Smart City : sharing our data for the greater good?

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Mayors around the globe are rushing to make their city as smart as can be. But while the idea of a smart city is appealing, its exact definition still leaves room for interpretation.

Concretely, what will these AI capital look like? Will they be congestion-free and teeming with flying cars? Will they be greener? Will the pedestrians’ and cyclists’ experiences be optimized with sensors that recognize, guide, and give them priority? This part is still a bit foggy. But there’s one thing upon which everyone agrees: if we want to make this utopian vision of cities a reality, we have to share and process immense amounts of data.

To fight everyone’s reluctance to this idea, we must demonstrate that it is for the common good. The perfect example: the city of Lafayette, Louisiana.

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“Sharing data as a common good becomes a prerequisite for innovation.” Guillaume-Alexandre Collin, Principal, Government Sector, Capgemini Consulting

Lafayette : a case study in smart planning

Between Aug. 12 and 14, 2016, the city of Lafayette received more than 30 inches of rain, which is as much as a city like Montréal receives all year. 

The impact was widespread 3,500 homes and 15 of the parish’s 42 schools were flooded, more than $100 million in damage was done to residential properties, and more than 1,700 flood damage building permits were issued after the rain stopped but the city used this event to embrace smart city planning for the future. 

Last June, during the World Summit on Sustainable mobility, Movin’On, experts from CGI and from Lafayette’s municipal government demonstrated how the city used this event to embrace smart city planning for the future. 

Faced with major environmental challenges like hurricanes, storm waters and floods, it decided to turn to data collection to help build infrastructure to deal with natural disasters. The Lafayette Engagement and Research Network (LEaRN), in partnership with CGI, the University of Louisiana at Lafayette and the municipal government, joined forces to make it happen. 

Challenges when creating a smart city from scratch

  • Limited infrastructure budget
  • Government policy guided by short-term thinking
  • Lack of public awareness as to how these solutions actually work

Nevertheless, LEaRN hopes smart-city solutions will help local government better manage their resources, qualify claims about city planning and make more informed decisions about the quality of life for citizens as Lafayette anticipates a 90,000-plus population spike by 2030. 

Here’s how they plan to do it: 

Include the community

Part of the LEaRN plan is to engage citizens in a community-wide science effort. Having a population that understands the Internet of Things and is committed to making their city smarter is necessary to gain public support for tracking data and making local decisions on traffic congestion and air quality. 

Keep it open 

The LEaRN team is using an open source sensory program to store data, allowing visualization and analysis in real time. (You can see what’s up in Lafayette online here.

Its smart community applications include:

  • Air and water quality monitoring 
  • Transportation demand monitoring
  • Flood prediction
  • Infrastructure monitoring
  • Public safety

Does sharing your data to obtain services make you nervous? Are you for or against smart cities? 

Take part in the great conversation that will shape the future of mobility at Movin’On, May 30 June 1, 2018, in Montréal. This article is excerpted from the Movin’On 2017 Minutes