The bank for a changing world

Smart City : a new kind of urban

  • 27.01.2017

What if, instead of being more “intelligent”, a Smart City simply tried to create a more pleasant city? Innovative technologies that aim to build the city of tomorrow all share one major objective: to simplify, optimize and streamline cities and the services they offer, for the benefit of all residents. Banks—BNP Paribas in particular—also contribute to reaching that goal.

The challenges of more urban lives 

In 2050, 75% of the world population will live in cities, according to Navigant Research. That shift is tied to population growth and aging demographics, as well as new lifestyles and career patterns. But greater urbanization also poses a host of new challenges: pollution, transport, energy and waste management, etc. New technologies have emerged to resolve these issues, all united under the concept of the Smart City.

The Smart City will integrate a number of innovative services adapted to the major challenges facing urban areas: 

  1. Transport and mobility, with new public and shared transport methods, optimized parking solutions, etc. 
  2. Real estate, with more energy-efficient, connected and adaptable buildings
  3. Public services, which will become more accessible, dematerialized and mobile
  4. Sustainable development, reduced energy and water use, and urban security 

Many different technologies have arrived on the scene to make the Smart City a reality. Foremost among these are the communication and mobile web technologies that will enable residents to stay connected and access mobile services, while also powering the connected objects and sensors scattered around the smart city. 

Next, Big Data will help predict and anticipate the local population’s needs, so services can adapt to meet demand. 

Furthermore, Artificial Intelligence will make it possible to recognize natural language, analyze images, etc. 

A multitude of innovative services and applications

In concrete terms, which services will help make cities smarter? One example is “smart parking”: sensors installed in parking spaces, or cameras located in parking garages, will transmit the coordinates of open parking spaces to applications that can guide drivers to the closest available parking space via their smartphones. 

In addition, mobile applications will centralize information about the city and its services: hours of operation for the local swimming pool or library, movie times or school cafeteria menus, ID card applications or reloading prepaid parking passes – it will all be available on a single platform, accessible via smartphone. 

And let’s not forget about streamlining public lighting, which will ensure the safety of residents while reducing energy use: street lights turn on only when pedestrians stroll through the street or at key moments, such as school dismissal or at the end of public events.  

There are many other examples of Smart City innovations that bear mentioning, such as optimizing maintenance networks (by detecting water leaks, for example) or urban traffic (by adapting signage in real time based on traffic density or accidents). Of course, there remain countless services that have yet to be imagined. Every day, new applications are invented to optimize city life, offer residents more streamlined access to services, reduce wasted time and preserve energy resources. 

A new role for banks? 

What if banks have a key role to play in the city of tomorrow? According to L’Atelier BNP Paribas, banks must “do their part in building the Smart City,” through their knowledge of customers and their lifestyles. That knowledge is crucial to developing pertinent services that meet the needs of city dwellers. 

All Smart City services and applications have one thing in common: they require cooperation between numerous players, such as local communities, businesses, service providers, connected equipment manufacturers (sensors, cameras, etc.), communications operators and citizens. 

In July 2016, Marie-Claire Capobianco, Head of French Retail Banking and member of the BNP Paribas Executive Committee, emphasized that "virtual networks and logistics are not enough for a Smart City to develop, it takes men and women: it takes Smart Citizens.” 

At the heart of this exchange, banks will play their typical role, which is now essential: “facilitating virtual and physical exchanges between various players.”

“ the smart city cannot be like an onion, a simple juxtaposition of layers, optimized for each different activity, as though they cannot be interdependent. It will require us to work in networks, to facilitate communications between various intelligence levels, to share data, to connect strengths and people. ”

Marie-Claire Capobianco

Head of French Retail Banking and member of the BNP Paribas Executive Committee

A new place for retail bank branches?

At the same time, retail bank branches will have a new role to play in the city of tomorrow: as a place for interactions and interconnection between businesses, artisans, associations and groups of all sorts! “What if, more so than any other boutique, the new retail bank branch becomes a cornerstone of the Smart City, a place for exchange, creation, sharing and entrepreneurship? I think that this is a major opportunity for banking and the smart city. Working together to build the new ‘Bank in the City’ will be a wonderful challenge!” Ms. Capobianco concludes. 

Credits: © Régis Cintas-Flores

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