Smart City : Pully follows in the footsteps of Dubai and Singapore

The city of tomorrow is a sustainable city, one which has succeeded in reducing energy consumption, optimising its transport network and adapting its urban environment to expand its social ties. To be able to sustain this transformation, the opportunities offered by digital technologies are many. The experience acquired over the past three years with the city of Pully has enabled us to identify three skills that are indispensable for benefitting fully from these new possibilities. When combined, these skills facilitate digital agility.

With the town of Pully, I had the chance to undertake this transformation in the area of mobility. We began by acquiring experience in the use of big data. The initial problem identified: improving the attractiveness of the city centre by developing a mobility observatory.

To meet this challenge, an interdisciplinary team was set up over time: Alexandre Bosshard, an engineer who is also qualified in psychology, Mohamed Kafsi, a data scientist who has written a doctoral dissertation on the movement of ant colonies,Alexandre Machu, a mobility specialist , and Mélanie Guillebeau, a young graduate in biology.

Our meetings, our encounters at conferences and the experience acquired have finally enabled us to go well beyond the development of a simple big data tool that helps us observe mobility.

Technology is no more than a tool that has allowed us, as we moved forward, to gain new skills that can be summed up in the following diagram:

Digital agility is attained by combining three aptitudes: to be capable of continually observing changes in one’s environment (hyperawareness), of taking Informed Decision-making on the basis of measurable indicators, and having the ability to quickly implement projects initiated to improve those indicators.

What specific stages have we undertaken? 

Hyperawareness consists of obtaining information on one’s city continuously. This is made possible thanks to the increasingly reliable solutions of connected low-cost, low-consumption sensors.

At Pully, the sensor we initially used was an object found in everyone’s pocket: the smartphone. By collecting anonymised, aggregated data generated by our mobile phone when they are connected to the network (more than 20 billion digital traces each day), we were able, for example, to create origin-destination matrices revealing the provenance and destination of groups of people passing through the Pully city centre. Previously, this sort of information could only be collected by distributing a questionnaire or randomly polling people in the street.

A Master’s project has just begun with the topometry laboratory of the Federal Polytechnic School of Lausanne to evaluate additional sensors that will enable us to complete our mobility observatory. Among the solutions to be studied are: connected carpets to measure pedestrian traffic flows like the ones developed by the start-up Technis, or the observation of road traffic flows by drone.

For Informed Decision-making, a certain number of relevant, measurable indicators must be on hand. We have launched a cooperative effort with the International Telecommunication Union (ITU). This United Nations agency puts forward 100 indicators defined by a group of worldwide experts in the framework of the Together for sustainable cities programme. After Dubai and Singapore, the modest municipality of Pully is the third city to have completed these indicators, and it has just been awarded a certificate.

These indicators are broken down into three areas: environment, economy and society. Information is gathered, for example:

  • Environment: the measurement of the energy consumption of public buildings;
  • Economy: the number of open data sets available;
  • Society: the number of nursery places available, but also the percentage of students having access to computer equipment in classrooms.

Our mobility observatory project contributes to feeding these indicators: our tool enables us to measure transit traffic and inbound traffic. The combination of these two measurements allows us to observe the development of the attractiveness of the city centre throughout the day. This makes it possible, for example, to quantify traffic reduction during vacation periods or the increase in the density of people at the time of sporting events such as the race through Pully.

For Fast Execution, adapting the processes and bringing in a more agile and iterative implementation method are required.

At Pully, once the mobility observatory is fully developed, the town will have a tool that will enable it, for example, to prove the relevance of its urban development proposals. On the rue de la Poste in the city centre, the majority of traffic is transit traffic (more than 50% of the people who move down this street don’t stop there for more than 20 minutes). We could imagine temporarily closing one of the thoroughfares and measuring the impact on traffic by observing, in particular, whether the number of people who come into the area increases or decreases. If the measurements are conclusive, a long-term solution could therefore be established, or adjustment measures could be taken to reach an optimum solution.

Digital agility to enable the Sustainable Development Goals to be achieved

In conclusion, the digital agility thus attained constitutes a basis for responding quickly and in the most effective way to changes. It gives the city the means to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) set by the United Nations. These goals have been accepted by all the member States, to include Switzerland, and they must be attained by 2030. For cities, it is precisely Goal 11, Sustainable cities and communities, which is involved.

In 2004, it was IBM that launched the term „Smart City“, an approach centred on the introduction of more or less smart technological products. Let’s favour collective, interdisciplinary intelligence to acquire this digital agility. The challenge lies in propagating these new aptitudes across the entire organisation.

On this same subject: my presentation and the video made during the conference organised by the Geneva Cantonal Bank at the end of September :