Feature Report: Energy and Digital Technology

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City Goes Digital: Greater Lyon is Embracing Big Data

Digital technologies have applications in many areas of city management including housing, transportation and urban governance. With 1.3 million residents – a number that is set to rise by 150,000 by 2030 – the greater Lyon conurbation in France is increasingly embracing innovation. This is best seen in a pilot district set up to test new ways of collecting and analyzing data to improve the quality of daily life.

The Confluence pilot district in Lyon, France is collecting and analyzing big data to improve housing, transportation and urban governance. © PHILIPPE DESMAZES - AFP

A Connected, Positive Energy District

Developed on 150 hectares of brownfield land, the Confluence district, where the Saône River joins the Rhône, brings together all of Lyon's energy policies1, including positive energy buildings (BEPOS), an electric vehicle car-sharing fleet and digital energy monitoring systems in each home in the entire district. The ambition for 2020 is to keep carbon emissions at the same levels as in 2000, even though a million square meters will have been built since then.

Inaugurated in September 2015, the first three mixed-use buildings containing housing and offices are connected to form a positive energy island. Built using the latest insulation technology, they produce their own energy using solar panels, geothermalDescribes the technology used to tap subsurface heat to produce energy... installations, rapeseed oil-based biomassIn the energy sector, biomass is defined as all organic matter of plant or animal origin... cogeneration and cooling systems. The energy is stored using a fuel cellA device that produces electricity by oxidizing a reducing agent (fuel) in one electrode (the anode) and reducing an oxidizing agent in another... and released when needed.

Sensors are installed throughout the buildings to measure temperature, ventilation and the presence of people. A centralized control station, located in the basement of the three buildings, manages heatIn the field of statistical thermodynamics today, heat refers to the transfer of the thermal agitation of the particles making up matter... and cold exchanges between them and regulates energy use. For example, the electricityForm of energy resulting from the movement of charged particles (electrons) through a conductor... produced on sunny Sundays by the solar panels on the office floors is channeled to private homes.

The designers of the Confluence district emphasize that user involvement is critical for the technology to be effective. "This is just the beginning.  We're just starting to reach the residents"2, explained a project manager when the buildings were inaugurated. Residents have been given an energy monitoring tablet that allows them to remotely adjust temperatures and compare their energy consumption to that of similar households.

These services come at a cost. The price per square meter in the Confluence district matches that of the most sought-after areas of Lyon.

 

In Lyon, sensors can detect wet, snow-covered or icy roads and alert municipal services.

Mobility: the Optimod Platform 

The Confluence district has its own car-sharing fleet, like the rest of the city, which adopted a similar system to Paris's Autolib' initiative. Mobility in Lyon is managed using Optimod, a data platform served by 500 measurement points. Traffic information is updated every six minutes, and the system forecasts the situation over the next hour, taking into account all forms of transport (cars, bikes, public transport). There is also a car-pooling system, with 10,000 subscribers and 33,000 users. 

Managing Public Data 

Public data of all types is managed in such a way as to meet two key criteria: transparency, to secure citizens’ trust, and availability, to provide data to other local authorities and businesses.  Data is consolidated on the Grand Lyon Smart Data3 central platform, with more than 500 data sets. These include 3D land registry data, traffic information, parking availability, live web camera feeds, information on tourist attractions and pollution measures.  

Once collected, the data can be used in numerous ways. The question is how to turn it into what local authorities call "urban intelligence". Greater Lyon has set up an experimentation center, open to businesses who have ideas for applications that could be useful to citizens. Known as the TUBÀ, the center brings together major industrial groups, universities and start-ups. It also includes spaces that are largely open to the public.

A series of projects have been developed, many of them quite innovative. "Grizzly sensors", for example, can detect humidity, temperature and the presence of snow or ice on the roads, allowing municipal service to react quickly. Urban furniture has also become interactive. And the Onlymoov' platform provides real-time information on bicycle itineraries and parking spots in parking garages and bike stations.  Cyclists can also calculate their route, with bike lanes factored in.