Let’s be smart (Smart Industry, Smart City, Smart Territory)

What if intelligence came to buildings, roads, parks, buildings, but also factories and machines? If cities and territories release data that allow better regulation of flows, energy costs and organizational systems? The expression “talking to a wall” takes on a new meaning, because today walls talk. Literally. Innovative buildings belonging to smart industry, smart city and smart territories are fully communicating. That changes everything (or almost) for the residents or those who work there: more comfort, more living, more rationality. In this New World, everything (or almost) becomes smart.

“Smart” means “connected”. In this terminology, being smart means being as connected as possible. The more we are one, the more we are the other. This equivalence is based on the idea that connectivity strengthens access to information, and therefore makes people smarter. This is a quantitative approach to intelligence, acceptable in a large number of cases. In reality, we can talk about more than intelligenceconversational skills since it is about transmitting and receiving information.

Today, everything, more or less, can be connected, especially thanks to IoT technologies (The Internet of Things or the Internet of Things). Therefore, everything can become “smart”. This is the case with factories (Smart Industry), cities (Smart City) and territories (Smart Territory), three former levels of reality between which a new connection and fluidity can be established thanks to innovation technologies.

Smart Industry is the connected factory, Smart City is the connected city, Smart Territory is the connected territory. In all three cases, the digital twin plays a central role as it not only authorizes the optimized development of buildings from their architectural design (factories and Smart Industry and Smart City buildings), but also allows their real-time management through the permanent analysis of the data they emit. In this way, we can use the term “SmartTechs” to unite in the same concept all the technologies that pass through a digital twin.from industrial production to public space management.

In these three dimensions, it is about producing, and above all, producing better. The production of manufactured products for industry, but also the production of a better quality of life for the Smart City and the production of rationalized operation for the Smart Territory (as if the territory could be rationally managed like any other productive unit).

These technologies also allow foresight by modeling different versions of evolution, playing on the evolution of multiple parameters. Thus, it is possible to describe the evolution of tomorrow’s city, tomorrow’s territory or tomorrow’s factory.

In this way, we are seeing the emergence of a new articulation between social, societal and economic, thanks to data and technologies.

Smart is the use

Conceptually, SmartTechs are based on usage. It is about, from a direct connection with people’s lives, to pilot the connected kits and make them evolve, starting from the use, since it is the latter that produces the data that is used as a basis for monitoring .

Thus, residents produce data that directly contributes to improving their lifestyles. Then we participate a co-production that leads to improved quality of life.

It’s as if nothing was “set in stone” anymore. Until now, in fact, a building was considered complete as soon as the last stone had been laid. From now on, buildings are constantly evolving, constantly enriched by the usage data they emit. The very symbol of fixation (“real estate” and “immobility” have the same root: that which does not move) is then taken up in the logic of perpetual evolution required by digital innovation.

Connecting buildings and people allows for a refined understanding and analysis of the use of things. Indeed, everything becomes smarter when considering concrete use to drive management and development, rather than abstract predictions that inevitably contain a large margin of error. Reducing this margin of error, but also a significant percentage of wasted expenditure, leads to a better approach to optimizing costs, both in construction and in operation.

The unprecedented meeting between data abstraction and concrete use allows piloting from reality, and no longer from models based on reality. And that makes a big difference in efficiency. Indeed, in the face of multiple crises (energy, raw materials, prudential demands, etc.), we will have to be ever smarter.

Faced with this demand, SmartTechs make it possible to establish what is missing today: the bridge between levels of reality that are unaware of or compete with each other (factory, city, region). Apart from the fact that they are all interesting taken separately, these three sectors have an accelerating effect on progress if we manage to make them work in harmony. This is the integrative role of SmartTechs. Only Smart Industry is good, but its efficiency is multiplied with the Smart City, and this is even more true with the Smart Territory. Privileged tools for the new frontiers reached by innovation, SmartTechs set paths from one level to another in a logic of inclusion, which can only go in the direction of the common good. It is there that, in a new convergence, the particular interest may finally meet the general interest.

