Today's city is a smart city, i.e. clever. Thanks to technological developments, we are now able to better control energy consumption. Sustainable development and the energy transition within urban environments are the subject of debate. What are the real benefits of the smart city in terms of climate change? How do smart cities reduce energy consumption? What are the impacts on the inhabitants? Is a smart city necessarily sustainable? We take stock of the energy challenges of smart cities in this article.
Energy consumption and cities, the current state of play
With high population density, urban environments emit a large proportion of the world's greenhouse gases. The percentage is estimated at 60% by the United Nations (UN). By 2030, the number of megacities - cities with more than 20 million inhabitants - is expected to reach 41.
Cities account for almost two thirds of global energy demand and consume about 40% of the world's energy. In addition, life in an urban environment poses many challenges in terms of health, access to water, education, housing, transport, hygiene, and public services.
The energy consumption of cities therefore directly influences the general health of the planet. This is why the smart city must take into account aspects related to sustainable development to ensure its sustainability. The smart city is no longer enough, we need a sustainable smart city. This theme was the subject of a vast study under the aegis of the International Development Research Centre (CDRI, better known by its English acronym IRDC) in 2016. This study details the problems and issues at stake.
Currently, three priority areas can be identified in the energy consumption of smart cities:
- Waste treatment;
- Traffic and parking.
These three themes are often considered as priorities. Current technology already allows considerable energy (and cost) savings in these areas.
Intelligent lighting and smart grids
One of the first energy challenges for smart cities obviously concerns electricity consumption. Thanks to smart grids, optimising the distribution of electricity becomes possible. Good management of public lighting also requires smart meters.
Intelligent lighting in France and around the world is nothing new. For several years now, French cities have been taking part in various pilot projects aimed at optimising their electricity consumption.
Already in 2015, the city of Chartres embarked on the adventure of intelligent lighting, hoping to achieve savings of around 30%.
In Europe, the number of public lighting poles is estimated at 90 million. Three quarters of them are more than 25 years old. In France alone, the number of public lighting light points is estimated to be around 9.5 million.
The potential for energy savings by relying on adaptive lighting is therefore very present.
Waste treatment and collection
In 2018, the World Bank published a report with alarming conclusions: without change, global waste production will have increased by 70% by 2050. The main causes of this increase are urbanisation and galloping demography. Uncollected or poorly treated waste has serious consequences for the environment.
Thanks to the development of the Internet of Things, it is possible to optimise waste collection and management in various ways:
- By installing filling sensors;
- By optimising waste collection routes; or
- By recovering certain types of waste. One example is the use of organic waste to create biogas.
Traffic and parking
Road traffic is a major source of pollution. Connected cars are an essential part of a smart city, as is the implementation of a network of intelligent traffic lights that adapt to the traffic.
The reduction of exhaust fumes from parking spaces can also be significant as a result of optimal space management.
In France, many initiatives already exist at the local level. The city of Issy is a pioneer in the field of smart mobility and has already been the subject of numerous experiments. In July 2020, the European Commission launched an official consultation on the subject which will close at the end of September. The aim is to define a strategy for intelligent and sustainable mobility. The topic is therefore at the heart of current events.
The paradox of smart cities
The smart city goes far beyond these few examples. All the buildings are called upon to become intelligent so that the city forms a harmonious and optimised unit at the service of its inhabitants. This ideal obviously gives rise to a lot of debate, particularly with regard to privacy. This explains why the change may seem slow to the most enthusiastic. Also, from a technological point of view, it will be difficult to implement the smart city ideal without the introduction of 5G. Various elements are currently delaying the spread of the technology on French territory.
Paradoxically, this transformation into smart cities will also be accompanied by a significant deployment of IT equipment and therefore a shift in energy consumption (e.g. as a result of the use of data centres, etc.). It is therefore important to take this aspect into account as well. Some people talk about Green IT or sustainable IT. This concept is currently gaining popularity and is expected to grow in an increasingly connected world. As is often the case, it's all about balance.
Ryax and smart cities
The data processing platform developed by Ryax can play a role in the implementation of the smart city.
Indeed, the smart city is only possible thanks to a multitude of sensors or sensors that enable real-time data analysis and appropriate decisions to be taken. However, the risk of system bottlenecks is very present. Decision-makers must plan from the outset for a scalable architecture that will eventually be able to process an exponential amount of data while guaranteeing its security. This is exactly the product that Ryax offers.
As an example, in the field of the intelligent city, Ryax is participating in the AQMO project. The aim of this pilot project is to improve air quality in the Rennes Métropole region. Thanks to Ryax, the different users of the platform can develop and deploy their data in a relevant and transparent way.
To find out more about our offer and products, do not hesitate to contact Ryax today.
La Ryax Team.