Paris’ park benches are getting smarter.
Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Originated by Baron Haussmann’s public works project in the mid-19th century, the park benches of Paris are iconic and beautiful. Now Paris is creating a new generation of digitally enabled park benches that exploit the capabilities of the Internet of Things (IoT) and further extend Paris’ smart city initiatives. Nearly 3,000 Parisian benches are getting a technology makeover that features Bluetooth connection points and IoT sensors.

SEE: 5 successful smart city projects (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

“We required a solution that was low power, low cost, and robust enough to last 10 years,” said Bertrand Malet, head of deployment for Groupe Saint Leonard, the manufacturer of Paris’ new smart bench technologies, in a press release.

Testing the smart city project’s tech

Paris’ park benches will soon be enabled with these devices, making them smart as well as beautiful.
Image: Nodle

The project’s first step is pilot testing the technology, which uses sensors that are designed primarily for monitoring location and environmental data such as temperature and atmospheric pressure. The two-tier capabilities for analytics collected from these sensors can assist city planners.

The first tier of analytics is baseline data that the vendor provides such as location, frequency of traffic and space usage, environmentals, and more. This set of analytics is immediately available to users such as the city’s urban planners. The solution also enables Paris to create a second tier of custom analytics, with which it can develop its own questions and algorithms that address the particular information requirements of any situation. They can do this through a standard API that the software provides.

How the smart park bench project helps users

“This is a way that the city can track traffic, and how much time is spent in certain spaces. The technology also enables interactions with park visitors to see if they are satisfied with park facilities,” said Micha Benoliel, CEO of Nodle, which provides a network ecosystem of connected devices, infrastructure, and software for the Internet of Things.

“Because the solution is cloud-based, the hardware investment needed is low,” Benoliel said. “There are a few dollars to spend for sensors, which are very inexpensive. You don’t have to buy any new equipment beyond that.” Of course, there are cloud subscription costs and the costs of developing analytics for city planners, whether analytics development is outsourced or internal.

The city’s smart park bench project has the additional benefit of connecting with residents and tourists and giving people a way to make a difference in these communities.

“Those persons interested in participating can download a mobile app and partake in short surveys that the city provides,” Benoliel said. “This enables the city of Paris to see what citizens and visitors think of facilities such as parks and provides input to planners for future enhancements to facilities.”

This bench was designed by Groupe Saint Leonard in Paris.
Image: Claire-Lise Havet/ Groupe Saint Leonard

Key takeaways from this IoT project in Paris

For city and industry leaders interested in deploying similar IoT approaches, the key takeaways of the smart park bench project are:

  • There are cloud-based solutions that eliminate the need to buy expensive hardware and software. Also, because the cloud provider maintains the software, your IT staff’s maintenance time is reduced.

  • Sensor battery lives can extend for longer periods of time (up to 10 years) than ever before. This reduces field time required to inspect or replace these devices.

  • A combination of IoT and Bluetooth can create meaningful interactions that builds relationships between you and your users.