CES 2018: assembling the pieces of tomorrow’s cities

For the first time in its history, the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) dedicated an entire exhibition area to smart cities. Having returned from Las Vegas, the Leonard team, plus consultant and author Olivier Ezratty, have reviewed the biggest trends that are going to shape the urban landscape.

Launched in 1967 in New York, the Consumer Electronics Show takes place in Las Vegas every January, and this year’s edition finally saw a space dedicated entirely to smart cities. The VINCI delegation was led by Leonard, the Group’s innovation and foresight platform, exploring 10,700 square feet of shape-shifting urban innovation over three days.

“The majority of the biggest IT and electronics manufacturers launch their products at CES,” explains Philippe Dewost, director of Leonard. “When you’ve got themes such as smart cities, you’re inevitably going to find elements that enable us to feed ideas on foresight, ideas that we drive here at Leonard on behalf of the whole Group.”

Around 100 exhibitors presenting a smart city.

“At CES, smart cities are a hotchpotch of tech,” reports Olivier Ezratty, innovation strategy consultant and CES regular for the past 13 years, who was invited by Leonard to present the show’s biggest trends at NUMA. “There were a whole host of solutions adapted to every need and every sector, be it transport, telecoms, water quality, air quality, energy…”

Amongst the most obvious smart city trends on show at CES 2018 were electric vehicles that are autonomous and connected. Traditional automobile manufacturers are going to have to totally reinvent themselves, even change jobs… “Automobile manufacturers are going to shift from integrating technology to operating fleets of vehicles” analyses Philippe Dewost. “With this in mind, mapping applications and operating systems, or more broadly speaking, complex embedded systems, will clearly be much more determining assets than electric motors.”

This shift from hardware to software is a response to the growing focus on service value. Manufacturers and suppliers are now positioning themselves as service operators in the urban landscape. At CES, Ford even presented a pizza delivery service solution in self-driving cars, while Toyota revealed plans for an “e-Palette”, a sort of connected mobile corner shop….  Another urban transport star in the making is the passenger drone, taxying people around. “We even saw one take off in the Las Vegas theatre during Intel’s keynote,” witnessed Olivier Ezratty. “It appears that it’ll be used in Dubai to transport people between the city and the airport…  They’ve even made sure to include a parachute, just in case!”

Smart cities will be complex

Beyond the more-or-less finalized new tech showcased by over a hundred different exhibitors in the marketplace, CES highlighted the need for cities to have a more global approach to smart cities. “In order for a city to be truly smart, installing air quality sensors or having autonomous vehicles simply won’t do,” explains Olivier Ezratty. “For starters, smart cities are a question of complex systems that integrate public authorities and a large number of industry players and service providers.” It is a network between the different smart city players who indeed must inevitably assist in the roll-out of autonomous cars. “In really densely populated areas like urban zones, there has to be a dialogue between infrastructure and vehicles, a mutual exchange of information,” concludes Philippe Dewost. “It’s a major safety concern and industry topic for the whole of Europe.”

What do we do?

The VINCI Group created Leonard to tackle the challenges posed by the transformation of regions and lifestyles. Our goal is to unite a community of key stakeholders in order to build the city of the future together.