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Four innovations serving the “smart cities” of tomorrow


If major cities want to become sustainable, they will have to become “smarter” to better manage resources and develop more economical public utilities. All over the world, businesses, universities and researchers are designing new connected solutions to help mayors turn their cities into “smart cities”.

Recharging smartphones thanks to a hydraulic turbine

Credits: Aqualogy

With its smartphone chargers, SUEZ environnement is showing in Spain that there is energy in water! This innovation, which is expected to make life easier for the owners of smartphones and tablets while travelling, provides the electricity needed to recharge batteries using the hydraulic energy from urban water systems, which is converted into electrical energy. This solution, called APT Systems® Pico-turbine, was originally designed to provide a power supply for water production and distribution facilities. Installed on the surface on a roadway or in a shopping mall, for example, the charger looks like a terminal. Aside from the practical nature of the equipment, it has the advantage of providing clean energy that is 100% renewable, thus contributing to the sustainable development of cities.

Connecting street and park furniture

Credits: JCDecaux

In recent years, the City of Paris has launched many calls for projects to design and prototype new smart street and park furniture. This year, JCDecaux is implementing a connected bus shelter. The bus shelter concept offers new functions such as the possibility to recharge mobile phones and a 36-inch screen that can help users look up an itinerary or access local information and classified ads. The City of Paris has called for start-up ideas to imagine apps, that can enrich the bus shelter experience.
These innovations are consistent with the prototypes experimented recently by the City. These same services were offered within parks and green spaces thanks to “the Digital Break”, a connected rest spot accessible to everyone, designed by Mathieu Lehanneur. A Play Table, which offered a selection of online games was also imagined, to be deployed in the parks and gardens of the City of Paris.

Monitoring water consumption from your smartphone

Credits: Dropcountr

Managing water resources in regions affected by drought requires the involvement of all consumers. But the example of California, where the Governor has called on residents to reduce their consumption, shows how hard it is to modify the behaviour of users. Despite repeated recommendations over the past several months, significant reductions are rare. For Robb Barnitt, the head of a Silicon Valley start-up, who recently launched the mobile application Dropcountr, one of the reasons lies in the lack of information for users on their own consumption. Thanks to Dropcountr, users can control their water consumption with their smartphones, compare it to consumption by other users, and receive an alert in case of a leak in their system. The application also allows them to receive an alert when watering restrictions are issued by the authorities. The interface is intuitive with simple data from the information systems of partner water utilities.

Measuring rainfall and preventing the risk of flooding using online umbrellas

The amount of urban rain can differ from one neighbourhood to another, or even from street to street. To know in details the level of rainfall in each neighbourhood and to protect the city of Amsterdam from damage caused by torrential rainfall, in October 2014, the AMS (Advanced Metropolitan Solutions) Institute initiated the Rain Sense project. The project consists of collecting data from two additional sources: online umbrellas and a mobile application, which residents can use to issue an alert by taking a photograph or reporting a downpour in a precise location, and also to check whether their homes are subject to the risk of flooding. Combined with a 3D hydrodynamic model designed by AMS, the data gathered allow the authorities to take the necessary precautions in periods of intense rainfall.