Get out of procrastination

The smart industry has been an established reality for several years, where Smart City and Smart Territory remain concepts that still contain a certain part of utopia. On the ground, however, much progress can be seen in these two areas, despite less encouraging signs, such as the abandonment by Alphabet, Google’s parent company, of the connected city project in a Toronto neighborhood.

However, these devices are still too often limited to the level of purpose or mere curiosity, because, like any innovation that questions long-established ways of working, no one knows how to understand them.

Everyone agrees that things will get better, but many remain on the sidelines, waiting for this “better” to happen on its own. Even many actors are afraid to “pass plaster” and think that it is urgent to wait! Therefore, it is essential to understand that SmartTechs are not inaccessible esoteric systems or devices that are still poorly mastered.

In reality, the only difficulty they face is bringing together all the knowledge needed to activate them. Because SmartTechs are the coordination of all innovation technologies united in the same project. To function, they bring together the most innovative solutions: 3D modeling, virtual and augmented reality, scanning, IoT, Big Data, etc. So what makes SmartTechs powerful is also what makes them quite difficult to implement: making all these technologies work together is not that simple, and not everyone has the skills to deploy these solution.

But the use of these technologies is only a matter of will, especially political. If industrialists are, for the most part, already convinced, cities and regions should realize that they would benefit greatly from SmartTechs. If, in principle, both are not resistant to the adoption of these solutions, the easy progress generally comes from the fact that other more everyday topics are considered priorities. The difficulty is to integrate these new approaches into a city or territory policy, knowing that the effects take a long time to be felt, which, for elected officials, is always politically delicate. And the “silo” mode of operation still largely in administrations does not help to initiate change. However, SmartTechs are a great way to accelerate progress, provided you go beyond the intent to act. They can also be an opportunity to renew the way of doing politics at the local or regional level by relying on innovative technologies. You just have to have an open mind to see the benefits they can bring. And stop procrastinating!

Either way, the success and subsequent generalization of SmartTechs is only a matter of time. It has structural effects. A system “gets” when its importance becomes indisputable. Starting very small, then becoming global, the Internet is the best proof of this. Therefore, it only takes two or three successful experiences that demonstrate the qualities of SmartTechs for them to prevail.

For this, they will have to remove any concern about their possible drawbacks, because this business also has a dark side: control, surveillance, all these dimensions that make people still remain quite suspicious of this kind of approach . “I give my data, but what do we do with it? Where are they stored? Who has access? etc. These perfectly legitimate questions certainly deserve the best answers.

SmartTechs, a wellness accelerator

Whether in its Industry, City or Territory versions, the Smart dimension is at the service of these essential issues for society, which are ecological, social, societal and well-being issues.

Indeed, SmartTechs are a global wellness accelerator, it means living better, working better, breathing better. Better at the level of the individual in the context of his professional and personal life. But also on a collective level, because today everyone is directly concerned by planetary ecological issues. Thanks to the easy access enabled by SmartTechs, people will, for example, simplify their journeys, be closer to the nursery, etc. This will reduce pollution and the planet will be a little better for it. In fact, SmartTechs are today one of the most effective tools for connecting and harmonizing virtuous approaches that traditional tools could not unify. Thus, SmartTechs are leading the waya globally smarter society. We may not be that far off.

For two years, in these chronicles, I have championed a humanistic vision of innovation that would produce the common good. I am trying to show that it is difficult, if not impossible, in the long run to qualify as innovation anything that does not participate in one way or another in the construction of this dimension. It may be that SmartTechs are the tools of a global vision, as well as an effective management of this issue of the relationship between innovation and building the common good.


By Alain Conrad, author of the book “Osons! Another look at innovation”, an essay published by Cent Mille Milliards, in September 2020, CEO of Prodware Group and President of the Digital and Innovation Commission of the Mouvement des ETI (METI) (LinkedIn