Jean-Pascal Tricoire, president and CEO of France's Schneider Electric, is out to make a smart city for you. But his version is far removed from the ‘smart' concepts that accompanied the local real estate boom until late 2008.
So, it will not be about TVs switching on to the favourite programmes as soon as you get through the front door or refrigerators programmed to gauge what you might like to have for dinner.
Tricoire's smart solutions, in comparison, are downright prosaic and that makes it more workable. In other words, his is about managing buildings and other resources better for optimum energy efficiency.
He now has a chance to make it work. Schneider Electric is rolling out a trial run with Abu Dhabi Municipality that would cover the energy management process in 71 buildings. These properties are located right in the heart of the city.
The project could later be extended to more than 2,000 buildings over a ten-year timeline.
The stated intention is to bring about energy efficiency of 30 per cent at each building, which would then translate into cost savings and a marked reduction in carbon emissions.
Such an energy audit project — the value of which was not disclosed — is a first for the French company in the Middle East, which in the last five years has emerged a key overseas territory for it.
Versions of what it intends to achieve in Abu Dhabi have already been done outside the region, but Tricoire pointedly says that he is not pushing "one size fits all" solutions.
"The pressure on economies will push people to make cities smarter — at the end of the day cities are the places where the game of sustainability will be won or lost," said Tricoire. And he insists it can be done at reasonable cost.
"Communications used to be very expensive and that was a factor earlier; now, because of the internet, the various points are connected — there's fibre-optics, wi-fi and the local telecommunications lines," the CEO added.
"You don't need space technology to make the cities smart and attain optimisation of energy consumption.
"As for the cost of doing business with us, the cliché of European companies being expensive is just not true anymore. We are as competitive as anyone out there."
The Tricoire version of the smart city is no way limited to buildings. It would encompass transportation and water network infrastructures as well as the power grids.
For a project such as the one with Abu Dhabi Municipality, will there be a lot of downtime to put in place the new energy efficiencies?
"Unless it's a building much older than five years, there is no downtime as such," Tricoire said.
"There are energy floors in [new] buildings and it's only a question of putting in the data plugs. The big change that has happened in the last decade is that everything has become digital in the generated data.
"For [existing] buildings there are only two ways to bring in efficiencies — one is to radically change the shell through adding more insulation, and that can be hugely expensive. The second way would be to accept the existing property is optimal and look to the inside to better manage energy resources."
Beyond creating energy efficiency through better management of buildings and water, Schneider Electric is out to reduce crime levels.
According to Jean-Pascal Tricoire, his vision of the smart city technology would bring down crime by 20 per cent through a network of connected IP cameras. Yesterday the technology to make this happen was expensive, he said. "Now, you can connect IP cameras placed anywhere to the internet. That's what a smart city of the future can do to secure itself."