Smart City: never without the people

Published on 26/02/2019 in Inspire

Smart City: never without the people

The Smart City Live Lab pilot project is running full steam ahead in the city of Ottignies-Louvain-la-Neuve. The initial results have been published and the ecosystem is consolidating. Taking stock with four enthusiastic participants in this project

The main stakeholders have been identified for several months now and the Smart City Live Lab pilot project focuses on three topics: security & prevention, mobility and energy. “We have completed the data collection phase. Now we are benefiting from the many possibilities for analysis and interfacing between the ecosystem’s tools and our own. An unprecedented situation!”, explains Benoît Van Calbergh, head of the city’s cartography service.

Noise: a matter of standards

For the topics of security & prevention and mobility, crossing new data with those gathered from the 800 telephone calls about noise recorded annually arouses the curiosity of Véronique Davaux, head of the strategic analysis service of the Ottignies-Louvain-la-Neuve police zone: “In a wider setting, we have created the ‘Louvain-at-Night’ concept. With the Proximus ecosystem, we can compare our data with objective data gathered via sound level meters”. And municipal councilor Philippe Delvaux states: “The goal is not zero tolerance. We want a lively city, but one where the standards set are respected”.

Digitizing cannot be synonymous with an even wider digital divide.

Pierre Richard, head of IT service at Ottignies-Louvain-la-Neuve


From 1 to 5 sound level meters

The first sound level meter recorded data in a district of Ottignies. “We were very quickly able to cross the data from the histograms with the time of the calls. We are motivated by a single goal: the well-being of local people,” Véronique says.

Four new sound level meters are to be installed in the spots that give rise to the majority of the calls about noise. “We are keen to be able to check the decibel level and compliance with the standards set in these districts. The excellent collaboration with the UCLouvain is essential to carry out this project successfully,” the strategic analyst of the police zone insists.

Adapting the mobility policy

Mobility advisor Benoît is a fan of the FLOWcheck tool developed by Be-Mobile, a player in the Proximus ecosystem. “We know which areas in our region see the most accidents, but we have never actually been able to analyze the real speed of vehicles. So within the project, we have checked the impact of installing a mobile radar to record the speed of the traffic. The results are edifying and now we can adapt our mobility policy based on the facts.

Digitalizing and automating

The second advantage Benoît mentions concerns the analysis of the starting-points and destinations of vehicles. “For instance, the city has dissuasive car parks. The data reveal the standard profile of those who use these car parks, enabling us to produce a unique map of traffic flows. In 2017, this traffic was still being counted manually. The work is comparable as regards the results obtained, but there’s no comparison in terms of manpower!”

A minute-by-minute survey

When mobility actually means immobility, it becomes very useful to be able to calculate the congestion levels in real time. “We now obtain a dynamic view and objective information that can be mapped out, for future reference. The Smart City Live Lab boosts our thinking, while the tools very quickly consolidate the information gathered, which we then present at the political level for strategic decision-making. While the quantity of data is impressive, the ease with which they can be interpreted is equally so,” said Benoît.

Energy consumption down 17%

Third topic identified: energy. On that score, the city was already well ahead of its time. However, additional savings still seem feasible. “Existing measures backed up by the presence of sensors have already enabled us to improve our aims compared with the 'Covenant of Mayors for Climate & Energy in Europe'. In addition to centralized management, we have reduced energy consumption in our public buildings by 17 %,” said Philippe.


The first steps towards a Smart City have been taken. But for Philippe, the time has come to let the people have their say. “We are launching a ‘Smart City’ survey in the municipal Newsletter. We are hoping to receive at least 2,000 responses in order to determine the real needs and finalize our strategic plan for the next six years.”

The Smart City Live Lab boosts our thinking and the decision-making process.

Benoît Van Calbergh, heads the Cartography service of the city of Ottignies-Louvain-la-Neuve


Four criteria as a reference framework

As municipal councilor, Philippe believes that the point of a Smart City project is based on four undeniable criteria: making it possible to speed up the transition, not harming privacy in any way, narrowing the digital divide and not adversely affecting public health. “The key to success may also lie in ‘gamification’. An approach first put forward by students at HEC-Liège during a competition organized by the Smart City Institute, and which could prove very effective if it were applied in our city like ours.”

Tips for starters

One of the aims of the city of Ottignies-Louvain-la-Neuve is to inspire other cities in the country. For that matter, sharing knowledge is part of their DNA.

Pierre Richard, who heads the IT Service, gave us a few tips: “If you are thinking about launching a smart city process, it’s vital to organize a public consultation and place the citizen center stage at all times. Technology needs to be a means to an end and not an end in itself. Right from the start, surround yourself with the right partners, those who will be able to show that digitization is not synonymous with widening the digital divide. Finally, set measurable goals to promote concrete results.”

Benoît Van Calbergh heads the Cartography service of the city of Ottignies-Louvain-la-Neuve. His main aim is to devise efficient systems that will enable higher productivity for administrative colleagues and staff in the field.

Pierre Richard is head of the city’s IT service. Pooling the infrastructure enables his team to manage three internal clients: the CPAS (public assistance center), the city and the police zone.

Véronique Davaux is head of the Strategic Analysis service of the Ottignies-Louvain-la-Neuve police zone and runs the action plans by using objective and subjective data. Data analytics enables her to explore new avenues in her work so as to help set pragmatic strategies.

Philippe Delvaux is the municipal councilor for the budget, finance, digital affairs, administrative simplification, the green spaces environment and animal welfare. Multiple hats that he places at the service of the transition, in the broad sense of the term.


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