Since the 19th century, urban cleanliness has been a major issue for cities. Over time, it has become a real challenge in terms of attractiveness and comfort. Today, Qucit proposes to use artificial intelligence to improve the cleanliness of our cities, so that they can be beautiful and clean as “a new pin”!
In the 19th century, with the expansion of cities following the industrial revolution, one issue became increasingly important: cleanliness. It must be said that at the time the situation was critical! The pollution generated by the factories that surround the towns and the emerging overpopulation make the city an increasingly unhealthy place where many diseases develop.
The issues of urban sanitation have always existed, but it was at this time that most action was taken, with different hygienist trends taking hold of large cities. The most famous case is certainly the one in Paris where Baron Haussmann modernized the sewerage network and launched major works that will have made it possible to aerate the urban fabric.
Today, measures for better urban cleanliness are multiplying, but they better reflect concerns about the living environment. Because the cleanliness of cities has now become a source of attractiveness, synonymous with comfort and pleasant places. As a result, initiatives led by municipalities are multiplying. For example, the City of Paris has set up a digital tool called “DansMaRue” to report anomalies in terms of cleanliness.
But the issue remains a major one because our urban spaces are vast and dense, so how do we know where to prioritize action? Closely linked to the perception of the inhabitants, cleanliness in the city is a subjective factor. This makes its analysis much more complex. Let us take an example: a street with blackened facades may be clean, without waste, but it could be felt as an unhealthy, unsafe space, and therefore suffer from the negative perception of the inhabitants who frequent it.
Perceive the degree of cleanliness with ComfortPredict
What if you were told that tomorrow our cities will become more comfortable and that we could feel more secure there thanks to artificial intelligence? Certainly, it looks like a science fiction movie scenario and yet that’s what our start-up Qucit offers! Specialized in predictive applications, we first addressed the issue of urban mobility, in order to aim today a larger ambition, that of improving well-being in the city for urban dwellers. So how does it work?
In June 2017, Suez asked us to analyze the residents’ perception of urban cleanliness. We therefore conducted a survey lasting a few days, in July of the same year, in the heart of Bordeaux. Our objective was to collect different information in order to understand how the users of the neighbourhood perceive their environment and thus determine different strategies to improve their waste management.
Six students from Bordeaux were recruited to conduct the survey. The exercise for passers-by was simple since they had to note their perception of the space according to different subjective criteria: the charm of the place, the cleanliness, the feeling of security, the stress experienced and finally the beauty of the space. They also informed us of their satisfaction with the rest areas, available garbage cans and shops in the area. Finally, it was possible for them to comment on the different comfort factors, or on the contrary, discomfort. Of course, useful information on the profile of the interviewees made it possible to analyze the results obtained.
To obtain results, we use a predictive platform. The machine learning technology used makes it possible to explain the elements of the context that positively or negatively impact a user’s perception.
Artificial intelligence models the impact of urban space on human feelings and behaviours. To be more clear, it is possible from some survey data to predict the temporal evolution of perceptions over the entire neighbourhood, using different machine learning algorithms.
In the case of Bordeaux, our analysis therefore made it possible to highlight different trends that reveal changes in perception, particularly due to building facades. This detailed analysis then made it possible to propose solutions for the spaces concerned, ComfortPredict’s final goal is to improve the users’ experience.
This study was not the only one conducted by our team, Qucit also used this tool in Brooklyn, this time with a non-governmental organization responsible for improving the quality of urban spaces and the attractiveness of the New York City district.
As we can see, the fight for ever cleaner cities is constantly evolving. Artificial intelligence is now proving to be a precise and complete tool, which gives a fine enough image to act on the details that make all the difference. It takes this issue to a new dimension, more focused on people’s perceptions and well-being.