How Dijon is becoming France's leading smart city

15 January 2021 4 min. read

Via the digital transformation of its entire urban infrastructure, the French city of Dijon has cut it service costs by 40%, with several more benefits to come. In partnership with four external experts, the city is developing a state-of-the-art digital infrastructure.

The vision is to have every service in the city – public transportation, traffic lights, police, emergency response, utilities, and several others – connected via a digitalised central nervous system, complete with the maintenance and security functions for each. For Dijon metropole, this means connecting 23 municipalities with a combined population of 260,000 people.

In 2018, the city set a timeline of 12 years for the project – titled OnDijon – and enlisted four firms to help with the process: digital consultancy Capgemini; energy & infrastructure specialists Bouygues; smart lighting experts Citelum; and water & waste management firm Suez.

How Dijon is becoming France's leading smart city

Step one was to create a common control room for all 23 municipalities. ”Capgemini and Bouygues worked with the metropole to develop an artificial intelligence (AI) platform that connected the control center with every machine, scanner, and citizen,” noted Christine Domange, Director of Government and Community Services at Capgemini. Following a year in development, the platform was officially rolled out in April last year.

Progress report 

The resultant digital infrastructure allows citizens in Dijon to communicate with the command centre instantly via an app. “The partners understood that citizens are essential to any smart city design and that any technology or innovation needed to provide the people with the experiences and quality of life they wanted and needed,” explained Domange.

With people communicating in real time, and all information coordinated digitally, response time and efficiency has received a tremendous boost – evidenced by a 40% cut in service costs. The example of a traffic accident best illustrates the platform’s effectiveness.

Witnesses to an accident can report it immediately to the command centre, which automatically notifies the relevant response team. Once the team dispatches an emergency vehicle, traffic lights and barriers across Dijon can be coordinated to ensure smooth passage. Meanwhile, the team informs the witness that help is on its way, and all other drivers are notified of the accident so as to avoid the blocked routes.

This is in addition to the tremendous value of the new tech during Covid-19. “Even as health and safety measures have forced a reduction in staff at the command center, the team handled 18,700 calls between March 15 and May 3. During this period, Dijon also maintained critical support such as remote building monitoring, electric access point control throughout the metropole, and the management of streetlights to facilitate the rapid arrival of emergency vehicles,” explained Domange.

Bright future

And this is just the first step of OnDijon. As the project progresses over the next 12 years, technology will bring solutions for congestion, pollution, delays and parking issues – all of which are core realities across France's big cities. While helping citizens, these innovations also have tremendous implications for sustainability.

An example is energy usage for lighting cities. By monitoring pedestrian traffic at all times – day and night – the command centre can automatically regulate the amount of light being used in different areas. Over the next 12 years, such innovations are expected to bring Dijon staggering energy savings of 65%.

As current transport and commuting habits spill over into the new normal, Dijon will also be able to adapt to the future with speed, putting it among the leaders In urban mobility. All this while technological advances over the course of the next decade open up unimaginable possibilities for the city.

“Through this digital project, Dijon has taken the first step to becoming a fully interconnected, smart city. As the consortium continues to work together, the partners will endeavor to further enhance the system and use cutting edge, digital technology to design and create the city of the future,” concluded Domange.