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Artificial Intelligence & Smart Cities

© William Eldin, CEO XXII Group

Artificial intelligence has become essential to the development of Smart Cities. For several years, local governments have had at their disposal numerous tools based on artificial intelligence to imagine and design the city of tomorrow.

For several years, local governments have had at their disposal numerous tools based on artificial intelligence to imagine and design the city of tomorrow. Far from the usual clichés, this technology is destined to become a precious ally for public decision-makers to optimize public services and improve the quality of life of their constituents.

Connected, intelligent, sustainable and green are all characteristics coveted by a large number of local elected officials who have made the development of the Smart City their battle horse to strengthen the attractiveness of their territory. Artificial intelligence is at the heart of the debate between supporters of modern city building and opponents of a technology that would threaten the preservation of public data.

Already, our fellow citizens are seeing the quality and tranquility of their living environment improve thanks to a number of intelligent projects: mobile applications for participatory democracy, IoT sensors, connected infrastructures and electric public transport, each city is defining its own development strategy and is equipping itself with technological solutions to move into a Smart City. Despite the mistrust it arouses in some respects, artificial intelligence is becoming more popular and is emerging as a tool for optimizing public policies.

Artificial intelligence applied to urban projects particularly mobilizes one technology: computer vision. Integrated into a network of video-protection cameras, it consists of a set of algorithms that can analyze all types of environments and transmit information in real time to the operators of the Urban Supervision Centers (CSU). The ability of these algorithms to detect unforeseen events – traffic jams, accidents, littering, people falling – allows for appropriate intervention by the competent authorities in order to improve the management of public space. In recent years, the private sector – industry, transport and retail – has largely paved the way for the development of AI. Now it is the turn of local authorities to seize the opportunities that this technology offers.

For example, a large majority of French cities have integrated into their organization a video protection infrastructure capable of exploiting the performance of AI and interconnecting various municipal services. However, there are still obstacles to the deployment of artificial intelligence, mainly due to the fears inherent to this technology and its capabilities. Indeed, the collective imagination sometimes has a biased perception of AI, as illustrated by works of fiction denouncing certain abuses related to the misuse of private and public data. Hence the importance of developing AI solutions in close collaboration with the French Data Protection Authority (CNIL) and in strict compliance with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

More than just a trend, AI offers operators the opportunity to devote their time to higher value-added tasks. They acquire knowledge of the field and leave the role of spectator to adopt a proactive behavior. Thanks to the data transmitted and processed by AI, their decision making is indeed faster, more precise and informed.

Today, Smart Cities are still developing too slowly because of the cost of smart projects. A report by Capgemini published in July 2020 highlights that 70% of local elected officials consider the adoption of these solutions too expensive, despite the support that such projects gain from citizens. Indeed, 54% of city residents believe that Smart Cities significantly improve the quality of public services. On the eve of a new municipal mandate, the use of artificial intelligence transcends partisan divides and is finding widespread support among new local executives. To help them take the plunge and invest in the city of tomorrow, it is high time to put the development of more ecological, inclusive and sustainable smart cities on the agenda of the France Recovery Plan, and to provide the necessary resources.

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