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In Campus Descartes, France, the smart city of tomorrow is underway

Submitted by scc europe staff on November 22, 2017

In an effort to help push cities in an ecological direction, the "Institut français des sciences et technologies des transports, de l'Aménagement et des Réseaux" (IFSTTAR), in Champs-sur-Marne will test out solutions in a mini-city that’s equipped with sensors. Set to debut in early 2018, Sense City, as it’s being called, will look at energy performance and the sanitary quality of buildings in an urban context, diagnosing technologies in real time and acting as a lab for solutions for the smart city of tomorrow. Below, we’ll take a closer look at the project underway and what it could mean for cities in terms of moving forward in the energy transition.— Philippe Leonard

Sensors for smart city solutions

Sense City project will offer up solutions to help cities across Europe make a major ecological jump forward. Initially awarded €9 million in funding back in 2011, the miniature “Sense City” will commence its research in early 2018, honing in on areas like air, soil and water quality; the performance of new urban materials; and the efficiency of urban networks like transport. Constructed by the French Institute of science and technology for transport, spatial planning, development and networks (Institut français des sciences et technologies des transports, de l'aménagement et des réseaux, IFSTTAR), Sense City will feature two 400 m2 spaces outfitted with multiple sensors that are set underneath a climatic chamber, which allows for experiments to be performed in open air or controlled conditions.

So just how will these sensors mimic real-life scenarios and what does this research mean for cities? For one, these miniature sensors can be placed in water networks to detect leaks and excess chlorine, communicating with the network and closing contaminated sections. In addition, the sensors could help preserve drinking water, since 30 percent of drinking water is estimated to be lost due to leaks. The climatic chamber can also replicate certain weather conditions over long periods of time, playing with humidity and temperatures while producing similar rays as the sun. Within this controlled environment, Sense City can analyse the way vegetation and building materials react to various weather conditions—as well as pollution—creating sustainable solutions that can be implemented in building materials.

According to French newspaper Le Monde: “By validating technologies that allow our cities to self-diagnose in real time and improve their development, Sense City wants to become a real laboratory of the ‘smart city’ of tomorrow.”

The goal isn’t to be a city full of sensors but instead, serve as a lab to see where and how cities can implement sensors in ways that make sense as they transition toward a more energy efficient future.