Eric Cassar is an engineer and architect, founder of Arkhenspaces, whose "Habiter l'infini" project won the Grand Prix Le Monde Smart-cities 2017. He calls in this forum to create new ownership models for digital data buildings.

"The development of the Internet is akin to the arrival of new dimensions. Age 1 had accelerated our exchanges, with emails, and then gave us access to a growing number of information and services. Age 2 has facilitated the linking of individuals with other individuals, with social networks. Age 3 is the continuing relationship of individuals with space, through smart-building or smart-city: a physical space in close relation with the digital space thanks to fixed connected objects or Movement, and the generalization of sensors in our cities.

Our buildings will therefore process an innumerable amount of new data that will produce key information about the functioning of human settlements at different scales: the building, the block, the neighborhood, the city, the territory. Data related to environments (energy consumption, affluence, access) but also attached to new local social networks.

The effective use of this large amount of information will improve the functioning and efficiency of these estates, in particular by correlating supply and demand, distributing needs and resources and then anticipating. It will be able to suggest, initiate or promote social ties of proximity, and increase the number of local synergies.

A precious raw material

The processing of these data must respect certain fundamentals such as the preservation of privacy to ensure the free will of everyone by protecting his personal data. They must therefore be properly anonymised and aggregated according to strict rules. This could involve the implementation of several vigilance actions:
  • The interoperability of instruments and systems divided into three layers: sensors, infrastructure, cloud. This model is supported by a whole group of players in the building and IT industry grouped together within the SBA (Smart Building Alliance).
  • The requirement for access to classified, organized or tagged data, and smart-data. In the same way that to read a text one must know its language, a message must also contain within it a decoder and the knowledge of the environment where it was captured. A data is worth nothing as such. To be able to exploit it, it is necessary to know its unity, know where it has been recovered, by what sensor etc. So as to be able to detect the source of errors or malfunctions.
  • Securing access and information flow.
  • A right to disconnect for any inhabitant or citizen.
  • The establishment of human mediators between citizens and the digital world. New trades with "added human value" will emerge: a concierge will also be community manager etc.
  • The constitution and regulation of independent trusted third parties who will be in charge of the storage of these data and their scheduling.
Creating new legal forms
Once these guarantees are integrated, "datas" will become a resource of increasing value over time, a raw material of great wealth for all companies wishing to offer new services.
Finally, there is the question of the membership and accessibility of the data. From my point of view, the "datas" produced in a place and linked to this environment must be attached to this place. They are a common good, but the common good of a localized whole. The data captured inside a smart-building belong - after being anonymized and aggregated - to the building.
It will therefore be necessary to create new legal forms that are inseparable from "physical architectures". The data created will enrich by aggregation the virtual avatar of the building, its digital model or BIM (Building information modeling).
The access to this data can be transferred to the physical architecture of buildings and towns (roads, squares, intersections, etc.) to finance the storage and management of this data, but also the maintenance and Management of buildings and cities.
From passive to active building
Buildings will shift from the state of passive entities that cost, to active entities that relate. Good data management can eventually reduce the operating cost and therefore the overall cost of an immovable. The building will become active for the benefit of its inhabitants. He will maintain himself in a virtuous circle. But this passage will require rethinking the role of each of the actors within the building industry.
The same is true on another scale for the smart-city. In addition to continuous improvements for the benefit of its users, the new facilities will provide new resources, the benefits of which will lead to a reduction in the costs necessary for the functioning of the city.
The access to the data can be determined democratically at the scale of the whole concerned: building, block, city. Indeed, the implementation of such tools will facilitate consultations of all concerned citizens, including the silent majorities that are now absent from public debates. These new challenges require that all actors address them collectively, bearing in mind that cities must introduce and / or liberate social, sensitive and imaginative intelligences alongside rational intelligences. "
Source: Le Monde, May 11, 2017. By Eric Cassar