Just before the holidays, the Cisco France team organized a three-day trip for us to assess progress on smart city projects underway, strengthen relationships with city leaders and ecosystem partners, and explore new opportunities. I wanted to share the highlights of this trip with you.

On Monday, Dec 18:

Our first stop was the offices of Caisse des Dépôts et Consignations group (CDC). CDC develops relationships between local public (government) authorities and private stakeholders including start-ups and urban operators to create strong public-private partnerships (PPPs) for smart city innovation. CDC finances projects in smart city infrastructure and digital services, energy efficiency, smart buildings and transport sector initiatives. To help cities effectively leverage technology to meet their urban challenges, CDC and its subsidiaries are developing their knowledge in this field. Both CDC and Cisco share a cross-disciplinary and collaborative approach, helping cities to stimulate economic and social innovation, as well as citizen participation.

We next met with Bouygues Energies & Services (BYES), a subsidiary of Bouygues Construction that is leading a consortium for a project in Dijon. The project involves the creation of a control center and the managed services across a 24-municipality region around Dijon. The consortium for this expansive €105M, 12-year project includes EVESA, Citelum and VINCI Energies (already Cisco partners) as well as several other organizations.  EVESA was also on hand to discuss their public-private partnership with the City of Paris to help reduce the city’s electricity consumption by 30% by 2020 – an interesting challenge for ‘The City of Light.’ EVESA is also targeting  carbon footprint reduction through a recycling program that promises to recover as much as 90% of the city’s waste. Their project with DataCity on Sports Parcours based on mobility solutions will help define the path for the Olympic Games  for runners and cyclists and may attract interest from the French ministry of sports as well as from several high-profile sporting goods companies. If we were to partner here, Cisco would act as the trusted data broker, providing industry standards and open data principles—APIs, data access policies, etc.—over our Cisco Kinetic for Cities data aggregation platform. It could open up an interesting set of opportunities…so more to explore here.

On Tuesday, Dec 19:

We began the day with a breakfast meeting at the Institut Montaigne, a French think tank founded in 2000. Institut Montaigne brings together leaders from civil society, industry, academia, and public administration to discuss social cohesion, public policy, competitiveness and public finances. Currently, the Institute is hosting a study on “smart technologies in the urban space” led by Carlo Ratti. Carlo runs the SENSEable Lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and he and I have participated on the World Economic Forum’s Global Advisory Council on the Future of Cities. We had a very interesting discussion on business models, governance, stakeholders and ecosystem management. We will check back in March on the progress of the study.

Next we paid a visit to our French lighting-partner Citelum, which has more than a thousand customer contracts in countries worldwide and has furnished lighting to 25 million people via 2.5 million light points worldwide.  In addition to lighting, the company also provides solutions for parking, security, mobility, communication effectiveness and traffic management.  I had the pleasure of meeting with Citelum CEO Carmen Munoz-Dormoy at our booth at the Smart Cities Expo World Congress in Barcelona in November, but visiting their offices gave us a chance to discuss several projects we’re working on together in greater detail – such as traffic/pedestrian accident reduction in Las Vegas and North Carolina. We also explored other urban and rural opportunities across France, Spain, Italy, and India.

During our tour at the Paris Innovation and Research Lab (PIRL), we shared insights from our current Cisco Lighthouse engagement with Paris, as well as new developments in the realm of Deep Fusion and APIs. We’ll share more on this soon.

Next, I was interviewed by journalist Jacques Paquier of the Journal du Grand Paris who writes on urban development and policy for the Greater Paris Metropolitan Area. We discussed new opportunities that may be available for participants in the Greater Paris program including our new City Infrastructure Financing Acceleration Program. We also provided a demo of the Cisco Kinetic for Cities platform and solutions. Here’s the Dec 23rd article that came out of the interview and demo.

We then had the opportunity to meet with Jean-Paul Bailly, president of TheCamp—a fascinating visionary project that includes an 11,000-square-meter futuristic campus in Aix-en-Provence. Cisco is a founding supporter of this experimental community—other founding partners include such recognizable brands as Accenture, Airbus, and Steelcase, Air France, Sodexo and construction conglomerate VINCI Energies, as well as regional government organizations in Alpes Cote d’Azure and Marseille.

Bailly was the former president of Groupe la Poste (the French Post Office) and of RATP (the Régie Autonome des Transports Parisiens), the state-owned public transport operator headquartered in Paris, where he worked extensively with unions.

We discussed how cities can use data to become more inclusive in policy making and bring additional richness into planning conversations. The conversation with Bailly opened up some interesting new ideas, for instance: how might we include a conflict resolution module into the transformational design mix for a city? IoT is about transformation—so perhaps we can think more broadly about transformation possibilities. The meeting with Bailly was a precursor to our actual visit to TheCamp the next day.

Our final meeting of Day 2 was with Luc Belot, a former member of parliament for the Maine-et-Loire region of France (2012-2017) and a strong advocate for digital fluency in government. He is also a proponent of open data policies, close citizen engagement, and the smart city agenda for the city of Angers. He and I both agreed that regulations and policies are a key starting point for smart city and community transformation initiatives and critical to making them successful long run.  Observations that a came out of the discussion were:

  • Governance must go beyond technology and include projects that engage and benefit people
  • Sovereignty reveals unbalanced relationships between cities and industry; cities must strive for inclusivity
  • Regulations are slowing innovation in France; policies must be updated on topics such as CCTV image usage, for instance. The key is in clarifying the appropriate use of data; currently there is confusion between collection and usage of data.
  • Similarly, there is confusion between neutrality and privacy
  • It is critical to identify the right issues to address so that standards can be clarifying issues to address.
  • Cisco’s service should act as a trusted broker of data

On Wed, Dec 20:

We traveled to Aix-en-Provence, where we were met by Stephane Paoli, deputy mayor of the City of Aix-en-Provence and lead for digital innovation for the metropolitan area and toured the TheCamp.  It is quite a place! TheCamp includes an expertise and training center, an experimentation center, and an accelerator for innovative companies dedicated to smart-city and other new technologies.

We were pleased that our meetings with Bailly and with the City of Aix-en-Provence resulted in an agreement to deploy smart city technologies at scale across the city. The proposal will involve a phased approach that will provide some initial demonstrable wins so citizens will see something tangible and working (in accordance with COP21). We will work with VINCI Energies and SEMAPA on the phase one deployment that will comprise a live testing environment  of 9,000 square meters initially and will expand in later phases to the entire metropolitan area and beyond to a “smart region.”

Thanks to the entire Cisco team for putting together this fascinating trip and to those with whom I had the pleasure to meet. Stay tuned for updates as these new and existing projects and relationships develop!


Anil Menon


Smart+Connected Communities and Cisco Deputy Chief Globalisation Officer