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Smart city planning starts to embrace the bigger picture, by François Duquesnoy, smart cities director, Orange Business Services

Smart city planning starts to embrace the bigger picture, by François Duquesnoy, smart cities director, Orange Business Services

When cities become smarter, they improve the quality of life for the people living in them through improved infrastructure. And as cities compete for inward investment, these features will also improve attractiveness for cities as a place to live, work and spend.


It’s an encouraging fact that cities are starting to think about the more holistic smart approach. No longer are they talking about buildings, roads, schools and hospitals as separate entities. They are instead thinking about the objective they want to achieve through a connected infrastructure.


Breaking down silos in this way is beneficial because it allows for a free flow of information that is required for a truly smart city.

For example, one project we are working on in Marseille set out to demonstrate a new way of life and green efficiency through a low cost, easy tech solution. We are in the process of rolling out the infrastructure and a number of smart digital services including Wi-Fi, digital surveillance, community portal, access control and parking mutualisation. These ingredients are working well together to drive towards a real, tangible benefit that the city can see.


As well as the initial planning phase, the complexity of the implementation of a smart city cannot be overlooked either. We can look to the Middle East for a number of examples of advanced smart city rollouts.


Orange Business Services has worked with the Al Ra’idah Investment Company for years to develop the King Abdullah Financial District (KAFD) in Saudi Arabia, the largest of four smart cities the country is building with an investment of $70 billion.


Granted, there are advantages of working with greenfield sites such as this that allow connectivity in ways that would be difficult in existing cities but the premise is the same. Cities can unlock a host of advantages such as efficient management of transport, energy, security and more. But they must include a partner that plays the major systems integrator that will help with complex implementation but also help to realise the wider vision.


It’s vital that projects remain focused and never lose sight of the final objective. The focus should be on citizen participation, citizen inclusion and clarity to make sure citizens understand the services. A second focus is also on the operations of the city to help make better informed decisions, create new services and better use public money.


We’ve seen a lot of pilots and proof-of-concepts that only serve to showcase the technology. We already know the technology is capable. Thankfully, cities are now moving towards smart cities that are focused on the citizens but this move will take time to manage, understand and implement.


François Duquesnoy has been the head of Smart Cities since April 2016, an organisation he joined as deputy head at its inception within Orange Business Services in October 2011.

Prior to joining smart cities, François contributed, since its launch in 2006, to the program “La Fibre” in Orange, which has become the leading broadband offer on the consumer market. François has held various management positions in regional sales and network operations, business development in New York, and B2B sales management.

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