Transforming into a more efficient city

With the objective to support city leaders to implement successful “Smart City projects”, Swisscom and IMD business school have teamed-up to conduct research on Smart City and have published a report on May 11 this year which is called “Smart City: Essentials for City Leaders”.

The study includes a tool, the “Smart City Piano”, which facilitates the selection of Smart City projects that have the highest impact to improve the attractiveness of urban areas for citizen and businesses through the use of digital technologies.

In today’s article, I want to illustrate the appplication of the Smart City Piano on a concrete case: A smart lighting project in the city of Lausanne. I would like to demonstrate that connected lamp poles can be a good entry point to build a smart and connected city. They are improving an existing city service, which is city lighting, and they are enabling the delivery of new services.

Why to become “smart”?

Through interviewing 25 relevant stakeholders from across the world (including city and business leaders), we uncovered a multitude of reasons why cities want to become “smart”. We have grouped these reasons into four broad categories:

  • Efficiency benefits
  • Environmental objectives
  • Increasing social inclusiveness
  • Becoming a more attractive city

For the city of Lausanne, the main driver to engage in a Smart City project is to fulfill some of its environmental objectives. The city has created a sustainable development concept with the following associated programs:

  • Renewal energy
  • Energy efficiency

These two programs are managed by the utility department of the city of Lausanne, which itself has identified an opportunity to increase energy efficiency for the public lighting service.

Getting your lamp poles connected

There are about 14’000 lamp poles in Lausanne. The total operating cost is equal to 1.41 million CHF per year. The majority of the city’s poles are equipped with sodium lamps, which is the previous lamp technology to LED. LED itself is the most recent lighting technology and brings a cost reduction thanks to lower energy consumption for the same amount of luminosity. Today, many cities are just replacing sodium with LED lamps. However, the introduction of LED lighting is about to make a first move towards a digital controllable solution, which means that LED can be connected and managed remotely. Therefore,

What about taking the full advantage of the LED technology and get them connected?

If we connect lamp poles, can we leverage this infrastructure for other services?

To answer the above questions, let’s use the ”Smart City Piano”. It defines seven keys that structure the topics that have to be actively addressed by a city in order to successfully implement a Smart City project.

Smart City Piano

The sevens keys are closely interrelated and chronologically dependent, therefore they are grouped into three distinct categories that logically follow each other in sequence, so that they may be played as “chords”. The three chords are:

  • Assessing the Potential
  • Preparing the Groundwork
  • Managing the Execution

To start answering the above two questions, let me highlight some of the findings made when evaluating the Smart Lighting project of Lausanne along the first chord, assessing the potential.

Regarding the technology, a key criteria was to select an open system and avoid being locked with a single lighting manufacturer. The city launched a CTI (Commission for Technology and Innovation) project, which included the startup Novacess, to come up with an open and secure solution to manage street lights.

Regarding the business case, it is interesting to look at the two migration possibilities. When comparing the cost reduction of replacing only the sodium lamps by LED or adding connectivity, the result is the following: The introduction of LED brings a reduction of 26% of the total cost. If we add the connectivity, we can double the savings and therefore reduce the overall cost by 54%. The additional savings comes from the dynamic management of light intensity, inspection reduction and remote configuration of the lamp.

Business Case

On the investment side, the replacement of all lamp poles would cost around 8.5 million CHF. The extra investment to get them connected is equal to 2.65 million CHF.

Therefore, by introducing connected lamp poles, you can double the cost savings by increasing your investment by only 1/3.

The business case for connected LED lighting is therefore interesting, but connecting this urban infrastructure would open up even more opportunities.

Connecting lamp poles is only the starting point

Provided you have selected an open standard for connectivity, the next steps are to explore additional services that can leverage the same infrastructure and also run them though the Smart City Piano.

Lausanne has identified the following potential services, which can be grouped into two categories:

Operational efficiency:

  • Management of low voltage transformers
  • Remote monitoring of electricity, water and gas (smart metering)

New services:

  • Mobility information during construction work
  • Introduction of auto-production of electricity (solar panel management)

These opportunities will be studied in more details in the coming months and they should enhance the overall business case.

In conclusion, we see that urban furniture like lamp pole is an interesting city asset that, if connected, can make a city more efficient: Firstly, it can significantly reduce the total cost of public lighting. Secondly, the connectivity opens further perspectives to offer new services. Our framework and the Smart City Piano provides a structured approach to embrace Smart City projects, evaluate their impact, identify synergies and increase the chance of success.  We are currently applying our framework with cities and regions with the target to publish a second study with IMD that provides practical steps to make cites more attractive for their citizens though the use of digital technology.

Study: “Smart City: Essentials for City Leaders”
Press release following the study publication

Related post by Michel Pfäffli: How can cities really become smart?