IS DIGITAL TECHNOLOGY A GAME CHANGER?
"No doubt about it" was the unanimous answer from the five experts speaking at
Bouygues Immobilier's seminar on the Collaborative City, taking place on 12 March during the
26th annual MIPIM event. The debate was chaired by Baptiste Roux Dit Riche, Chief editor of Cleantech Republic.
Nathalie Watine, Executive Vice-President Residential Property France at Bouygues Immobilier, affirmed that it is now vital to incorporate several personalised services into the early part of a building's design phase as well as helping public authorities to offer tangible solutions. This can be done using immersive media to help them see what these new buildings will look like. "To build towns and cities together, there needs to be ongoing, close consultation among stakeholders in joint projects."
Eric Mazoyer, Deputy CEO of Bouygues Immobilier, emphasised the role of Bouygues Immobilier, which "partners with local authorities to optimise neighbourhood management."
In the opinion of sociologist Nathan Stern, the primary target of this new urban challenge resides in the fostering of intra-community social ties at a neighbourhood level. This leads to good neighbourly relations, with continual support from digital solutions that adapt to the needs of each user, e.g. comfort and security packages, or interfaces for managing parking spaces.
This policy has the backing of Eric Legale, Chief Executive of Issy Média, who is in charge of managing the public communication services of Issy-les-Moulineaux, a town which is spearheading multi-segment digital applications. "We were the first, 20 years ago, to develop the concept of a smart city that would evolve in tandem with people's needs. We were the first local council in France to launch its own website in 1996. Then in 2012 came IssyGrid®, a project managed by Bouygues Immobilier uniting ten major industrial firms located in the municipality. To cope with increased urban congestion arising from more people and goods on our roads, we are planning to trial several smart-mobility applications, starting in March 2015. For example, households will test car-sharing and
car space-sharing applications on school runs as a way of improving traffic flows, encouraging different forms of mobility and fostering responsible patterns of behaviour. Some 40% of council employees in Issy-les-Moulineaux have a digital dimension to their jobs. This shows how important the digital world is to life in this town. "
WHAT DOES THE DIGITAL ECOSYSTEM MEAN FOR THE GENERAL PUBLIC?
Oussama Ammar, founder of Thefamily, a federation of 250 innovative start-ups, explained that there is a huge gap between the "acculturation" of local residents, who are used to using digital services in their daily lives, and councils, which are only gradually acquiring the new culture. "Google has built up a monopoly. It is investing in every area of urban life except for construction, farming and finance. These represent new high-potential markets provided that city authorities are quick to corner them.” Proof is supplied by two non-government initiatives that have become runaway successes. One is Uber, which was founded in 2011 in the US. Uber comes as a smartphone app that can be used for ordering travel from drivers using their own private cars. Its sales amounted to USD43 billion in 2014. The other is French firm Blabacar, a car-sharing site launched in 2004 which today has operations in 18 other European countries.
The crux of the matter, according to Oussama Ammar, is what kind of monopoly Europe wants to have ultimately.
HOW IS DIGITAL TECHNOLOGY IMPORTANT TO LIFE IN THE COMMUNITY?
Paradoxically, explained Nathan Stern, while people are increasingly becoming citizens of the world, plugged into several channels of information at the same time, they are often unaware of digital developments locally. This is the new approach to proximity that needs to be grasped. Digital interfaces, for example, help further these new social ties by strengthening sharing as a value and encouraging group-based creativity. Supported by the success of his Peuplade.fr website, which was launched in 2002 to encourage inter-generational interchange among residents in the same Parisian neighbourhoods (40,000 residents connected in 2006), Nathan Stern emphasises the importance of strong relationships in local communities, failing which this kind of initiative cannot have a lasting effect. This viewpoint is shared by Oussama Ammar, who sees personalised customer relations as a foundation for business growth.
The next question came from Eric Mazoyer, who asked whether communities should be left to manage themselves entirely or whether there should be scope for intervening, should community relations ever deteriorate. According to Nathan Stern, urban planners should be neutral players who must make every effort to build up trust.
WHAT DIGITAL SERVICES SHOULD BE INVENTED FOR THE COLLABORATIVE CITY OF THE FUTURE?
For accommodation and transportation, Nathan Stern advocates modular customised solutions that can adapt responsively to people's individual needs and thus provide better support to them.
Oussama Ammar is relocating the countryside back into town centres, supporting the reinsertion of organic farms in urban centres to provide a food supply that is not only convenient but also healthy.
Eric Legale imagines that an increase in e-commerce will reduce traffic jams and air pollution, given that two-thirds of urban transport are goods deliveries.
Eric Mazoyer foresees a rapid shift from owning things to using things. The digital world is not only changing mindsets but also revolutionising the national residential market, as illustrated by the prototype neighbourhood developed by Bouygues Immobilier in the centre of Nanterre (near Paris) comprising several services, from shared parking spaces to manned/digital concierge services and a smart grid.
Nathalie Watine, complementing this approach, believes that we will in the future see greater flexibility in the use and scaleability of accommodation, with people letting out their property for weekends or longer, or renting individual rooms, to earn extra money or simply to forge social ties.
SOME EXAMPLES OF SMART CONVENIENCE SERVICES FOR THE COMMUNITY
“tok tok tok” is a new smartphone-based service that delivers within Paris and its inner suburbs within the hour.
Issy-les-Moulineaux, a connected town which operates the Issy.com platform, uses a wealth of digital technologies along with social media and multi-channel applications to communicate with residents, including Facebook, Issy.tv, the @Issylesmoul Twitter feed and Issytwinhomes, an apartment-swapping website for residents of Issy and its twin towns. Administrative e-services are also available, and job and internship opportunities are posted online.
In the construction sector, Bouygues Immobilier stands out for its many developments combining environmental quality and innovative digital services: in the Madeleine residence in Lille, occupants can control their apartments remotely using their smartphones, e.g. to unlock the front door in the event of lost keys.
In the commercial property segment, it has launched a new generation of positive-energy offices: the Green Office®
Aéroffice, a HQE-certified (High Environmental Quality) five-storey office lying at the heart of Toulouse's aerospace valley, uses Bouygues Immobilier's SI@GO® software to manage energy needs throughout its 5,550 m².