminars:

  1. The city seen as a real-time “system of systems”: This is the somewhat conventional vision of the smart city, sustained by images borrowed from sciencefiction and involving “big data”, sensors, algorithms, even control rooms, etc.
  2. The city as a platform of services: it aims to meet the needs of consumer-citizens by providing them with a wealth of private and public tools giving them access to a wider, more personalised range of products and services.
  3. The city as a collaborative interface: citizens are encouraged to act for the common good, to shape the city.

Conditions must be created to allow ownership of these new tools, creating more solidarity in a more energy-efficient city. For Lorient, this means implementing tools and support programmes aimed at improving ownership of energy use monitoring (Interreg EMPOWER) and using new technologies to improve the acoustic environment (ANR CENSE project).

Are Smart Cities low-energy cities?

By Bruno Charles, 15th Vice-president of Greater Lyon

Processing data generated by urban activities is being assigned the almost miraculous task of optimising public services, offering new services to citizens, generating new growth and ensuring the energy transition of cities. Nothing short of that!

Will Smart Cities be low-energy cities with energy-saving and climate-protection objectives? 
Not necessarily:

  1. There is a contradiction between promoting energy-saving objectives and increasing the number of electronic devices exponentially. The proliferation of these electronic devices has virtually cancelled out the progress made in terms of energy saving and energy efficiency and has generated billions of items of electronic waste that are difficult, if not impossible, to recycle.
  2. The “smart city” will increase the social divide for those people who do not have access to new technology – and there are more of them than we may think.
  3. “Big data”, i.e. collecting and handling billions of data items, poses major risks for individual liberties.

More importantly, although digital technology may one day be able to “optimise” the urban system, such optimisation will not be sufficient to achieve factor 4: for this, we need a complete change of paradigm.
Inventing “short distance” cities, reclaiming urban space monopolised by cars and returning it to pedestrians and cyclists, relocating a significant share of the production – including food production – to the city are just a few examples of urban policies that are more important than the smart city for achieving the energy transition.
Ultimately, smart cities are first and foremost cities of which the design makes it possible to lead a free, low-energy life, without being trapped in a technical system.

Lyon is a leading cities, with Munich and Vienna, in the Smarter Together project which aims at developing ICT solutions for the energy transition in urban areas.See what a “smart city” looks like by browsing the profile of other Energy Cities’ members: http://smarter-together.eu

© photos: ville de Lorient – Grand Lyon – Shutterstock



Béatrice Karas

Publication date

October 26, 2017