Advantages of a smart and resilient region in times of crisis

Amid the health crisis, a region must be smart and resilient if it is to ensure the safety of its inhabitants as the epidemic runs its course. A smart city, with public services already largely digitised and interconnected, would have a head start...

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Smart City, a head start

The outbreak of the latest coronavirus around the world has put communities on the front line, testing their ability to respond to the legitimate concerns of citizens, to bring them peace of mind and to ensure their safety as the epidemic develops. No matter what crisis a region experiences, we expect it to be smart and resilient. This means being able to adapt to events, reduce constraints, limit harmful effects and thereby return to normal as quickly as possible. Moreover, in the thick of the crisis, the habits of citizens, companies and local authorities have suddenly and massively converted to digital services. A smart city, whose public services are already largely digitalised and interconnected, would therefore have a head start.

Just a year ago, the city of Dijon (Côte d’Or) and its 24 local authorities launched the 100% connected “OnDijon” platform, which controls all the urban services of the Dijon area (260,000 inhabitants) from a single point. As a pioneering city in terms of connected territory, it employed some 140 kilometres of fibre optics to connect urban facilities, from public lighting to traffic lights, tram traffic regulation, water network management and citizen safety. The organisation is now showing its effectiveness in health emergency mode.

The PPC (Poste de Pilotage Connecté): a Connected Control Station that is the brain of the intelligent city

The PPC is located in an unmarked but well-protected building, on a site formerly occupied by a… mustard factory; it centrally controls the city’s major functions (municipal police, roads, transport, etc.). It brings together all the data from these services on a single IT platform. There are also 269 video protection and traffic cameras, as well as sensors on traffic lights, bollards and other lampposts. It is a 1,200 m² unit, where walls of screens display a multitude of images: video surveillance, the transport network, maps of the agglomeration with the position of municipal police officers and technical service vehicles that can be activated for an emergency, etc. It can show that urban equipment is running properly, that delivery areas equipped with sensors are being used properly or the progress of ongoing interventions.

More efficient centralised management of urban facilities, especially in times of crisis

“The different local authority departments have become used to working together. This is an advantage in dealing with a crisis. Communication is faster, and so is the reaction. Assignments were quickly adapted to the new needs and the system makes it possible to limit field operations to the basics”.

says Christèle Tranchant, director of OnDijon.

Indeed, with a large amount of connected equipment, controlled remotely and in real time, the Dijon area has been able to quickly adapt its management of urban space to the current crisis. In March, Dijon’s “smart city” went into “health emergency” mode:

“We were able to close the buildings immediately, by deactivating access badges remotely but giving occasional access to certain people”, explains the deputy mayor of Dijon, Jean-Patrick Masson.

Surveillance cameras and other sensors mounted on public facilities, which in normal circumstances allow traffic and parking to flow more smoothly by detecting misuse of delivery spaces or bus lanes, for example, are also being used.

“This allows us to prioritise buses at junctions so that they are not delayed. This means that carers and those involved in the crisis lose as little time as possible on transport”

explains François Rebsamen, Mayor of Dijon.

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