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e-labs Bouygues: “five years from now, new services will pepper our daily lives”

Vince Maret,  Energy Director,  e-lab Bouygues

Vince Maret,
Energy Director,
e-lab Bouygues

There’s no question in IP&TV News’s mind that the IoT is set to change the world in the next few years, a conviction our series of interviews on the related realm of the digital home (in anticipation of June’s Digital Home World Summit) has helped highlight. This latest instalment is somewhat different, and takes us out of the connected home and into the connected city: Vince Maret, Energy Director, e-lab Bouygues, insists that it is here that the really big changes will take place…

IP&TV News: Hi Vince. Could you start by telling us a bit about e-lab and what you’re currently engaged in?

Vincent Maret: e-lab is Bouygues’ corporate research, innovation and consulting team dedicated to the various branches of the group. Our role is to foster innovation across the board for the Group. We also provide expertise in two specific fields: new technologies and operational research (to solve complex planning problems).

One of our main topics of late is the impact of digital solutions in the real world. Or, to put it differently, how digital solutions will transform our daily lives, and working days beyond communication. Smart cities are thus at the core of our current projects.

There’s a lot of talk about how the IoT will alter people’s home lives, but do you think the biggest changes will be on a collective/municipal level?

We are quite convinced that our daily lives will face more changes in the coming decade than our communication modes did with the arrival of the Internet and the digital communications.

Today multiple tools are widespread and ready for use: powerful digital solutions include search engines, wideband communication – fixed and mobile – friendly user interfaces in the form of multiple screen sizes and interaction modes – speech, touch, motion, handwriting;  an ever growing pool of applications tending to customized needs.

Yet, all this paraphernalia remains locked in a virtual world (communication, photos & videos exchange, games…) that bears few connections with the real world we live in. We believe that the coming decade will see the connection of our physical environment with the power of the digital solutions.

Buildings, roads, infrastructures as well as people will be exchanging information by means of sensors allowing in turn better services to people and their environment.

Could you tell us about some of the ways you anticipate the digital home and the digital city will intersect?

They will be actively intertwined. We anticipate that a good scale for many services (energy optimization, digital services to citizens…) will be at the level of the neighbourhood or the city. If you take the example of demand/response for energy savings, it makes more sense to optimize locally between several buildings than to optimize individual apartments or buildings. An office building across the street from my home will use energy (mostly during the day) when I don’t need it and vice-versa. Community level interaction will thus unleash new services at the great benefit of the users and the business models. To make this possible a high level of interaction between the home level and the city level will be required.

What about the area of city surveillance? What innovations are being made here?

Let’s take the example of the Citybox. It is now part of the commercial offer by Bouygues Energies and Services from an original idea and pilot concept developed at e-lab.

Plugging a small box into an existing lamppost – which used to be a very passive element in the city –turns it into a point of connection to the internet, and a very active part of the city infrastructure. This opens the door to a variety of services: weather, pollution and sound monitoring; surveillance cameras; speakers to provide sound for city fairs or events; it can be easily plugged-in and contribute to the city’s comfort and safety.

Besides these, in terms of the digital city, what do you think the most exciting and significant recent developments are?

We have already rolled-out several solutions to that effect:  Energy Positive Buildings (that make more energy than they use thanks to intensive use of digital solutions), Smart Energy monitoring solutions for social housing (to help tenants monitor their energy bills), The Citibox (see above) that brings new services to the old city lamppost. We also pursue research & innovation in the field of autonomous building concepts; the electric road and other areas; building to vehicle exchange and storage of energy….

What other areas do you think the IoT will have a profound effect in? I presume that when we think of something like warfare, the effects could be quite extraordinary (and even frightening)?

As I said, the combination of sensors and digital tools and predictive analysis (based on the massaging of huge amounts of data) can be applied to virtually any part of the world we live in and change it in a drastic way. Careful thinking and strong ethics will be required to make a positive use of those solutions.

You’re appearing at the Digital Home World Summit. Looking forward, say, five years, how do you expect this kind of technology to have altered our day-to-day lives and how?

I believe the key performance index of a technology is its ability to recede to the shadows over time, and leave to spotlight to the services it enables.

I anticipate that five years from now, new services will pepper our daily lives (especially local services related to health and education and working habits) that will appear natural to us and not technology related.

Who cares about the magnetron technology present in our microwave oven? The good news would be for IoT to have become then one of those long-forgotten buzz-words.

Vince Maret will be appearing at the Digital Home World Summit (3-4 June). For booking and more information go here

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